NASW-IL DEIC Statement on the Death of Adam Toledo
Latesha Newson, MSW, LCSW NASW-Illinois Chapter Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee (NASW-IL DEIC) Chair and Calumet District Chair
NASW-Illinois Chapter Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee (NASW-IL DEIC) Statement on the Death of Adam Toledo
He was a child! A child who complied with the commands of an officer! Whose hands were raised in surrender! A child who never drew a weapon! A child who did not present as violent nor a threat! So why is 13-year-old Adam Toledo dead? This is the question that we must ask ourselves as we grapple with and are forced to process yet another person of color being killed at the hands of police. This comes as our nation is attempting to rebuild and recover from a worldwide pandemic and a past year of political and social unrest. It also comes on the heels as we are awaiting the verdict in the murder of George Floyd and at the same time processing the recent murder of Daunte Wright. All Lives Ended at the Hands of Police!
This is a tale of two Americas, where systemic injustice rooted in racism and white supremacy continues to rear its ugly head and oppress marginalized groups of people. Where people of the BIPOC community are disproportionately targeted, mistreated, harassed, traumatized, racially profiled, labeled as threats, and oftentimes killed at the hands of police and domestic terrorist all due the color of their skin. Meanwhile, white individuals are often subdued and taken into custody unharmed despite committing some of the most violent acts in history. It is blatantly clear that police officers practice a different standard of engagement and de-escalation techniques when it involves a member of the BIPOC community.
When will this all end? It is unfortunate that we live in a society where there is more of an outrage over the harm and loss of life of an animal than the harm and/or loss of life of a person of color. This greatly shows the gross, inhumane regard for human life and value of a people. We as a society must do the work of introspection, both individually and collectively, and challenge our own racial ideals, bigotry, implicit bias, and stereotypes that continue to impose harm on others. This is the only way to move forward and to heal our nation.
The NASW-Illinois Chapter (NASW-IL) continues in its commitment to end racial injustice and white supremacy in our field, in systems, and in government. In 2020, as we were faced with great racial and social injustice, it was our decision to take action by forming the Task Force on Racial Justice whose focus and goal provided recommendations for police reform. Many of those recommendations are reflective and included in the historic Criminal Justice and Police Reform Bill (HB 3653) passed by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus and signed into law on February 22, 2021.
We at NASW-IL recognize that it is not enough to ask for police accountability but to demand justice for Adam Toledo, his family, and all BIPOC communities by calling for the federal government to end qualified immunity for police officers which continually protects and supports the abuse of power and bigotry in policing. We are also calling for the reallocation of funding from police and state budgets to support community needs including prevention programing and mental health services for communities that have been traumatized at the hands of police.
We at NASW-IL are committed to supporting the BIPOC community through our continuous and tireless efforts for racial justice, equity, and inclusion through advocacy, education, and policy.
We support and empathize with our BIPOC social workers and encourage them to find spaces that support, uplift, and assist with processing their experience of racial and vicarious trauma due to direct and indirect exposure to racial trauma.
We are charging ALL social workers to adhere to and uphold our social work values and ethical principles.
We are challenging ALL social workers to self-reflect regarding their implicitness in racial oppression and discrimination and to take a stand in solidarity with the BIPOC community in creating societal reformation in our nation.
We as social workers must continue to do the work of challenging, disrupting, and dismantling systems that perpetuate injustice and oppression. Now more than ever, we are challenging members of the non-BIPOC community to stand up and use their privilege to create transformative change and equitable spaces in our society for those who are marginally disenfranchised and continuously harmed.
In this moment, I am reminded of Bloody Sunday, when all of the world was watching as Martin Luther King, Jr., and our civil rights heroes were marching to oppose voter oppression and for the basic human right to vote—something we are still fighting in this present day! It was this historically violent event that put on display the blatant disregard for human life in the name of white supremacy; it also provoked a nation to join forces in the fight against racial injustice. Today we find ourselves again at a pivotal crossroads in our nation. We must reflect on our position and ponder this question: as history is being written, what side am I standing on? There are no gray areas in this fight for justice, only right and wrong. So, are you on the side of right or are you on the side of wrong? That is the question!
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of convenience and comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” —Martin Luther King, Jr.
Latesha Newson, MSW, LCSW, is a Behavioral Health Care Management Specialist at Blue Cross and Blue Shield. the Therapeutic Consultant. She is a fierce advocate for individuals living with mental illness and substance abuse. She currently serves as chair of the NASW-Illinois Chapter Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee (NASW-IL DEIC) and Calumet District Chair.
The NASW-Illinois Chapter Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee (NASW-IL DEIC) works to promote the NASW programs and efforts that encourage awareness, respect, and appreciation of diversity in the social work profession and our society. Its particular focus includes race and ethnic diversity, social justice, women advancement, and sexual orientation (LGBTTQQIAAP) issues.
The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) is the largest membership organization of professional social workers in the world, with over 120,000 members. The NASW-Illinois Chapter is one of the association's largest chapters representing over 20.000 licensed Illinois social workers and school social workers, with over 5,000 active members. NASW strives to advance social work careers, grow social work businesses, and protect the profession.