Our Commitment to Anti-Racism

Students holding up hands

Pitt School of Social Work Commitment to Anti-Racism

Recent events reflect our country’s history of systemic racism, and anti-Black racism specifically. Our country’s imperial history devastated indigenous nations whose lands are now the literal foundation of the United States. Since 1619, when the first enslaved people were brought to what is now the United States, our collective policies, practices, beliefs, and behaviors as a nation have been built on explicit and implicit inequalities that convey privilege or oppression based on defined status characteristics. This legacy of slavery and racist policies undermine the espoused values of our country and create undeniable harm and disproportionate hardship for people of color. Any discussion of inequities, inequality, disparities, and discrimination in our society must include a specific and central recognition of its long-standing and deep-rooted racism.

State-sanctioned murders like those of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless other unarmed Black people are not new, even if their visibility is. Anti-Black racism is core to our foundation as a nation and is not confined to police brutality or state-sponsored violence. Our responsibility, as a school of social work, is to recognize the profound impact of racism on all aspects of our society, institutions, policies, practices, attitudes, interactions, and behaviors. The School is committed to work together to dismantle this existing system and create an anti-racist society, institutions, policies, practices, attitudes, interactions, and behaviors.

Our school’s vision statement to transform – our world, our future, ourselves -- cannot be accomplished without centering anti-racism as an essential and non-negotiable commitment for our school and each member of it: students, staff, and faculty.  We will build on our history of tackling issues of racism through teaching, research, service, and the Center on Race and Social Problems by setting Guiding Principles which commit us to a set of activities that will move us towards our goal of being an anti-racist, anti-oppressive, inclusive and welcoming school:

Guiding Principles

  1. Anti-racism is central to all we do: We will advance anti-racism in all business, education, and research operations, policies, and practice.   
  2. Anti-racism starts with us: We must acknowledge that our country’s and the profession of social work’s racist history has enabled our society to practice de facto White supremacy while claiming the opposite.
  3. Anti-racism is a continual work in progress: We commit to an ongoing process of individual and collective education, discussion, and action.
  4. Anti-racism is intersectional:  We will center racism in our attention to all forms of oppression.
  5. Anti-racism demands accountability: We will develop rigorous tools to evaluate and assess our progress.

Commitment to Action

We commit to the above principles and must translate these into action. We will assess our progress as we move through the year.  To that end, we propose four task forces, each led by two members of the Inclusion and Diversity Committee (IDC), with the following scope and composition:

Faculty and Staff Task Force

This task force will support the development of internal and external anti-racist work among faculty and staff members. The efforts here include, but are not limited to 1) facilitating the exploration of our own biases, ways, and beliefs, 2) continuously improving our interactions with students, community members, and each other; 3) creating and sustaining restorative approaches for resolving conflicts and harm when they occur, and 4) assuring our teaching, research, administrative, and community engagement practices are anti-racist and advance anti-racist efforts. Committee Composition in addition to task force leaders: 1 administrative staff member, 1 professional staff member, 1 tenured faculty member, 1 tenure stream faculty member, 1 appointment stream faculty member, 1 doctoral student, 1 Master's Degree in Social Work (MSW) student, 1 Bachelor of Arts in Social Work (BASW) student

Students Task Force

This task force will work to create and maintain an anti-racist environment in the school where every student feels they have space to be their authentic selves and work towards addressing all forms of oppression in themselves, the school, and the larger community. This will be accomplished by working with student groups to develop: 1) anti-racist orientation prior to school attendance, 2) anti-racist affinity groups, 3) peer lead anti-racist learning and reflection 4) opportunities and skill development to pursue anti-racist policies and practice. In addition to task force leaders this committee will be comprised of a minimum of one representative from each of the following: BASW Club, MSW Student Executive Council (SEC), Union of Black Social Work Students (UBSWS), Doctoral Student Organization (DSO), Field Office, Admissions Office and Student Services.

Curriculum Task Force

This task force will ensure content on historic and contemporary racism and anti-racist practice is infused across all programs (BASW, MSW, PhD, Continuing Education). This will be accomplished by providing guidance for curriculum reviews performed at each program level. Long term, the task force will promote and facilitate the school in the adoption of an anti-racist pedagogy across all programs. In addition to task force leaders this committee will be comprised of a minimum of one representative from each of the following: BASW, MSW, and PhD program committees, continuing education, and student representatives from each program (BASW, MSW, PhD).

Infrastructure, Policy, Practice

This task force is charged with reviewing and revising the School’s current policies, procedures, and strategies in order to infuse anti-racist practices throughout the business, education, and research operations of the School of Social Work. In addition to task force leaders this committee will be comprised of a minimum of one representative from each of the following: Administration, Research, Admissions, Field, the Center on Race and Social Problems, Child Welfare Education and Research Program, and students from the BASW, MSW, and Doctoral programs.