“Although, certainly it was because I found it easier to lead the discussion without black presence in the room since I do feel somewhat uncomfortable with the (perceived) threat it poses”
To the New York University Silver School of Social Work Community,
On the 12th day of 2019’s Black History Month, our community was roiled by just one example of countless instances of overt anti-blackness.
We write today to denounce the abhorrent actions of anti-blackness perpetuated against a student and member of the Silver community, carried out by a fellow student, community member, and peer.
Too often, students who perceive themselves as egalitarian resultant of their professional field of choice consciously and unconsciously commit acts of aggression towards their peers of color. A failure to acknowledge one’s roles as both “ally” and oppressor results in a permissive continuity of systemic oppression and lateral violence. The belief that the façade of progressive ideology is sufficient in being anti-racist is illusory and apologetic, and we reject said belief.
At this tumultuous point of United States history, we refuse to remain complacent and enable oppressive behavior. Racism and other oppressions are sweeping inexorably through our communities, our professions, our country, and our world, emboldened by waves of western nationalist administrations. A failure to acknowledge this reality is reductive and dismissive to all students who hold marginalized identities, and failure to address this instance of anti-blackness and the systemic oppressions NYU Silver is complacent in perpetuating is indelible on New York University’s reputation and the social work profession as a whole.
This was just one particular incident of overt racism, but we recognize it as part of a larger landscape of a racist educational setting. What allowed this to happen at NYU and why did a student think this was an acceptable thing to say? Who is being admitted to the Silver School of Social Work, and what sort of environments are we cultivating in our classrooms? This incident must be acknowledged as both interpersonal and systemic.
We call upon a revisiting of the 2017 – 2018 Call to Action circulated by this same collective of student groups as we continue to demand change in the Silver community.
We call for students, professors, and administrators to be held accountable for their actions. Expressed and overt anti-blackness – and all oppression – is antithetic to both the social work Code of Ethics as well as to the mission of New York University, and we believe this student and professor should be held accountable, up to and including suspension and/or removal from the class, while the situation is being investigated. We need to begin holding individuals accountable for their actions so that this type of behavior does not continue within Silver.
We call upon Dean Neil B. Guterman to issue a public response to the community. Amongst many other points, this should include a response to the student’s assertion that they approached an Assistant Dean with prior concerns of racial discrimination and received no administrative assistance or support. This clear and public response should also contain a response to the previously called for address of NYU Silver’s vision for racial and social justice, as well as allocation of concrete resources towards implementing proposed changes.
We call for a meeting between the collective affinity groups and administrative representatives to develop concrete solutions with which we can begin to both heal our community and more effectively educate students on important, self-reflective points such as white fragility and white supremacy.
We acknowledge efforts put into place by the institution to curb racial oppressions and name them insufficient and placating.
In closing, we reiterate that we wholly and unequivocally rebuke this horrific, oppressive act and call for immediate rectification from New York University’s Silver School of Social Work.
Student Leaders of the Graduate Student Association, Asian Pacific Islander/American Social Work Students for Change, Black Women’s Social Work Coalition, Latinx Social Work Student Organization, Students of Color Collective, and White Students Challenging Racism