August 23rd marked ten years since Hurricane Katrina which was the costliest natural disaster in the history of the United States. The hurricane lasted just over one week, with winds reaching up to 175 mph. Florida, Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana were amongst the worst affected areas. A confirmed 1,833 died as a result of the hurricane and the subsequent flooding.
Hurricane Katrina was particularly devastating for New Orleans, which suffered the highest number of deaths. After the storm hit the city, nearly every levee in the city failed and over 80 per cent of the city flooded and remained flooded for weeks. Over the following two months, up to 700 bodies were recovered from the city, many of which had been floating in the water for many days.
Ten years after this disaster, the impact of Katrina is still prominent. As a Social Worker working in New Orleans, I recently passed through the Lower Ninth Ward and saw first-hand the empty, broken homes and decimated roads. It is almost impossible to imagine the trauma those living in this ward have experienced. Not only have they lost their homes, their belongings, their jobs and their loved ones, but ten years later they still live in an area where almost one in four homes are deserted or destroyed.It is a daily reminder, not only of Katrina, but also of the sad fact that in the richest nation in the world not all lives are equally valuable.
Whilst much economic recovery has been made in New Orleans since Katrina, it has not been felt by everyone. The Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program and Data Center published ‘The New Orleans Index at 10’, which provides data on New Orleans’ recovery ten years after the hurricane. The report shows that ‘Metro New Orleans has weathered the Great Recession very well, with job recovery rates substantially higher than the national average. The report concludes “Ten years after Katrina, the regional economy is embarking on a new path, benefitting from new infrastructure investments, a more diverse set of industry clusters, and an entrepreneurship boom.” It notes, however, a very important caveat; the growth is not inclusive.
The report shows that employment and income disparities between African Americans and whites are starker than national disparities and poverty is increasing. “The median income for white households in metro New Orleans is on par with white households nationwide, but the median income for black households in metro New Orleans is 20 percent lower than black households nationally.
In 2013, the disparity in incomes between black and white households was 54 percent, compared to 40 percent nationally.” The employment rate for white men is 77 percent compared to 57 percent for black men. 44 percent of black household’s earnings are in the lowest tier, earning less than $20,900 with poverty is increasing. The share of the metro’s poor that “live outside the city continues to expand, growing from 46 percent in 1999 to 58 percent by 2013.”
An interesting side note from the report states jail incarceration rates in New Orleans still remain twice the national average. New Orleans has the highest incarceration rate in the country which has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Public corruption rates still remain unacceptably high which has been a worrying factor when taken into consideration the amount of money New Orleans has received to aid its recovery. The report makes clear that many are not benefiting from the New Orleans economic recovery.
The criminological ‘Broken windows theory’ states that if a neighborhood lies in disrepair with broken windows and littered streets, then the residents begin losing respect for the area they live in and their community. This in turn can lead to more severe crime. A broken window in a house, if left unfixed, can lead to squatting, burglary and arson. To leave the Lower Ninth Ward in its current state of disrepair, one can conclude it is to abandon an entire community to increased levels of crime and anti-social behavior.
However, out of this misery come hundreds of stories of hope. Those who know New Orleans, will tell that it is an incredibly resilient and magical city. Numerous charities have sprung up all across Louisiana to help restore people’s homes and lives. An estimated 575,554 have volunteered to help with recovery since the hurricane. And these selfless people have done amazing work.
Thousands of homes have been built or re-built and filled with donated furniture. Nearly 50 million meals have been distributed to keep people fed. Crucially, volunteers have been there to listen and comfort when needed. Their work is yet further evidence that grass-roots movements and simple acts of kindness from one person to another are immeasurably powerful.
Katrina is a disaster that will remain in the hearts and minds of its residents for generations to come. However, we cannot let the physical scars last as long as the mental ones. Public offices have to match the zeal of the volunteers when it comes to repairing infrastructure, housing and ensuring high quality education for all. You may hear many reports in the news over the coming days, praising the restoration of New Orleans over the past ten years, and certainly many people do deserve praise. But, you must remember that the ‘recovery’ has not been felt by all, and we are a long, long way from finished.
Understanding DACA & the Role Social Workers Play in Advancing Immigration Justice
There are approximately 10.5 million undocumented individuals in the United States according to Pew Research. Immigrants often leave their home countries seeking better opportunities and a brighter future. Refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants are escaping poverty, political conflict, natural disasters, and violence. To provide limited relief to some undocumented immigrants, on June 15, 2012, former President Barack Obama used his executive power to create the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA provides approved individuals with work authorization and a social security
number, allowing recipients to apply for driver licenses and identification cards. DACA is a deferred action, meaning that it is discretionary and available only for certain undocumented people who came to the U.S. as children. To qualify for DACA, individuals must meet strict eligibility criteria, which include: arriving in the U.S. before the age of 16, meeting certain educational requirements, being under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012, never being convicted of a felony, and never posing a threat to national
security or public safety. In the following, we’ll explore this program further and the role social workers can play in regards to immigration justice.
