Message from the Associate Dean for Student Success about Minneapolis, Social Work, and Racism May 29, 2020

Social Work's Purpose

Hello School of Social Work Students,

I hope all is well with you and the people in your life. There has been so much understandable fear around the spread of COVID-19 and it has been great to see so many people (including our amazing social workers) stepping up to meet this challenge. 

Many were reminded this week that illness is not the only threat facing our society. Racism and its historical and contemporary roots in white supremacy continue to take the lives of people of color. 

As social workers, we are compelled by our Code of Ethics to engage and social and political action, specifically: (d) Social workers should act to prevent and eliminate domination of, exploitation of, and discrimination against any person, group, or class on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, marital status, political belief, religion, immigration status, or mental or physical ability.

We have an ethical responsibility as social workers to eliminate the domination that contributed to the murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Philando Castile, Antwon Rose, and far too many more. 

Many will continue to ask, "what can be done?" As social workers we must understand the systems that perpetuate domination, exploitation, and discrimination in order to dismantle them. Here are a number of resources that will help you find specific ways to put your values and ethics into action:

  • Pitt Law Professor David Harris' podcast Criminal Injustice is a thoughtful and informative look at the challenges our society faces. His 2015 lecture at our Center on Race and Social Problems following the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in New York provides significant insight into the structures within our criminal justice system that perpetuate racism. 
  • The Anti-Racism Resources for White People Google Doc provides a collection of multi-media resources, organizations, and training. 
  • Here in Pittsburgh, the Alliance for Police Accountability is a grassroots organization dedicated to criminal justice reconstruction, specializing in community/police relations. 

Lastly, as we end May and Mental Health Awareness Month, be sure to take care of yourselves. As social workers, we can only help others when we continually help and heal ourselves. The University Counseling Center remains open for you, providing a wide array of online and telehealth services. Steel Smiling bridges the gap between community members and mental health support through education, advocacy, and awareness. Their Digital Mental Health and Awareness series has a host of great thoughts and resources (and a few great faces you may be familiar with). Most importantly, check-in on each other and reach out when you need to talk. 


Keith J. Caldwell, EdD, MSW
Associate Dean for Student Success

BASW Program Director

University of Pittsburgh

School of Social Work