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 systemic oppression.
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 Lorde
In The Spirit of Stonewall,
Matthew L. Schwartz, MBA, LMSW