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Justice

Response to Zimmerman Verdict MUST be About A Movement and Not About Race

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by Dr. Michael Wright

The Zimmerman Verdict is not about RACE. It cannot be, and You cannot allow it to be. My point? Let’s begin by determining the focus, scope, and timing of this or any movement. This movement has been going on for a long time. We must resist the knee-jerk reaction to center this movement on race. It’s not because this case does not have elements of race, but it’s because race may become a useless construct to inspire a movement toward justice.

Reflecting on history, Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke at a rally culminating the March on Washington. The march was motivated because Blacks were being denied employment based on race, BUT it focused on eliminating barriers to employment and enabling workers to unionize. MLK, Jr. was not the keynote speaker who made the call to action on the crowd, it was A. Phillip Randolph a union organizer. By removing racing from the equation, they appealed to all who was affected which increase their ability to collaborate and conjoin the efforts by multiple organizations. Its scope was industrial centers especially state and federally-funded companies including state and local operations. It was co-sponsored by the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and the AFL-CIO (American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations). On August 28, 1963, the timing was specific in order to sustain the momentum needed for the passage of the Civil Rights Act that became law in July 1964.

Racism is not a fight that has a clear opponent. Racism is a construction that indicates differential treatment in laws, economics, education, and other areas of social life. Any movement will, of operational necessity, need to focus in an area or create multiple organizational structures around legislation, class mobility, school quality, and access overall. In terms of scope, realize that organizations, like NAACP for example, function more effectively as a convener of organizations nationally to provide voice, financial empowerment, and information centralization. The redress of differential treatment MUST be local. Not understanding this scope results in MARCHES, events, or petitions that have no legal standing in the locale of the problem. Once the event planners leave, little organizational momentum is left if no new laws have been proposed, no businesses started, or no school charters created.

So it is that I take a break from writing on Deceptions, Distractions, and Disillusionment: Barriers to Your Success and Ours, to use the current national discussion as a case study to present the Anatomy of a Movement, a construct from the last chapter of the book. In the text, I write,

To apply your social role within society, you must conceptualize how to sustain your clarity while others conform steeped in deception, distraction, and disillusionment. They will be your detractors seeking to convince you to conform. Agency involves living a life that demonstrates the value and wisdom of intentionality, forethought, self-reflectiveness, and self-reactiveness. Anatomy of a Movement is a conception of this life. The action plan has six considerations: investigate, educate, liberate, lead, act, and create. – Deceptions, Distractions and Disillusionment (2013)

This Anatomy of a Movement has operational utility in the current discussion. You must have focus, identified scope, and precise timing to influence the righting of institutional wrongs. Without focus, scope, and timing, you will be disappointed again and again. Worse, you will be worn out fighting the shadow of your enemy rather than engaging the enemy head on.

Investigate
Investigation recognizes that the injustice can only be sold as a benefit to you. It instructs you to trace the mechanism of the benefit—how it works. Consider that laws are created for your protection. The Stand Your Ground law is useful to decriminalize the act of defending yourself against attack. The question of investigation is not, “How does this law work?” Instead, consider “How do laws created by the legislature impact the justice system?” Viewed from this perspective, it is a matter of the facts adjudicated in court, not the intentions of the act.

Marissa Alexander

I offer an unpopular view: The Zimmerman case is primarily about THE CASE not THE RACE. Many, in my Facebook news feed at least, posted the comparison of Marissa Alexander ) with George Zimmerman. Yes, the pictures indicate that they are different. Marissa is a woman of the African diaspora. George is a male of some other descent. But, to use these as the basis of comparison of the cases is improper. [More on activity surrounding Marissa’s case is available at http://justiceformarissa.blogspot.com/].

When you investigate how the law works in Florida, the setting of both cases, you become aware that the prosecution of the cases each began with a very different question. In Marissa’s case, based on the law, the question was, “Did she fire a gun inside a home with children?” If she did, the CASE becomes the purview of a mandatory minimum law. The only way to get around it is to plea bargain. She reportedly refused the plea bargain.

George’s question, based on the law, was, “Did he effectively apply the Stand Your Ground provision?” If he did, he is not guilty of a crime. The only way to get around that is to convince a jury that he set out that day to gun down innocents. Intent is harder to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.

Note: You will have to wait for the civil trial where the questions are fundamentally different for the prosecution and the defense. Consider that the comparison should not be Zimmerman to Alexander. The comparison should be Zimmerman to Simpson (1995).

