Given this racism on a national level, the NASW asserts that social workers should "act" in order to prevent and eliminate discrimination against anyone, any class of people or any group. In other words, showing leadership against bias and blatant discrimination is one of the obligations of social workers. On page 4 of the document the NASW points out that there is discrimination in public housing facilities, in lending institutions, in healthcare and in federal and local elected positions.
Racism really began in the United States with the "genocide of American Indians," but it was also shown through the "atrocities of slavery, colonialism, and the internment of Japanese-Americans" after the Japanese military attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941 (NASW). In fact the NASW asserts that the U.S. conquered countries and populations (in Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and in the American West, which was home to dozens of tribes) to obtain land and to obtain "cheap labor" and military outposts as a way to make the U.S. more powerful (p. 6).
Social workers have positions in which they are apt to "confront the damaging effects of racism: greater poverty, higher mortality rates, inadequate housing, higher unemployment and under employment" (NASW). And because social workers are obliged to serve those least served, they are very apt to be working with people who have limited educational opportunities, limited access to healthcare services, higher incidences of "mental illness," and a "disproportionate involvement in the criminal justice system" -- and this is why social workers are trained to help those least served.
Section Two: How does NASW justify the position they take?
Because social workers have been in the inner city ghettos, in the barrios where Latinos struggle to achieve the American Dream, in the Indian reservations working with Native Americans, and elsewhere in the milieu of the underserved, they have witnessed the injustice and racism that does exist. That is how they justify their position in this paper -- they have seen it, worked in it and with it, and they know the problems that exist..
Section Three: Personal Reflection
The NASW policy statement did not change my way of thinking but it did open up my eyes to the goals of the NASW. The NASW insists that there be a way -- not just to help those who suffer from injustice but -- to call attention to "the pain of oppression, the legacy of racism, and the contributions of racially oppressed groups," and I was not aware that the duty of a social worker was to make the plight of those oppressed known through public statements.
"White privilege" is another issue in the U.S. that the NASW asserts must be made known publically. However, I know for sure there are many Caucasians who don't feel privileged at all, but instead are proud that they worked their way through the system and made it by pulling themselves up by the bootstraps. Many of those same people would say (and do say) that anyone from any ethnicity can achieve financial success if they just work hard and follow the rules.
That having been said, the truth is that many people of color are not given the opportunity to achieve financial success. On page 9 of the NASW white paper on racism the issue of "…an adequate minimum wage that reflects the realities of the economy" caught my eye. There should be a much more realistic minimum wage put in place; President Obama has made this one of his issues, and he is advocating a $10.10 an hour minimum wage, which I agree with wholeheartedly. This brings up a point that I certainly agree with, and that is, people earning $7.00 or $7.50 an hour (in a 40-hour work week) do not have the opportunity to achieve financial success -- or even to keep a family of two or three healthy and happy.
I do not have a conflict with any of NASW's policy statements; in fact quite the opposite, I agree with every bullet point the NASW makes and as a social worker I will use the NASW guidelines on race and fairness as the basis for my own…