Creating a Culture of Equity: What do Professional Ethics say about Racial Justice and Advocacy?

By: Dr. Leticia Villarreal Sosa

The COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing racial injustices such as cruel and inhumane immigration enforcement and police violence have been particularly overwhelming for communities of color in the United States. When working with communities of color, it is imperative that school social workers understand that this is not the first time they have experienced such conditions. As McCoy (2020) states,

“[h]istory is the foundation for every person’s life story. However, consider the

exhaustion that you might feel if you heard those childhood stories, have those

childhood memories, and believed they would never be repeated. Except now, you are

reminded of them every day because the current state of our society is mirroring the

past” (p. 463).

It is also important to honor the ongoing struggle for liberation that people of color have engaged in historically and currently, whether it be participation in a larger movement, or day to day acts of resistance. As social workers, it is imperative that we make decisions about our own responsibility in promoting racial justice and combating anti-Black racism, xenophobia, and other forms of oppression in a thoughtful and informed manner.

This current and historical context is reflected in the schools as they are racialized organizations and microcosms of larger society. School social workers are well positioned to promote equity in these environments due to their systems orientation and the values upheld in the social work code of ethics. The NASW code of ethics specifically states that we are to put service above self-interest, pursue social change related to issues of discrimination and social injustice, promote self-determination, center the importance of human relationships, increase our own professional knowledge, and practice with integrity consistent with these values (NASW, 2017). School social work needs to be re-conceptualized to accommodate this contextual and organizational reality, both in terms of how students and families connect with services and how school social workers broker access and advocate for and with minoritized communities. As school social workers, we must place service above self-inte