We are witnessing an unprecedented unity of humanity that is protesting injustice. As an organization, the Association for Gerontology Education in Social Work (AGESW) condemns the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and the countless other attacks and murders against Black and Brown individuals. The premature and horrific ending of Black lives throughout the country must stop. The unjustified use of force and violence disproportionately against people of color around the globe and Black people in the United States has shed light on the public health risks of racism.
AGESW’s mission includes “providing leadership in the area of gerontological social work education, research, and policy.” As gerontological social workers, we understand the lifelong and cumulative toll of systemic oppression at the individual, interpersonal, institutional, and structural levels, which lead to variable physical, mental, and financial health pathways. The racial bias and discrimination that so many people of color experience throughout the life course can lead to worse health outcomes later in life and greater overall inequality. This is further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has shed great light on how inequity has led to extreme differences in illness and mortality rates. Our members work hard to advocate for older people in our research, teaching and service. Now, more than ever, this leadership must include standing up against all forms of injustice.
The NASW Code of Ethics requires social workers to “act to prevent and eliminate domination of, exploitation of, and discrimination against any person, group, or class on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age, marital status, political belief, religion, immigration status, or mental or physical ability.” The “code of ethics sets forth values, ethical principles, and ethical standards to which professionals aspire and by which their actions can be judged.” We must take action today that upholds the best of our Code of Ethics.
As such, AGESW will take the following steps:
- Devote the upcoming AGESW Town Hall for a forum on the impact on systemic racism and police brutality on older adults (June 12, 1pm, click here for zoom information)
- Hold AGESW forum on “Caregiving in the Black Community” (Facilitated by Dr. Robert Turner, George Washington University, July 15, 1 pm).
- Publish a Special Section of AGESW’s flagship journal, The Journal of Gerontological Social Work titled, “Developing a Social and Economic Justice Agenda for Gerontological Social Work that Reduces Discrimination and Disparities Related to Race, Ethnic, Immigrant, and Indigenous Status” with a sponsored paper prize of 500 USD for scholarship that best exemplifies the special section’s call for papers.
- Initiate AGESW internal programming changes
Examine current practices to thoughtfully:
- Add anti-racism and implicit bias training to our future cohorts of pre-dissertation fellowship programming.
- Add opportunities for anti-racism and implicit bias webinars and resources for our members.
- Promote diversity within AGESW leadership.
- Ensure our award recipient and fellowship selection processes promote diversity and inclusion.
- Strategize AGESW Outreach
Create a working group of AGESW faculty and student members to develop the following outreach:
- Foster collaboration with The Minority Issues in Gerontology Advisory Panel of the Gerontological Society of America on these social justice initiatives.
- Strategize how to advocate for equity and justice for older adults with police and municipal departments.
- Harness the expertise of our members to provide resources on physical and cognitive aging to community groups in order to build trust and engagement with older adults.
- Promote our award and fellowship programs to diverse audiences to increase opportunities for emerging racial/ethnic minority scholars.
For justice for all, we all have to stand together. Thanks to all who are asking our country to live up to its ideals in the lived experiences of all of its people.
Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in getting involved in this important working group.
In solidarity in the pursuit of justice,
Wayne State University
School of Social Work
Recent statements by partnering professional bodies: