By: Aimee LaBrie
On Wednesday, June 6, Rutgers School of Social Work hosted its second annual Challenging Racial Disparities conference at the Busch Student Center, featuring keynote speaker, Dr. Derald Wing Sue. With several distinguished panelists, the conference quickly sold-out and was attended by social workers and other professionals, including a large number of Rutgers alumni.
Doug Behan, director of the Rutgers SSW Office of Continuing Education, emphasized the importance of conversations related to the problem of racial inequality and its impact on all aspects of our lives, “conversations about race can be difficult and are often avoided, however they must take place if we are going to make progress as a society. Social workers are often on the front lines in addressing racial disparities and this conference is designed to empower them in that important work.”
Dr. Sue, who is a professor of education in the Department of Counseling and Clinical Psychology Teachers College and the School of Social Work at Columbia University, was brought in as the featured speaker as part of the Professor William Neal Brown Endowed Lecture series. His lecture focused on microaggressions and understanding the ways in which people of color can be marginalized in day- to-day interactions. He spoke about how part of the solution to racial inequality is to allow others at the table. It is like the African proverb, he said: "The true tale of the lion hunt will never be told as long as the hunter tells the story."
Following his presentation, attendees were given the opportunity to hear from a panel of experts, which was moderated by Marla Blunt-Carter, an Assistant Professor of Professional Practice at the School of Social Work. The panel consisted of Dr. Sue, as well as Dr. Anne Gregory and Dr. Shalonda Kelly from the Rutgers Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology. Dr. Sue spoke about the importance of a practitioner’s own awareness of their race and how that might impact the power differential in their work with clients. The panel addressed various issues related to race currently occurring in society, such as the "Taking a Knee" controversy. The session was highly-interactive with members of the audience adding their experiences and questions.
Participants then had a lunch break to network and socialize, followed by the choice to take part in one of eight breakout sessions focused on issues related to addressing race as a professional social worker. These sessions ranged from racial disparities in child protective cases, to the impact of race and trauma in the school-to-prison pipeline, to mental health disparities in youth and families, and the overall problem of racism, injustice, and poverty in New Jersey.
Attendee Dr. Alissa Koval-Dhaliwal first heard of the conference via an email invitation, and decided to register to enhance her understanding on the issues. As a counselor at the New Jersey City University Counseling Center, whose work touches diverse populations, she found both the opening presentation and her breakout session very useful. “Conferences like this are critical to supporting and assisting my clients and our student body, who often experience disparities in education, mental health care, and health care," she said during a break. “I’m especially appreciative of this opportunity to learn from Dr. Sue, whose body of work on multicultural counseling and microaggressions has been so important, and has been instrumental to my ongoing personal and professional development.”
Participants of the conference were eligible to earn five continuing education hours. In addition, they were able to enhance their knowledge about key issues in the field of social work in order to return back to their jobs and apply what they learned.
For information about next year's conference on race or about continuing education opportunities with the School more generally, please contact Doug Behan at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website.