University of Connecticut School of Social Work Dean Salome Raheim presented the ninth annual Pinderhughes Diversity Lecture on April 15 at Boston College. Salome’s talk, entitled “Race and Justice: From Analysis to Action,” focused on the current dialogue on police violence against African Americans, as well as the mass incarceration of blacks in the U.S. prison system, and she offered a call to action. Raheim was the latest in a series of speakers invited to BCSSW to speak to this year’s diversity theme of Race + Justice.
“The focus of race and justice for this lecture series, needless to say it is so timely, “ said Raheim in her opening remarks. “That the Boston College School of Social Work identified this theme before the nation’s attention returned to it in the late summer last year says a great deal about the forward thinking and the commitment of this school.”
Raheim spent much of her talk depicting the enormity of the two aforementioned issues in racial injustice in America. Some striking numbers, presented by Raheim included:
- In the U.S. alone, 76 unarmed people of color were killed by police between 1999 and 2014, including the recent and much-publicized cases of Walter Scott and Eric Harris.
- Of those individuals incarcerated in America, 60 percent are African American or Latino.
- Despite representing five percent of the world’s population, U.S jails hold 25 percent of the world’s prisoners.
These realities have become all too commonplace, said Raheim, and unfortunately, too often those, like her, in the social work profession become paralyzed in not knowing how to positively effect change in a system so large and unjust. But this doesn’t mean the community of social work shouldn’t try, or that it can’t be successful.
“The first thing that we can do to move from our analysis to action,” she explained, “is to start where we are, wherever we are… in schools of social work specifically, we have the power and the privilege of introducing thousands of people who want to make the world a better place or want to make a positive contribution, we get to introduce them to ways that they might [address racial injustice].”
The Pinderhughes Diversity Lecture Series honors the distinguished career of Professor Emeritus Elaine Pinderhughes, who has long influenced students seeking to make the world a better place in her own right – her vision, voice, and compassion have enriched the Boston College School of Social Work since 1975. Pinderhughes provided her own remarks during the event, and informed those gathered that she’s been hard at work into her 90s, and that her latest book will soon be released. The book will be about understanding the dynamics of power.
Following her remarks, Dean Raheim wowed those in attendance with her unique musical gift. Join her and BCSSW’s invited guests in song, below.