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Undoing Racism

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The Anne and Henry Zarrow School of Social Work at the University of Oklahoma remains committed to work that addresses systemic racism, ethnic oppression, and social injustice in the United States and beyond. We endeavor to conduct this work through our mission - through education, research, scholarship, collaboration, and service. Key values of our profession include the commitment to uphold human rights, speak out against injustice, and work to dismantle systemic racism and to enact social justice. Social workers have a professional obligation to engage in this work.  

Events such as the recent murders of black men echo painful reminders in our nation’s past that we must continue to confront. This issue is of critical importance in the State of Oklahoma. In Oklahoma City, the police department kills black men at a rate higher than the national murder rate. Context matters: for example, a black person in Oklahoma is six times more likely to be killed by police than in Georgia.  

We must strive to understand the legacy of our past, unconscious bias, social and institutional power, and racial prejudice. These can be difficult and painful conversations for all of us, but they are first steps in finding voice for the intense emotions caused by recent and past events. Participation will require bravery, compassion, vulnerability, and discomfort. Social workers are well equipped to take this work on, to help break down the barriers, and to enact changes needed to become an anti-racist, just society.  

 The school stands committed to develop strategies and practices to end racism, social injustice, and oppression within the school and beyond. 

The school will hold events that help participants unravel the systemic impacts of racism and injustice both within our school and beyond by educating ourselves about the history of racism and privilege. We have developed a series of educational dialogues, social media posts, and community events to share with our social work community.  Toward that end, we have created events for shared dialogue about the damaging effects of racism and injustice. Below is a preview of some preliminary events. Please follow our social media posts for additional events, resources, and posts.  

At the beginning of 2019, the University of Oklahoma faced overt racist incidents that brought a national level of attention.  Numerous students contacted the Anne and  Henry Zarrow School of Social Work (AHZSSW) to request support.  The AHZSSW  mobilized with listening sessions for students to process and cope.  After weathering the crisis, the AHZSSW faculty was determined to be proactive versus reactive.  The Undoing Racism Committee (URC) was created with two Co-chairs (Dr. Renea  Butler-King and Dr. Lisa Byers) and four founding members (Dr. Christina Miller, Dr. Shane Brady, Kirby Bewley, and Charlotte Kendrick).  Monthly meetings were held to meet the  ongoing requests from students, staff, and faculty to address racism.  These meetings  continue to occur with the 2020-2021 Co-chairs (Dr. Renea Butler-King and Dr. Lisa Byers) and members (Dr. Christina Miller, Dr. Ann Riley, Kirly Bewley and Charlotte Kendrick).

In early 2020, in the span of three months, Ahmed Arbury and George Floyd, two black men, were violently killed.  These murders are echoes of the slayings of Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner.  The lives of these men, along with many other black men and women were ended by violence in an expression of racist terrorism.  White supremacy and racial aggression are still alive and well 401 years after the beginning of slavery.  Neither the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 nor the Civil Rights Act of 1964 have been able to stop the killing of black people by white people.  What will it take for the killing to stop?  What will it take for black people to stay safe?  For black mothers not to worry?  For black boys and men to not fear for their lives at every turn? The members of the AHZSSW Undoing Racism Committee are calling out the murder of Ahmed Aubrey and George Floyd as examples of the pervasive and ongoing demonstration of White Supremacy in our nation.  These acts of racial aggression have shone a light on how black men are demeaned and treated as sub-human.  Our nation that states “all men are created equal” has created a caste system that systemically and effectively dehumanizes people of color, particularly black men. As social workers, we stand united against this tyranny by white people to suppress people of color.  Our professional social work commitment is to treat all people with respect, honoring their self-determination, and fighting against oppressive structures that continue to promote racist practices.  Together we voice our collective core value to support the dignity and worth of each person as an inalienable human right. We are working to unravel the oppression of white supremacy within our school by educating ourselves about the history of racism and the reality of white privilege.  We are creating intentional spaces for shared dialogue about the damaging effects of racism and embracing the teachings of the People’s Institute Principles for Undoing Racism.  Over the next weeks and months we will share opportunities for our social work community to engage with us in the work of Undoing Racism and learning how to spark a change in our communities that will lead to hope, healing, and reconciliation. 

2019 EVENTS

• Seminar: School of Social Work– Social Work Student Association (SWSA), 50 participants. (1/28/19).

• Seminar: School of Social Work, 26 participants. (2/17/19).

• Seminar: SWSA, 40 participants. (2/22/19).

• Mirrors of Privilege – Tulsa Campus: 90 participants. (2/19 – 6/19).

• Seminar: SWSA, 30 participants. (3/2719).

• Seminar: School of Social Work Faculty, 5 participants. (6/5/19).

• Seminar: School of Social Work Faculty, 5 participants. (6/1219).

• Workshop: School of Social Work Field Office, 10 participants. (6/25/19).

• Continuing Education: National Association of Social Work (OKC), 50 participants. (9/719).

• Guest Lecture: OU Office of Diversity and Inclusion, 20 participants. (10/10/19).

• Continuing Education: School of Social Work, 75 participants. (11/22/19).

2020 EVENTS

• People’s Institute Training for all committee members*

• Undoing Racism Film Festival

Historical Footprints*

• College and university-wide seminars and workshops across campuses

• Continuing education event for spring, summer, and fall

• Race summit

• National level Council of Social Work Education conference proposal to empower other social work schools and departments

* Event cancelled due to COVID–19

Below are resources and materials you can explore to learn more, to get support, or to find a course for action to end racism!

Undoing Racism Resources