Use Google to research “20 years mandatory minimum Florida firing a gun home with children”. You will gain a wealth of information. Through investigation, you will find connections with other thought leaders and organizations that have already begun a movement toward justice for Marissa and many others. For example, link to Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) . Notice that these groups are challenging the law in the legislature where they are created rather than the justice system where they are only implemented.

Educate
In the Deceptions text, I write:

Education describes the intervention into the mechanism you observed during investigation. Your task is to reclaim the ownership of your ideas. With the ownership of ideas, you may begin to comprehend the role of producer. You may also begin to see the opportunity to integrate this social role into your interactions with others. Education results in a new valuing of your ideas, definition of the producer role, and integration of the producer role in your social interactions. – Deceptions, Distractions and Disillusionment (2013)

Again, on my Facebook news feed, I read some cries for justice and movement, but I also read some resolve to go back to school to study law. I read one entrepreneur and thought leader pledge to redouble her efforts to be a part of the solution through continued efforts to become “stronger, more aware, and more together.”

Build strength through competence. You must learn in the arena you wish to influence. For some, the focus will be law. For others, it will be education. For others, it will be journalism. Above all, learn to value your ideas and to challenge them with the search for information.

Develop your expertise. Create a specific outlet for your ideas. Maintain the discipline and motivation fueled by the fact that injustice exists AND the positive progress that is being made constructively. Get together with other experts and thought leaders and organizations that you can inspire, challenge, and support. Require them to also support you and your development.

Liberate

Liberation describes effort to address the automatic behaviors that support conformity. The comfortable relationship between your conformity and benefit must be broken by revealing the comparative detriment you experience through conformity. Liberation results in a revelation that others are not your obstacle. You are the obstacle to your success. Your labor is not your greatest contribution. Your ideas are your greatest contribution. The goal and motivation is not money. The goal is social capital. – Deceptions, Distractions and Disillusionment (2013)

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George Zimmerman

In situations such as the Zimmerman verdict and others, you will hear people talk about racism as a lack of access to the REAL workings of the institutions to which we are beholden. The education system is considered unfair. The employment system is considered biased. People will say, “It is not what you know but who you know.” Others say, “It is not who you know, but who knows you.” I offer that the IT is a question of social capital. You MUST build relationships in the community you wish to influence. Being independent and successful is not an exercise in isolation. Every contribution you make of time, energy, money, and communication must be strategic to gain favor and collaboration, to seek common ground and mutual benefit. Relationships are not a matter of whether you are liked. Productive relationships are a matter of whether your ideas are perceived as critical to the discussion. “It is WHAT you know, WHO knows you know it, and HOW willing they are to risk their reputation to bring YOU to the table.” Make it easy for them by freeing yourself to engage in relationship building in your community.

Lead

Leadership describes both quality and activity. The quality is above reproach, self-vetted, and transparent. The activity is to set the agenda in written form, clear with action steps and indicators for independent evaluation. Leadership results in strategic plan including explicit opportunities for newcomers to engage in the movement based on their desire AND expertise. Willing workers who do not arrive with identified or compatible expertise are educated into areas of the movement that approximate or into which their skills are transferrable. Another alternative for non-compatible expertise is to expand the movement to accommodate a new area or support that expert in creating a parallel movement. – Deceptions, Distractions and Disillusionment (2013)

Movements in response to the Zimmerman Verdict 1.0 and other Florida-based or national concerns must have a clear vision. Identify the end goal exactly. From there, identify the criteria for collaboration and coalition building. Efficacious leadership suggests a plan extending over the long-term, not just a rally for a moment.

For me, this case brings more attention to the work of organizations in Florida who are working on justice issues. Florida, once the land of hanging chads, has been exposed for a system of public laws that may support the incarceration of the non-violent. Whatever leaders of the movement decide the focus, scope, and timing to be, it must be clear about the impact that is desired.

Act

Action describes an obvious step of implementation. It also describes a systematic approach to the operations of the movement. What many do not account for is the marketing and messaging, the education, and the convening that is required in any collaboration. As the initiatives add new areas of focus, expand their scope, and extend across time, these considerations become even more critical to success. Action results in a set of principles, a schedule of training, and a schedule of conferencing. – Deceptions, Distractions and Disillusionment (2013)

In my estimation, this is the area with the most grow potential especially of the existing national organizations that portend to promote and act for justice and advancement of civil society. Too often, you find that money and time you have donated to a cause was spent to promote the organization rather than to put boots on the ground in the way you envisioned.

