Abstract: (Withdrawn) Confronting Our Times: Social Workers Responding to Racism and Colonization Laid Bare in Canada during COVID (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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(Withdrawn) Confronting Our Times: Social Workers Responding to Racism and Colonization Laid Bare in Canada during COVID

Saturday, January 14, 2023
North Mountain, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Regine King, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada
Lemlem Haile, Community Social Worker, Alberta Men's Network, AB, Canada
Liza Lorenzetti, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Calgary, AB, Canada
Jeff Halvorsen, MPA, PhD Candidate, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada

Background and Purpose: Covid-19 has had a deleterious impact on population mental health and community well-being(Rajkumar, 2020). The effects are acute for Indigenous, racialized, and immigrant populations who carry a disproportionate burden of the pandemic, yet have more comorbidities than the general population, and fewer resources to self-isolate (Poweret al., 2020; Rothman et al., 2020). Isolation and stress exacerbate pre-existing social exclusion and vulnerability to racism within the context of the pandemic (Allen & Jaffray, 2020; Gover et al., 2020; Statistics Canada, 2020).Black Lives Matter (BLM) and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and 2 Spirit people have highlighted ongoing patterns of systemic violence and discrimination in the US and Canada. Moreover, the current rise of anti-Asian hate epitomizes a history of racist sentiment in Canada and displays the cruelty of whiteness which exploits the precarity of temporary foreign workers, while blaming them for the vulnerabilities this precarity created (Ferrer, 2018).

In response, a group of social work professors, activists, and practitioners came together to reflect on ongoing inequities and envision the path to collective antiracist, decolonial action. In our first meeting, there was a collective exhalation of “we are tired”, after organizing hampers, vigils, and caring for our communities. What was tiring is the relentless structures of racism and colonization creating the vulnerabilities we were responding to. We came together to care for each other, disrupt systemic racism and white supremacy, and unpack our own internalized biases. With our commitment to safe, uncomfortable, and courageous spaces in mind, we organized in caucus spaces consisting of a racialized peoples caucus (RPC) and a white people’s caucus (WPC), including collectively in a solidarity space (SS).

Methods: Community-Based Participatory Action Research (CBPAR) guided our approach. CBPAR is used to promote social justice aims and address issues related to under-representation. It aligns with the group’s commitment to be non-hierarchal and foster inclusivity. Specifically, we used CBPAR to focus on the critical reflexivity that co-researchers engaged in while determining transformational steps toward action. The group stands in solidarity with the authors in presenting their reflections on our participation and outcomes.

Results: We (A) adopted the United Nations Declaration of Indigenous Peoples, the Black Lives Matter Principles, and developed principles which will allow us to advance the scope of this work in the future. In the SS, we sought change by

deciding to host an anti-racism anti-colonialism learning series for our communities. To start, we decided to (B) build reciprocal relationships and acknowledge positionality by (C) doing the activities ourselves before hosting for the community. We centered our goals of (D) racial justice action, the goals of the RPC, and we directly challenged white supremacist tendencies for the WPC to dominate conversations and agendas.

Conclusion and Implications: Our critical reflexivity process has resulted in the development of an anti-racist anti-colonial learning series in which we have clarified (a) our principles; (b) built relationships; (c) practiced antiracist anti-colonial activities and allyship together; (d) centered social and racial justice.