Abstract: (see Poster Gallery) "All Protests Finish By Destroying Things": Refugee Community Perspectives on Black Lives Matter (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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SSWR 2023 Poster Gallery: as a registered in-person and virtual attendee, you have access to the virtual Poster Gallery which includes only the posters that elected to present virtually. The rest of the posters are presented in-person in the Poster/Exhibit Hall located in Phoenix A/B, 3rd floor. The access to the Poster Gallery will be available via the virtual conference platform the week of January 9. You will receive an email with instructions how to access the virtual conference platform.

198P (see Poster Gallery) "All Protests Finish By Destroying Things": Refugee Community Perspectives on Black Lives Matter

Friday, January 13, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Stephanie Carnes, MSW, LL.M, Lcsw, University at Albany, Albany, NY
Lindsey Disney, PhD, LCSW, Assistant Professor, State University of New York at Albany, Albany, NY
Wonhyung Lee, PhD, Associate Professor, State University of New York at Albany, Albany, NY
Background and Purpose: The tumultuous events of 2021, such as the attack on the U.S. Capitol and the escalation of police violence against people of Black or African descent, have had a profound impact on daily life, particularly in minoritized communities. This e-poster will present the results of a qualitative study that sought to identify the ways in which refugees think and feel about the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and other social justice movements in the U.S.

Methods: This study, which utilized individual semi-structured interviews as a data collection method, was conducted in two localities, Albany, New York and Clarkston, Georgia. Recruitment was conducted using both snowball sampling and horizontal sampling. Participants had to self-identify as a refugee or a community leader/member of the refugee community to be included in the study. Interviews took place in early 2021, during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic and after a series of high-profile BLM movement demonstrations and protests following the death of George Floyd in May 2020. A total of 30 participants were interviewed. Key interview questions included:

  1. How do you see the refugee community experiencing the BLM movement? (e.g., overall reactions)
  2. Do you see members of the refugee community affected emotionally by the current civil unrest?
  3. Do you think the refugee community feels that they have a voice to speak out against racial injustices or systematic oppression?

Interview data were voice-recorded, transcribed, and analyzed using thematic analysis.

Results: Three main themes emerged from participants’ responses:

  • Refugees experience U.S. social justice movements as unsafe, triggering, and unprotected by a “conditional” freedom of speech.
  • Refugees are shaken and disappointed by the racial injustices and police brutality exposed by BLM, but may also feel that the U.S. is relatively safe compared to their homelands.
  • Newly resettled refugees are overwhelmed with surviving in a foreign country and do not have emotional space for social justice movements, whereas more established refugees, particularly refugee youth, may experience the BLM movement as a catalyst of healing, empowerment, and societal change.

Conclusions and Implications: This study highlighted the ways in which societal context and climate of the receiving country affect refugees’ sense of safety, as well as their desire to be involved – or not – in social justice movements. Given the interrelatedness of physical safety, societal dynamics, past trauma exposure, and mental health, such insights are of critical importance for refugee-serving practitioners and agencies. Finally, the findings advance the existing body of empirical work around refugee resettlement, mental health, integration, and inclusion.