Rather than provide examples of scandals or companies whose financials simply do not add up to action, I invite you to review the financial statements of the organizations you count on and contribute to. Attempt to find the connection and momentum of connection between the capital (both financial and other) invested and the actions taken. Ask a basic question, “How much is spent to empower me with information, engage me with skills to address the wrongs, and to place me safely, sustainably at the forefront of training and equipping others?” Compare that to how much is spent simply administering the organization, fundraising, salaries, and fringe benefits.

Create

Creativity describes the reality that effective leadership and action will result in former volunteers, line workers, and interested learners who become regional directors, non-profit founders, and social entrepreneurs. The movement must be responsible for the development of these new institutions as well as the leaders themselves. Leadership and action provided the model and the education. Creativity must provide the operational knowledge and evaluative structure for the newly created institution. Consider creativity as a three part initiation of the institution. First, reflect on the history and the model of other institutions seeking justice, progress, and altruism. Second, capture in writing that history as instruction on best practices and opportunities from improvement as the new initiative is launched. Third, ensure that the new initiative spawns other initiatives and does not consider itself the end all.” – Deceptions, Distractions and Disillusionment (2013)

Creativity gives a new mandate that may have been missing from justice seeking and injustice redressing organizations. It is not just the continued expansion through regional and chapter development that strengthens the coalitions and expands the vision. The inspiration and nurturing of new organizations engaging multiple areas, other systems levels, across time is the hallmark of a sustainable justice-promoting organization.

Conclusion
It is my hope that the competent reflection I am seeing in some areas of national discourse and in my own Facebook news feed continues to grow and win the imagination of many. Systematic redress of injustice through direct, policy change in systems that regulate and control should be the focus of your efforts. This means engaging the lessons of investigation, education, liberation, leadership, action, and creativity. The “Racism” challenge is easily dismissed through deception born in ignorance. Race as a stand-alone creates a distracting argument that will take time away from what matters—institutionalization of differential access perpetuated through lack of economic mobility. It will leave you disillusioned about the people around you and devaluing your power to change the system. Focus on the case-law. In the scope of the system, determine where you will educate yourself and where you want to intervene. Plan the timing of your productive action.

Photo Credit: Mother holding Child (MSNBC)

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Dr. Michael Wright: Michael A. Wright, PhD, LAPSW is a Social Work Helper Contributor. He offers his expertise as an career coach, serial entrepreneur, and publisher through MAWMedia Group, LLC. Wright has maintained this macro practice consultancy since 1997. Wright lives in Reno, NV.

          
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Environmental Justice

How The Cannabis Industry Illuminates Changing Political Dynamics Between Private And Public Interests

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According to the “Bootleggers and Baptists” theory of politics, coalitions of groups whose interests are usually at odds are more likely to be successful than one-sided coalitions. The theory is named after a classic instance in which bootleggers engaged in illegally producing and selling alcohol teamed up with Baptists to pass laws requiring liquor stores close on Sundays. Bootleggers got reduced competition for one day each week, while Baptists were happy that alcohol would not be sold on Sabbath. Thanks to the partnership, bootleggers had no need to press for new legislation, because Baptists lobbied state house members on their behalf.

The “Bootlegger and “Baptist” label now describe a large range of coalitions, although “bootlegger” no longer refers to groups engaged in illegal activity, but instead connotes groups taking political action in support of narrow economic gains. Similarly, “Baptists” now refers to groups that are not necessarily religiously motivated but espouse a greater moral purpose or advocate for the public interest. According to this theory, to achieve mutually beneficial policy victories, public interest groups are wise to team up with self-interested, usually profit-seeking lobby groups. The “bootleggers” make financial gains and sometimes share their takings with politicians while the “Baptists” allow politicians to offer moral rationales and gain the public’s trust.

This coalitional theory makes logical sense. However, in my research I utilize data from the legal cannabis industry in the United States to demonstrate that such partnerships may no longer be necessary. Today’s profit-driven, lobbying groups – like those in the burgeoning cannabis industry – may not need to partner with morally oriented organizations to achieve victories, and this shift will likely have major policy implications.

