Some of you may remember the old comedy special from decades ago on TV, That Was the Week That Was, It’s Over Let it Be! It featured singing comedy routines on the week’s developments. In recent decades Saturday Night Live has taken up the role in poking fun at the past week. And the website JibJob has also done so for each passing year.
This past year is not one for a comedy routine, however. It is a year full of loss and sorrow that has brought to the forefront the racist underpinning of our society, the huge polarization of our country, the weaknesses in our democracy and our system of government, the terrible consequences of deep seated suspicion of the role of government and the weak safety net.
With the possible exception of 1968, I have never in my life experienced such a horrible year in our nation and even world.
The trauma experienced by families affected by Covid-19 could last for decades. The impact of Covid-19 is made worse by our President and his supporters refusing to support public health guidelines (wearing a mask, social distancing etc.) that could have saved perhaps 100,000 or more lives. The financial impact was made so much worse because: 1) Too many people have not followed public health guidelines and we consequently never got the virus under control and; 2) Our national government has been unwilling to provide adequate and continued support for those individuals, businesses and local government who are desperate for assistance.
The tragic events of 2020 of the dual pandemics of Covid-19 and racism should bring us back to our core values as social workers. Our values direct us as to how government should have responded to this Covid-19 pandemic. Our values also direct us to renew and strengthen our efforts to fight racism and work for a racially equitable society. Those of us who are not social workers of color can easily forget the daily experiences of people of color in this society, the little indignities and major injustices that take place all the time.
As social workers, we always have hope. We have hope and see the possibility for our clients, our communities and even our nation to change. We understand that change does not happen automatically. It takes effort and everyone joining together. We need to keep our vision of a just society in our mindset in all the work we do. We need to serve as leaders in our community, state and nation to make this a better country and world.
We can’t undo the tragic loss of life from Covid-19 or racist policing. We can, however, address this trauma and help individuals and communities heal from the two pandemics. We can work for public policies to address the huge financial losses from Covid-19 and to reform policing so that people of color don’t have to fear police and parents of Black and Brown children don’t have to give them the “talk” about dealing with police.
The challenges are so great! However, as social workers, we know what needs to happen. Let’s keep our values in front of our eyes at all times and lead our communities, state and country to a better future in 2021.