DACA in Action
When DACA was first introduced, it brought a sense of relief to the hundreds of thousands of individuals who could benefit from this executive action. One DACA recipient, who was interviewed for this article, discussed in-depth what DACA meant to her and her family. Nataly*, a 32-year-old Mexican woman, was brought to the United States by a coyote at the young age of six. Before DACA, Nataly expressed living in constant fear of deportation and arrest. She stated, “As a kid without documentation, I was embarrassed to talk about my status. When other students talked about going to college, I felt like there was no future for me and I couldn’t move forward.” DACA provided hope to hundreds of thousands of young people like Nataly. After gaining DACA, Nataly described feeling relieved and excited. “I felt hope, happiness, and security about my future. I felt like I could become whoever I wanted; although I faced racism as a DACA recipient trying to enroll in college, I didn’t give up.” DACA recipients must pay out-of-state tuition at most universities, regardless of how long they have been in that State, and in most States they do not qualify for financial student aid.
A Deeper Look at DACA
To fully understand DACA, it is critical to know that DACA does not lead to a path to citizenship or permanent residency and it can be revoked at any time. Although approximately 643,560 people have benefitted from this action, DACA has received wide criticism and opposition from citizens and political figures according to the Center for American Progress. Despite being upheld by the Supreme Court, DACA’s critics cast it as an unlawful solution to deal with undocumented immigrants residing in the United States. As we continue to witness the legal battles unfold in the courts in attempts to rescind the program, Nataly cries and expresses being scared because the U.S. government has access to all of her information and can easily locate her now. Just like Nataly, many DACA recipients, often referred to as Dreamers, are experiencing fears, anxiety, and sometimes depression. They constantly worry about what the court will decide and whether the decision will affect their ability to continue attending school, working, staying in the country, and pursuing their dreams. In addition, they face the persistent fear of deportation and the inability to support their families emotionally and financially. The lives of hundreds of thousands of Dreamers continue to be in turmoil due to the lack of comprehensive immigration reform.
Today, the DACA program is 9 years old and as we look into the future, we need to recognize that Dreamers have demonstrated that they belong in the United States. They are our colleagues, neighbors, friends, and essential workers. They pay $613.8 million in mortgage payments and $2.3 billion in rental payments annually. They also pay $5.7 billion in federal taxes and $3.1 billion in state and local taxes every year. They are part of the fabric of this country. They make tremendous economic contributions to our society, and many of them are on the frontlines treating patients suffering from physical illness and mental health issues caused by the global Coronavirus pandemic.
The Responsibility of Social Workers
As social workers, we are tasked with fighting for social justice for all people. Whether we are allies or are directly affected by this issue, it is imminent that we support and raise our voice on behalf of all the Dreamers. Undocumented immigrants are a vulnerable population and social workers should challenge how Congress, organizations, universities, and all other institutions see and treat Dreamers. Nataly is now a dental hygienist, a small business owner, and a mother of two. This is the only home she knows and remembers. You can help Nataly and hundreds of thousands of Dreamers like her by calling your representatives in Congress, signing petitions, attending calls to action, and educating the public. For more information about how you can get involved, check out immigrant rights organizations such as United We Dream, the UndocuBlack Network, and join the Social Workers United for Immigration network (SWUFI).
*A pseudonym was used to protect the identity of the interviewee.
SWUFI is a network committed to the well-being and advancement of immigrants,
asylum seekers, refugees, and fighting for their rights. Together, we envision access to
resources for immigrants, an immigration movement where social workers stand strong
alongside immigrants and allies at the local, state, and federal levels, and collaboration
among social workers that includes peer support, and educational opportunities. To join,
send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Digital.com Survey: Most Consumers Unlikely to Buy from Companies with Opposing Political Views
Digital.com, a leading independent review website for small business online tools, products, and services, has published a new study to assess consumer behavior towards companies that express political views or affiliation. The survey report examines responses from 1,250 Americans ages 18 and older and highlights key points on how politics and social issues influence their buying decisions.
The study shows that 47 percent of consumers are unlikely to buy products or services from companies not aligned with their political views. Women are also more likely to make purchasing decisions based on political leanings. Fifty-three percent of women say they are unlikely to buy from companies with different political views, compared to 38 percent of men. The top reasons women consider politics when patronizing businesses are that they do not want their money to support causes they oppose, and they want it to have an impact beyond the purchase.
Similarly, women and Hispanic/Latino respondents are least likely to buy from companies that do not have stated DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) policies. The survey indicates that Forty-four percent of women and 50 percent of Hispanic/Latino shoppers will consider these policies when making a purchase. DEI policies are also important among Democrats, with 46 percent who say they are unlikely to patronize businesses that do not have them. Thirty-nine percent of independents and 29 percent of Republicans are against buying products or services from companies without DEI policies.
