This quilt commemorates an interactive art installation that occurred in the summer of 2001 at the Smith College School for Social Work. Based on an invitation to respond to this event, participants expressed their sentiments on cotton strips, now woven into the quilt, representing a range of voices. The Class of 2002, the Anti-Racism Task Force and the Kahn Liberal Arts Institute cooperated to complete the quilt project.
Since our inception, the Smith College School for Social Work has worked to promote knowledge, values and skills that help students to identify, critically analyze and intervene against the insidious and lethal effects of racism. Our school community is one that fosters respect for diverse worldviews and for each other's equal place in the world. We believe in the power of self-reflection and ongoing discussion about how issues of race influence social work practice, research and scholarship.
Racism is a system of privilege, inequality, and oppression based on perceived categorical differences, value assigned to those differences, and a system of oppression that rewards and punishes people based on the assigned differences. It is manifested politically, socially, economically, culturally, interpersonally, and intrapersonally in the history of the United States.
In 1995, the School for Social Work faculty made a formal commitment to becoming an anti-racism organization. (Read our Anti-Racism Commitment Timeline.) We made this pledge to make explicit our responsibility to continuously learn about and disrupt systems of privilege, inequality and oppression that maintain white supremacy and reward, punish and silence because of socially assigned differences. In 2015, we commissioned a group of students to do their thesis on evaluations of different aspects of the committment. Executive summaries of those theses are available here.
To bring accountability to our work, the SSW Anti-Racism Consultation Committee is charged with monitoring the School’s progress toward anti-racism. Comprised of students, alumni, faculty and staff, the ARCC meets monthly, setting a course to solicit feedback and perspectives from the SSW community, generating and reviewing relevant data and proposals to ensure that our school is continuously working towards our pledge. Members of the ARCC are available to any SSW community member for consultation when issues of structural racism manifest in community process.
In addition to the ARCC, through our commitment we have developed other important structures to bring our pledge alive:
- The Anti-Racism monthly meeting brings together faculty and administrators in a dedicated time for ongoing learning and discussion about issues of race and racism, and our integration of the anti-racism lens in curriculum and organizational processes.
- The Marta Sotomayor Fellow is an annually appointed position for a member of the SSW community to serve as an ombudsperson for the school community around issues of institutional racism, oppression and the ways in which they manifest within the educational process. This position honors the contributions of SSW alum Marta Sotomayor, who was the first Latina in the United States to earn a doctorate in social work. Sotomayor served as the first executive director of the National Hispanic Council on Aging. She brought an unwavering focus to issues of equity and social justice in all that she did.
- Pedagogy and Diversity is a weekly teaching group, co-facilitated by the Sotomayor Fellow and a resident faculty member, at which instructors have the opportunity to critically examine and address issues of power, privilege and oppression that emerge within the classroom.
- In 2016, the faculty agreed to ongoing training for all SSW instructors, advisers, students and staff members with the Critical Conversations group facilitation model (O'Neill & Kang 2016). This facilitation model provides a structured process to work through tensions that emerge across participants of a discussion when issues of power, privilege and bias emerge.
We ask all members of our Smith community to join us in this important commitment and in our ongoing work.