Public Interests and Private Enterprise

Historically, the Bootlegger-Baptist dynamic explained how public interest rationales could justify advantages to certain private enterprises. Of course, the private pursuit of regulatory benefits is unsurprising – even Adam Smith, the famed 18th-century economist and author, warned that early industrialists might seek to influence the law to increase profit. And mixed Bootlegger-Baptist coalitions helped such interests achieve their political goals, because private interests seeking a benefit from the government – a subsidy, a contract, or a tax break – could work with other groups that would assert a greater moral purpose.

Such mixed-purpose coalitions have taken many forms. Profit-driven groups may stealthily advance moral arguments, or sometimes, there may be many independent, socially oriented groups. Cooperative partnerships have formed to bolster support, in which profit-driven, lobbying groups fund the morally and socially oriented groups. More complex cases also exist, where political actors coordinate a mix of interest groups to accomplish many goals, including their own.

The New Dynamic

However, significant shifts in today’s regulatory and political landscape may be making Bootlegger-Baptist coalitions less necessary. My research suggests that it is becoming much easier for profit-seeking enterprises to influence policy without working with moral or social partners who give them cover. U.S. policymaking about legal cannabis (that is, marijuana) provides a useful window into these changing dynamics. This industry has grown rapidly, faces complex regulatory hurdles – such as federal illegality and a maze of varied state laws. In addition, the industry includes multiple “Bootlegger” parties interested in profiting from the shifting policy landscape, while at the same time having to contend with multiple “Baptist” groups interested in the social implications of legalization.

According to my research, profit-driven firms in the cannabis space have managed to circumvent the Bootlegger-Baptist dynamic by using two techniques.

  • Pro-legalization groups have worked around strict regulation to achieve national presence, even in states where cannabis products do not have medical or recreational approval. For example, firms can invest in products and equipment that do not directly touch cannabis plants yet further the development of the product market. Groups lobbying on behalf of such investors free themselves from the need to work with moral and social allies to advance political goals.
  • Profit-driven groups have learned to adopt the practices of orthodox businesses to downplay negative associations with the cannabis industry. Such groups build an agreeable corporate image by emphasizing profitability and coordinating diversity initiatives. When cannabis firms are viewed by the public as just another high-growth, socially inclusive industry, they may no longer need public-interest partners to achieve legalization. By aligning their businesses with mainstream corporate practices, cannabis firms (and other firms acting in this arena) may also find it easier to raise capital and gain trust from traditional investors.

New Laws and Regulatory Directions

Profit-driven “bootleggers” may push for rapid increases in cannabis sales in states with legal or medical cannabis. Given that states with legalized medical cannabis have higher rates of adolescent use, such increases in sales may well lead to much more adolescent use of cannabis, which is associated with mental illnesses.

State-level regulators may need to respond by tweaking new laws to deal with cannabis sales and use rising at higher rates than originally envisaged. This, in turn, may give new openings to morally and socially oriented advocacy and non-profit groups, who will press for larger roles in state regulation of the now-legal cannabis industry. Such advocates and non-profits will jump at the chance to ensure they are not left out of the discussion entirely, since profit-driven groups may have so far been able to advance their own ends without support, input, or even connection to public interest or citizens’ groups.

In sum, as many current cannabis legalization battles suggest, for-profit “bootlegger” groups can now win major legislative victories without allying with public-interest Baptists to give them moral cover. Nevertheless, struggles and, at times, surprising coalitions, between Bootleggers and Baptists are unlikely to disappear altogether – and they can re-emerge in ongoing regulatory arenas even when they did not shape original legislative steps. Forward-thinking legislators will take this into account and structure both laws and implementing processes to ensure that public interest groups are not cut out of the discussion altogether.

Read more in Navin Kumar, “The Changing Bootlegger/Baptist Dynamic: Evidence from the Legal Cannabis Space” (forthcoming).

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Law and Public Policy

Why U.S. Government Agencies Need Comprehensive Policies For Employees With Various Gender Identities

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Sex and gender identities are becoming increasingly complex in America, creating new challenges for public administrative agencies. So far, the vast majority of U.S. federal agencies lack comprehensive transgender employee policies – which are currently in place for only nine of approximately 235 federal agencies (including sub-agencies).

Yet as the workforce evolves, federal employment policy must accommodate the needs of employees who do not fit traditional sex and gender categories – and particular attention needs to be paid to formulating policies specifying the responsibilities of employers when their employees undergo transitions meant to shift their anatomy or appearance to align with their gender identity.

What Should a Transgender Policy Include?

Employee policies specifically fashioned by agencies to deal with transgender issues should, at a minimum, cover matters that arise when employees undergo transition processes; restrooms and locker rooms; dress codes; and the use of proper names and pronouns. Many benefits come from transgender-specific employee policies. Such measures can educate supervisors and coworkers about what to expect when someone transitions in the workplace and, by providing protocols to follow, help supervisors and coworkers become more comfortable with and supportive of workplace transitions.

Transgender employees also benefit and gain a sense of security when specific policies are in place. Each federal agency should create its own internal set of transgender-relevant policies, to educate all employees and help transgender employees understand their rights and know where to go for assistance. More can be said about each of the major issues a good policy needs to address.

When Employees Go through Transitions

In the absence of a comprehensive transgender policy, most agencies are left unprepared when employees change their anatomy or appearance to align with their felt gender identity. An effective way to prepare for such processes is to spell out the agency’s workplace transition protocol. Without such an explicit plan, transgender employees who want to transition do not know where to go to begin the process or where they can find answers about what a transition might entail for an agency employee. Additionally, without a standard set of practices, agencies do not know what is required to change all applicable records. Confusion can leave transgender employees scrambling to deal with many different record changes. Submitting requests and medical records to many places can be unnecessarily cumbersome and intrusive.

Plans for Restrooms and Locker Rooms

One aspect of transgender employee policy that has garnered significant attention – and sometimes controversy – is the issue of who uses which restrooms and locker-rooms. A key example comes from North Carolina’s “House Bill 2” that banned individuals from using public restrooms that do not correspond to their biological sex assigned at birth. The United States Department of Justice declared this law in violation of Title VII and Title IX of the Civil Rights Act as well as the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013.

Openly transgender employees have, at times, been discouraged or outright or prohibited from using the restroom or locker room that correspond to their gender identities. Many federal employees use a locker room to change into their uniforms or when they enter the agency gym. Additionally, some jobs, like those in the Forest Service, necessitate the use of showers in the locker room. Existing open-shower floor plans in many facilities may not afford transgender individuals a sense of privacy and safety that everyone should have in their workplace. Inside particular workplaces, conflicts and awkward situations can often be headed off by spelling out clear guidelines for appropriate restroom and locker-room use by all employees, including transgender individuals.

Flexible Dress Codes

A comprehensive transgender policy could also resolve problems related to dress codes. Overall, transgender individuals should be allowed to wear clothing consistent with their gender identity; failure to do so could cause harm to their mental health. Obviously, this applies to employees who have gone through transitions. In addition, although dress code policies often assume that all individuals fall into a female-male binary; many individuals identify in non-binary ways.  Someone who identifies as gender neutral, for example, may not fit into sex-specific dress codes.

Because it is discriminatory for employers to force transgender people to conform to gender norms, an agency-specific transgender policy should articulate dress and grooming standards that allow employees to dress and groom in ways that are consistent with varied gender identities. The policy should state that no employee will be required to dress and groom in conformance with a particular sex or gender stereotype.

Respectful Use of Proper Names and Pronouns

Another concern to be addressed is the proper use of the name and pronoun corresponding to a transgender individual’s gender identity. After a person transitions, managers and coworkers often use the wrong name and pronoun. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found in 2013 that the intentional and repeated misuse of a transgender employee’s new name and pronoun could harm the employee and thus substantiate a claim of sex-based discrimination and harassment. A further issue is that agencies often have no policy about pronoun use for individuals who request designations other than the traditional “he,” “she,” “him,” or “her.”

When coworkers refuse to use the correct pronoun for a transgender colleague it is disrespectful. The Office of Personnel Management should expand the definition of “transgender” to include gender non-binary employees and clearly communicate this definition to agencies. Transgender policies for each agency should include clear guidelines indicating that all employees – including transgender, non-binary, and other gender non-conforming employees – are entitled, both verbally and in writing, to be called by their preferred name and pronouns.

Read more in Nicole M. Elias, “Constructing and Implementing Transgender Policy for Public Administration” Administration and Society 49 no. 1, (2017): 20-47.

