The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis was horrific, preventable, and predictable. It has sparked outrage across the world, and we are seeing riots and protests on an international scale. Despite their being an ongoing pandemic, people are risking their lives to show their outrage and support for the black community in trying to prevent this happening again. This is not the first time that a black person has died as a result of the police using excessive force, or where the murder of a black person has not been effectively investigated. Black people are statistically more likely to have poorer outcomes in various aspects of society including, but not limited to, being more likely to go to jail, be murdered, do worse at school, suffer poor mental health, and be victims of COVID-19.
In the world of social work, culture inevitably plays a part in how we make decisions about the care provided to our children, but it should not be the primary factor in making a decision. I think you will be shocked to know, that until the Children and Families Act was amended in 2014, agencies could prioritise a person’s race and cultural background above other factors. This meant that children from black and ethnic minority backgrounds were left waiting to be adopted for long periods of time as most couples adopting in the UK were ‘white/British’.
Various times in my career as a social worker I have seen racism at play, and I have been guilty for not always standing up to it. For example, when working with unaccompanied asylum seekers, there are still professionals who will speak loudly and slowly to them because English is not their first language. I’m sorry, but no matter how loudly you talk, it doesn’t change how much English a person can understand. Interpreters are relatively accessible now, but a lot of our work can be at short notice which can make it difficult especially with less common languages.
There is an element of truth that some children don’t want to ‘stand out’ and having foster parents who look like they can be related to you can help for some children. However, one of most successful placements I worked with was white foster carers with two girls of a BME background. Every weekend the foster parents would drive to the next town over and immerse themselves in the culture relevant to the two girls birth family, they took lessons in how to manage afro hair and black skin, they learnt how to cook Caribbean foods and they widened their understanding of what culture meant to their foster children.
Children are not born racist. Children are products of the environment we expose them too. It is our duty as adults in the lives of children in care to consistently provide positive messages of race, culture, and acceptance. Not only now, but when these riots have passed, which they will. Hopefully, there will be change, but this starts with the youngest generation. Educating them to be inclusive and raising them as strong.