I was hoping that I would be able to write a
much happier email than this one, one filled with hope, and solutions focused
based suggestions, and maybe some ideas for some restorative justice where the
WNY Steering Committee and NYS NASW could somehow come together. However, I
find that I am failing in that attempt, which saddens me greatly.
After Saturday’s meeting, and a fair amount of
reflection, I am left more concerned than I was when I first started the online
petition calling for the immediate reinstatement of our position on Catholic
Charities, and I feel compelled – in order to stand on what I believe will be
the right side of history – to share my thoughts, my feelings, and my beliefs.
I am, frankly – after having had the board’s
reasoning behind their decision-making process explained to me – appalled, more
so than I was when this first process began…but more than that, I am hurt,
deeply, and left with a crisis of conscience, and of ethics.
Already, another Christian adoption agency
(this one in South Carolina) seeks to ban Jewish people from adopting under the
guise of religious freedom. They, like Catholic Charities are stating their
reasoning and motives outright. Would the NASW NYS not call out that agency by
name if this were to occur in NYS? The Trump Administration is seeking to erase
transgender people – which, in the line up of the fascist playbook, by the way,
is the proverbial canary in the coal mine: go after and see if you can take
away the entire rights of a marginalized group; if you can get away with it,
proceed forward from there.
When we fail to call out anyone who
perpetrates oppression and persecution by name for who and what they are, we
are only one thing: collaborators. Full stop. Civility politics only helps the
oppressor. It does not build bridges, it does not create understanding, it does
not ‘raise us up’ or allow us to be ‘more enlightened’ and it is certainly not
‘professional’. Civility politics builds walls behind which the oppressed
continue to suffer while the oppressors behave with impunity, facing no
consequences from the outside world, which become cogs in the wheels of the
To hear that the board voted for fear of maybe
being sued for libel despite the overwhelming volume of quotes, newspaper
articles, radio interviews, etc. put out featuring Catholic Charities
themselves is not only disturbing, but shows a profound misunderstanding of our
duty to accept risk as part of our profession.
Every single day we have clients or patients
in our offices that we have to accept risk for: whether they will hurt
themselves, or others. We have to accept risk for whether someone will live or
die, or whether an intervention will work, or whether our testimony on a
client’s behalf will be enough for them to receive the services they need…when
our most marginalized clients’ lives are on the line, we go to bat…and yet,
here with no actual risk of being sued for libel (or, perhaps better put: no
actual risk for having such a lawsuit ever succeed) here, here is where the
board decides to abdicate their responsibility to their clients entirely (their
clients, in this situation, being the WNY Steering Committee, the WNY
Community, and the LGTBQ+ community).
During the meeting much was made about how
good and nice the people on the board are, and on the importance of the
relationships that exist, etc. However, it bears pointing out that there have
been many good and nice people, in many good and nice countries throughout
history. Sometimes those good and nice people are part of the problem…sometimes
they are what allow oppression to continue.
As a disabled queer Jew, I will not be a party
to my own oppression, nor will I be silent out of misplaced ideas of what
constitutes professionalism in a field born out of the radicalism of the needs
of the oppressed in the face of patriarchy, racism, and classism.
I will not be a tool so easily wielded into a
weapon. In that light, I will continue to be a Social Worker, continue to
treasure the NASW Code of Ethics, which I believe the NASW NYS Board has
completely abandoned, and I am resigning my membership in the National
Association of Social Workers, until such time as the entire NYS Board has
resigned or been disbanded by NASW National, and the organization has returned
to the ideals it once held.
It is my strongest belief that the NYS Chapter
can no longer govern itself, nor can it adequately represent the needs of the
most marginalized…rather now, through its own actions and inactions, its very
own behavior it has shown us that, when given the choice to choose between what
is hard and scary, but what is right, and just, and ethical, it has instead
chosen what is easier…but what will allow oppression to continue, and
therefore, has instead chosen to become a part of the oppressive system.
I will be in touch, privately, regarding a
free Social Work co-working space and meet-up group that Ashley and I have been
working on for the past year and a half. We were not planning on launching it
this year (or even announcing it yet), but I see no reason that we should not
be bringing our peers together in WNY now, more than ever, to work together as
a community, for those who are interested. We are not looking at becoming the
“new steering committee” – merely a place to come together twice a month for
two hours on weekends for potlucks, conversation, peer support, peer
supervision, and social work.
“Your silence will not protect you.” – Audre
In The Spirit of Stonewall,
Matthew L. Schwartz, MBA, LMSW