I am delighted to hand over editorial control of this issue to Charlotte Williams and Suryia Nayak. I would like to record my thanks to them for all their hard work pulling this issue together. I am confident that this issue will open up debate within social work about racism, our understandings of oppression and racist violence, and the necessary response from within social work.
About 1,000 civilians are killed each year by law-enforcement officers in the United States. By one estimate, Black men are 2.5 times more likely than white men to be killed by police during their lifetime. And in another study, Black people who were fatally shot by police seemed to be twice as likely as white people to be unarmed.
George’s death was a catalyst that led to a number of high-profile protests across the globe. Campaign networks and groups grew, demanding the ‘defunding of the police’, an end to racist killings by state agencies and that countries face up to their historic role in the slave trade and in imperial conquest – and acknowledge the impact that these had at the time and continue to have in the present.
The journal covered the unfolding events. We published an article (Choonara, 2021) that scrutinised the competing theories attempting to understand and explain the roots of racism and the causes of institutionalised racist violence; we published commentary pieces and front-line articles that grappled with various aspects of the crisis (Davis and Marsh, 2020); and we celebrated when statues were torn down (Lavalette, 2020) and when a community in Glasgow came together to resist draconian immigration policies (Jarvis and Anderson, 2021).
However, we also committed to having a special issue of the journal on Black Lives Matter in the hope that it would spark sustained debate within our pages on the future of anti-racist social work theory and practice. Charlotte and Suryia took on the task of advertising and commissioning papers – the present volume is the result.
As editor-in-chief, it is my sincere hope that in response to this issue, and our previous Black Lives Matter outputs, we can have regular articles – and debates in the commentary section – about ‘what is to be done’. As social work academics, practitioners and students, we need to move beyond words to ‘deeds’. For example, we need to ask: ‘How do we embed anti-racism in our curriculum and in our practice?’; ‘How do we develop our links with anti-racist networks?’; and ‘How do we situate social work and social workers as allies of liberation movements?’.
These are pressing questions. For a profession that is committed to human rights, social justice and human liberation, confronting racism and oppression is not an ‘add-on’ or a luxury; rather, it needs to be embedded to become an essential part of our everyday lives and practice.
Conflict of interest
The author declares that there is no conflict of interest.
Choonara, E. (2021) Theorising anti-racism in health and social care, Critical and Radical Social Work, 9(2): 167–84. doi: 10.1332/204986021X16109919364036
Davis, J. and Marsh, N. (2020) Boys to men: the cost of ‘adultification’ in safeguarding responses to Black boys, Critical and Radical Social Work, 8(2): 255–60. doi: 10.1332/204986020X15945756023543
Jarvis, Z.J. and Anderson, R. (2021) People, power, Pollokshields, Critical and Radical Social Work, 9(2): 297–300. doi: 10.1332/204986021X16231575017622
Peeples, L. (2020) What the data say about police brutality and racial bias – and which reforms might work, Nature, 26 May, www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-01846-z. doi: 10.1038/d41586-021-02825-8