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Human Rights

Abortion Laws, Feminism, Politics, and Neoliberal Societies in Developed Nations

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Re-conceptualizing restrictive abortion laws with a sex equality framework allow us to identify the limitations of women living in developed nations to act in a free manner with their physical bodies as men do. On many occasions, rules, regulations, and laws are enforced to reduce chaos/harm, but the same is similarly used to limit the freedoms of the individual which can also be oppressive in itself.

Historically, anti-abortive attitudes were prominent and common due to societies ignorance of scientific knowledge surrounding an embryo. Often when a pregnancy was declared, the fetus had already grown to a more formed stage which made abortion seem more of inhumane act. Early feminists radically opposed abortion claiming it was “child murder” that exploited both women and children. The core of the radical feminist’s argument was to ‘protect women at the embryonic stage’, hence leading to the anti-pro choice view.

Today, the attitudes of radical feminists have progressed to campaigning to eliminate the ‘root causes’ which drives women to abortion such as providing access to free childcare, financial support and enabling access to practical resources. Modern feminism has not adopted the ‘extreme’ stances of the past which have led to tensions within feminist communities. Depending on the feminist spectrum, some radical feminists believe motherhood is an obligation of womanhood while others may renounce the obligation of motherhood despite being financially and resource able to do so.

Modern feminism is defined in a variety of ways which is then filtered through our many lived experiences. One of the most basic and foundational definitions of feminism is the “advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of the equality of sexes”. The origins of the feminism began in the 1950s as a movement in the USA inspired by Betty Friendan’s book, The Feminine Mystique, which inspired women to pursue goals of freedom and autonomy.

The feminist anti-abortion arguments come with a variety of justifications for its campaigns – religious (when does life begin?); scientific (damaging a females body?); conservative (securing the future of mankind); power (forcing restrictive laws on women to exert power and control, potentially for political grounds).

Let us contextualize some of the laws in developed nations where women are forced to abide by policies informed by these anti-abortion justifications:

El Salvador – Illegal under every circumstance (rape, ill physical and mental health. Women can be jailed for up to a decade for performing the procedure. It is noted that low-income women who have miscarriages and stillbirths may be prosecuted due to being wrongly accused of abortion or homicide (White-Lebhar, 2018).

Alabama, United States of America – Illegal under every circumstance. What is concerning about this case though, is that it was only just voted in (last month), meaning that the senator they have in office today, have these views.

Northern Ireland – Illegal under every circumstance (including a result of rape). Medical professionals are afraid to provide their candid opinions about the health of the pregnant female and/or the fetus due to repercussions.

Under further examination, these laws celebrate a lack of individualization and are enforced by these powerful societal structures. Women are forced to adhere to laws derived from cultural and/or religious values in which they may not believe or practice. As Social Workers, our ethical practices use a person-centered approach with a systematic theoretical underpinning of self-determination for those we serve.

This approach applauds the unique and individual dynamic in one’s life and that these dynamics are even more special when they interact with their environment (person-in-context). No one person’s issue is perceived or dealt with in the same manner – social work theory acknowledges these humanistic values yet, we are forced to operate in neoliberal societies where under resourced service providers do not have the capacity and flexibility to approach each client uniquely.

Our role working within the abortion context means we can advocate change on multiple levels – through therapeutic supporting (counselling); by advocating for policy changes by sparking dynamic public discourse (policy); educating generations of women on abortion in an impartial manner (education) and much more. Our perspectives on the matter, and with feminism itself, comes from the top down – our attitudes are shaped by the leaders we have, whether they conflict or reflect our beliefs.

Relieving restrictions surrounding abortion isn’t only about the freedom of choice for women, it’s also an opportunity to examine and identify where first world nations fall short in imploring the sense of freedom we so frequently advertise to eastern societies and third world nations. Developed nations are allowing powerful politics driven by strong single-sided opinions often funded by the wealthiest ten percent of the world decide about life, death, family, and women health decisions.

There are no solidified answers on what restrictive abortion laws mean for women and feminism – whether regressive or progressive for the feminist movement. Whether we identify with feminism and all that it embodies or not, we are ultimately shaped by the societal constructs we were influenced by in our youth and our family values. However, context changes through life experience and transcultural immersions. Therefore, we must evolve individually and collectively.

Our society is ever changing in this way and essentially to be progressive on these fronts, decision making regarding policy should evolve towards being free of judgment, opinions, religion, and power – thinking about individual lives at the core is crucial. Some may view this perspective as idealistic, especially in countries where government structures have the funds to create change, but government money is alternatively utilized to support the community as a whole with supports mainstreamed, directly conflicting with the individualistic nature of social work approaches.

