Rutgers School of Social Work Community,
With one of the most difficult years in recent memory just days behind us, I write to you again with profound sadness in response to the violent insurgency that occurred at the nation’s capital on January 6. I am once again a bit stunned by events so far outside our national norm. Of course, social workers condemn these cowardly acts – clear threats against our democracy – because they oppose every value we uphold. Our reactions include horror, dismay, sadness for our country, and anger against those who perpetrated these crimes, and those who incited them in this action as well as other actions around the country.
One of the main topics of conversation among friends and colleagues yesterday was the disgust at the ways these insurrectionist rioters were treated as compared to the ways Black Lives Matter and other social justice protesters were treated in the exact same spaces. Had this been a largely diverse crowd protesting for social justice, I personally believe the response would have been greatly different and would have included greater loss of life. Social workers must acknowledge this and commit to action. We need to honor the anger and exhaustion among diverse communities for whom yesterday was a tremendous reminder of the power of white privilege.
As I reflect on these events, alongside the historic elections that have taken place across our country, I am also a bit heartened. I remember that after the plague came the Renaissance (to paraphrase a popular current meme). I am reminded that as old unjust systems begin to fail, we will see those who support them lash out, but we will also see the beginning of something new. I am thankful that our democracy held, though not without significant damage. We are not seeing the fall of democracy in America, but rather the long, messy process of rejuvenating it, though only through our efforts toward a more just future.
We were also frightened yesterday – a day that could so easily have ended in tremendous loss of life at the Capitol. There was trauma to our country, and for us individually, in the events yesterday. I urge you to take care of yourselves and your family. Let’s talk with each other as we make sense of these events. Let’s teach our children about democracy and the potential threats to it. Let’s mourn illusions lost. Let’s commit to the work ahead. If you are a Rutgers SSW student, staff, or faculty, remember that you have access to counseling and support services here at Rutgers.
We live in historic times! As a Hamilton fan, even as I have been feeling shock and sadness, I’ve been humming “how lucky we are to be alive right now.” WE will build the new America. WE have historic opportunities to fight for justice. WE are the future. WE are ready for this work.
Finally, please follow this link to view the statement from Rutgers University President Jonathan Holloway and the Chancellors. Rutgers stands united in support of democracy and in support of our diverse community.
Cathryn C. Potter
Dean & Distinguished Professor
Rutgers School of Social Work