“Brand alignment and company values are crucial when it comes to attracting loyal customers, and this insightful data can help businesses effectively shape their policies and messaging,” says digital marketing executive Huy Nguyen. “Our study proves that American consumers prefer to spend their money with companies that share their political views and support the same causes.”
Research findings also show that sustainability issues are more significant among specific age groups. Fifty-five percent of Gen Zers, individuals ages 18-24, say they are unlikely to buy from a company that does not have a published sustainability policy. Forty-one percent of respondents aged 25 to 34 years old and 47 percent of 45 to 54-year-olds also have similar views when it comes to sustainability issues and topics.
Digital.com commissioned this study to gain insight into how political and social issues can influence consumer spending habits. Respondents were surveyed regarding their political views and the importance of a company’s political alignment and policies when making purchasing decisions. The survey was distributed on July 21, 2021 via Pollfish, the online survey platform. To access the complete report, please visit here.
Digital.com reviews and compares the best products, services, and software for running or growing a small business website or online shop. The platform collects twitter comments and uses sentiment analysis to score companies and their products. Digital.com was founded in 2015 and formerly known as Review Squirrel. To learn more, visit their website.
Cultivating an Equitable and Anti-Racist Workplace
2020 was filled with unprecedented events in all facets of life, and, as many have noted across the globe, the year became a landmark for the call to action against racism.
From the incident in Central Park, where a white woman called the police on a black bird watcher, to the murder of George Floyd by police officers, and when the police officers who murdered Breonna Taylor in her home were not indicted for their involvement in her murder, it is clear that racism is still very prevalent and pervasive. It reaches far and wide, including at home and in the workplace, where power dynamics and structural racism can be multiplied.
Through his talk, “Social Work’s Role in Black Lives Matter,” Wayne Reid discussed racism’s reach into social workers’ professional lives. In the workplace, there are certain barriers that people of color face that white people do not. To address these barriers and inequities, equality, diversity, and inclusion advisory groups are often created. Too often, the burden of creating these groups and addressing racism in the workplace falls solely on people of color, when it is a fight that requires everyone’s involvement, especially those in positions of power. This is part of the push for people to go beyond being non-racist and to become anti-racist– actively fighting against racism and advocating for changes against racist policies and practices. It is an active, ongoing process, not only in one’s personal life but in professional environments as well.
Creating an Anti-Racist Workplace
Wayne works for the British Association of Social Workers (BASW), which currently has a goal to create a universal anti-racist framework that is applicable to all aspects of the social work field. This includes creating an anti-racist workplace, and Wayne and the BASW have an idea for how that would look. As Wayne described, an anti-racist workplace would have a very specific anti-racist mission statement, making sure to interview people of color, to integrate an anti-racism mentality into policies and procedures, to provide adequate anti-racism training to all staff, and to conduct annual pay reviews for employees of color to ensure they are being paid fairly relative to their white colleagues. With these steps, workplaces would have to take active steps to ensure they were discussing race within the workplace and enforcing anti-racist policies.
On top of these ideas for an anti-racist workplace, including mandatory professional development courses aimed at educating people on how to be anti-racist, anti-discriminatory, and anti-oppressive would be beneficial. There are already experts in the world of anti-racism who have done the groundwork, and their expertise can be utilized to help implement anti-racist practices within workplaces. For example, Stanford University has created an “Anti-Racism Toolkit” for managers to better equip themselves to address racism in the workplace and move towards a more inclusive environment, and the W.K Kellogg Foundation has created a Racial Equity Resource Guide full of training methods and workshops to provide structure for anti-racist professional development.
Wayne also discussed the importance of leadership programs for people of color within their workplaces. In the US, black people only make up 3.2% of senior leadership roles, and only 0.8% of Fortune 500 CEO positions. Employers need to sufficiently invest in leadership training programs and provide the resources to ensure the success of people of color within them. Leadership programs for people of color would help address the lack of people of color in leadership positions within the social work field and beyond. For social work specifically, in conjunction with these leadership programs, employers should create programs allowing social workers of color to mentor senior staff members as well, providing insight for them regarding the challenges people of color face in the workplace. That said, while the benefits of this type of program are important, boundary setting and confidentiality are just as vital and would need to be well thought out prior to implementation.
In order to assist in diversifying leadership, higher education must also be addressed. Despite the increase in people of color attending college, there is still a large imbalance in representation compared to the general US population.
For the social work field, it is important to address the accessibility of social work education programs. Because they are often expensive and have numerous requirements for entry, entry into the field is inaccessible for many. They also need to include a more deliberately anti-racist curriculum, which can be guided by people of color through their lived experiences, as well as experts in the field. The field of social work has long been dominated by white women, and that imbalance has impacted the curriculum that we use today.
As long as people continue to ignore racism and the effects it continues to have, nothing will change. Wayne and the BASW’s work to integrate anti-racist education and policies into the workplace and social work schools is crucial to the future of social work and the progress of anti-racist work. Social work needs to play a large role in the changing of policies and practices to ensure that the future is more equitable for all.
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