Orlando and a Social Work Response

by Marc Herstand, MSW, CISW

The tragic mass murder in Orlando challenges us to lead efforts to make our communities more tolerant and safer for all its residents.   The LGBTQ community has had a long unending history of experiencing violence, harassment, and bigotry in our country and world.  Although much progress has been made, homophobia runs deep, as evidence by the murderer’s expressions.  It is incumbent on all of us who are heterosexual to act in solidarity at all times with the LGBTQ community and speak out against homophobia whenever we hear it expressed.   We also need to be sensitive to the psychological trauma an event of this magnitude can have on the LGBTQ community.

While one of the presidential candidates continues to stoke anger and resentment against people of the Muslim faith, these expressions are the antithesis of who we are as a people and of course counter to core principles of our social work profession.   Those of us who are not of the Muslim faith need to speak out forcefully against Islamophobia wherever it takes place.   This same presidential candidate has made similar negative comments about people of Mexican origin, which has resulted in anti-Mexican chants shouted in public school events.  We as social workers need to speak out strongly against any public expressions of hatred or prejudice no matter who the target. 

As social workers we understand the impact of public policies on our environment.   If we had stricter gun safety laws banning the purchase of assault weapons and banning the purchase of guns for anyone who is or has been on a FBI watch list, the Orlando tragedy and many other mass killings in this country may not have occurred.  Furthermore gun deaths in this country could be controlled by requiring background checks at gun shows and for internet purchases and particularly by “smart guns” that can only be operated by the adult purchaser, thus eliminating child accidents, the use of stolen guns and many teen suicides.

Our world and communities are full of challenges and we cannot expect to be able to control or stop all acts of violence and hatred that exists.  However we can speak out strongly against bad public policies and hurtful and prejudicial political expressions.  Each of us as social workers, community members and world citizens can do our part to make the world and our community a little more tolerant and a little safer.