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Global

Scotland’s Vulnerable Witnesses Bill Unanimously Passes in Parliament – Victim Support Scotland reacts

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Today (10 May 2019) legislation was passed in the Scottish Parliament to ensure more child witnesses are able to pre-record evidence ahead of a jury trial, preventing the traumatic experience of presenting in court.

The Vulnerable Witnesses (Criminal Evidence) (Scotland) Bill aims to improve the quality of evidence given for the most serious offences.

In response, Kate Wallace, Chief Executive of Victim Support Scotland, commented:

“We welcome the passing of this Bill, which we believe is a crucial step forward in protecting and supporting children and families who have been involved in serious crime. It is well known – as we have seen through our own Witness Services from throughout Scotland – that the process of giving evidence in criminal trials can have adverse mental, physical and psychological effects on child witnesses.

“Victim Support Scotland agrees moving to pre-recorded evidence for child witnesses is one way of avoiding such trauma. Further to this, we believe that this should elicit better evidence from victims and witnesses of crime and outcomes for everyone involved in the justice sector.

“We are also heartened by the £2 million funding which the Scottish Government has committed to enabling the creation of a specialist evidence suite for children and vulnerable witnesses in Glasgow, as well as upgrades to support facilities in Inverness, Aberdeen and Edinburgh. Victim Support Scotland is looking forward to supporting this initiative on the ground as part of putting victims and witnesses first in Scotland’s criminal justice system.”

About Victim Support Scotland

Victim Support Scotland is an independent charity providing support and information services to around 200,000 victims and witnesses of crime in Scotland each year.

We manage a national helpline and community-based services in courts and every local authority area in Scotland. We also provide specialised training programmes and work to raise awareness of the impact of crime on individuals, communities and society.

We have around 130 paid staff and around 500 active volunteers, working from our 30 offices as well as 40 courts across the country. Our expenditure in 2017/18 was £4.5m with the majority of our funding coming from the Scottish Government and local authorities.

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Human Rights

A Call to Action for Social Workers! The Time is Now to ELEVATE

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As we recognize March as Social Work Month, let’s awaken that original passion in each other and build on our strengths and core social work values to make change and lead the way for others to do so as well.

My fellow social workers, the time is now to lead the way for our nation regarding human rights and human well-being. The shocking cruelty and violation of human rights that occur each day in our nation under the current administration not only violates our Code of Ethics, but is cruel, unjust, and the epitome of what we as social workers dedicate our lives to fight against—socialinjustice.

We cannot risk becoming desensitized to any injustice, despite hearing about a new, abhorrent policy, practice or incident, every day. Let’s channel our frustration into collective action because this is our domain. We are the experts of social welfare, and we are uniquely trained to recognize social injustice and empower individuals, families, organizations, and communities toward positive social change.

It’s what we do every day as social workers. Since we know how to do this, we should be leading the way. This social work month lets ELELVATE our dedication and translate it into collective action for social justice. I believe that in doing so, we honor of the many pioneer social workers who have blazed the trail for us and worked to give us many of the rights we now enjoy.

Every day I am in awe of our society and our government’s attitudes and policies toward the most vulnerable people in our society. Racism, anti-Semitism, sexism and homophobia seem to be increasing at alarming rates (or perhaps are just more acceptably overt now) and this is resulting in more violence, conflict, and division among families and communities.

To me, that constitutes an emergency. Children are being legally separated from their parents, put in cages, often abused or neglected and “lost” by our government. If that isn’t an emergency, I’m not sure what is. Banning PEOPLE from serving in the military, sending refugees back to their country of origin to face certain death, and women’s reproductive rights at risk are all emergencies to me.

What do you think? What constitutes a national emergency to you? Whatever you answer, the good news is that we know how to deal with crisis as social workers and are bound together by social workvalues. So, let’s do it. Someone has to, and why not us—this is our domain. Plus, we have a lot of professional strengths to build on.

For example:

• We know how to build on strengths.
• We know how to organize.
• We know how to educate.
• We know how to build bridges, not walls.
• We know how to empower individuals, families, organization, and communities.
• We understand human rights and human dignity.
• We know how to advocate on micro through macro levels.
• We know how to push through when we are tired because people’s lives depend on us.
• We understand human behavior more than most.
• We know how to critique social policy.
• We know how to conduct research and translate it into practice.
• We know how to problem solve and are used to complex problems.
• We value diversity and we know how to celebrate it.

As a social work educator, I have the privilege of working with budding social workers every day. Their passion for social justice is raw and strong. However, as some seasoned social workers know, that passion may not go away, but it may grow tired, and frustrated by red tape, high case-loads and lack of support.

My fellow social workers, I ask you to ask yourself: How do you want to use your unique innate gifts and your professional skills as a social worker to help our nation awaken to the humanity of others? We cannot let human suffering being the norm or be a line item on news that people shake their head to and go on about their day. Jane Addams would not approve.

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Environmental Justice

Climate Change Increases Potential for Conflict and Violence

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Images of extensive flooding or fire-ravaged communities help us see how climate change is accelerating the severity of natural disasters. The devastation is obvious, but what is not as clear is the indirect effect of these disasters, or more generally of rapid climate change, on violence and aggression.

That is what Craig Anderson sees. The Iowa State University Distinguished Professor of psychology and Andreas Miles-Novelo, an ISU graduate student and lead author, identified three ways climate change will increase the likelihood of violence, based on established models of aggression and violence. Their research is published in the journal Current Climate Change Reports.

Anderson says the first route is the most direct: higher temperatures increase irritability and hostility, which can lead to violence. The other two are more indirect and stem from the effects of climate change on natural disasters, failing crops and economic instability. A natural disaster, such as a hurricane or wildfire, does not directly increase violence, but the economic disruption, displacement of families and strain on natural resources that result are what Anderson finds problematic.

One indirect way natural disasters increase violence is through the development of babies, children and adolescents into violence-prone adults, he said. For example, poor living conditions, disrupted families and inadequate prenatal and child nutrition are risk factors for creating violence-prone adults. Anderson and Miles-Novelo noted these risk factors will become more prevalent as a result of climate change-induced disasters, such as hurricanes, droughts, floods, water shortages and changing agricultural practices for efficient production of food.

Another indirect effect: Some natural disasters are so extensive and long term that large groups of people are forced to migrate from their homeland. Anderson says this “eco-migration” creates intergroup conflicts over resources, which may result in political violence, civil wars or wars between nations.

“This is a global issue with very serious consequences. We need to plan for ways to reduce the negative impacts,” Anderson said. “An inadequate food supply and economic disparity make it difficult to raise healthy and productive citizens, which is one way to reduce long-term violence. We also need to plan for and devote resources to aid eco-migrants in their relocation to new lands and countries.”

Which is worse?

There are no data and there is no method to estimate which of the three factors will be most damaging, Anderson said. The link between heat and aggression has the potential to affect the greatest number of people, and existing research, including Anderson’s, shows hotter regions have more violent crime, poverty, and unemployment.

However, Anderson fears the third effect he and Miles-Novelo identified – eco-migration and conflict – could be the most destructive. He says we are already seeing the migration of large groups in response to physical, economic or political instability resulting from ecological disasters. The conflict in Syria is one example.

Differences between migrants and the people living in areas where migrants are relocating can be a source of tension and violence, Anderson said. As the level of such conflicts escalates, combined with the availability of weapons of mass destruction, the results could be devastating.

“Although the most extreme events, such as all-out war, are relatively unlikely, the consequences are so severe that we cannot afford to ignore them,” Anderson said.  “That is why the U.S. and other countries must make sure these regional conflicts and eco-migration problems don’t get out of hand. One way to do that is to provide appropriate aid to refugees and make it easier for them to migrate to regions where they can be productive, healthy and happy.”

Taking action now

Anderson and Miles-Novelo say the purpose of their research is to raise awareness among the scientific community to work on prevention efforts or ways to limit harmful consequences. The long-term goal is to educate the public on the potential for increased violence.

“From past experience with natural disasters, we should be able to prepare for future problems by setting aside emergency resources and funds,” Miles-Novelo said. “We should tear down negative stereotypes and prejudices about those who will need help and humanely assist refugees and others who are displaced. By doing all these things we can reduce conflict and hostility.”

Changing attitudes and policies about immigration also will lessen the potential for conflict, Anderson said. He points to the backlash against refugees in many European countries.

“The view that citizens of wealthy countries often have about refugees needs to change – from seeing them as a threat to a view that emphasizes humanitarian values and the benefits refugees bring when they are welcomed into the community,” Anderson said.

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