Friday, June 26, 2015

Supreme Court Rules That Same-Sex Couples Can Now Get Married Nationwide

On Friday, June 26, 2015, a huge step towards equality was made with its  same-sex freedom to marry decision. Before the decision, a majority of the American public already believed that same-sex marriage was a right and more than 70% of Americans lived in a place where same-sex marriage was legal.

We are thrilled that this decision had its origins in Massachusetts where 7 brave and bold couples brought the issue to the Massachusetts Courts.  These very couples were early recognized for their bravery by the Massachusetts Chapter when they received the 2005 Public Citizen of the Year Award.  This is a wonderful example of true activism which is totally aligned with Social Work’s tradition.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

A Day at the State House: giving and hearing testimony

Wednesday, June 24, hearing room B2 was filled with mental health clinicians and advocates.  Two bills of specific interest to the social work community were being heard.  The first bill was one filled by SEIU Local 509 on behalf of Clinicians United.  The bill would create state action immunity for providers (Private Practice Mental Health Clinicians), who choose to engage in joint negotiations with insurance providers on issues such as: reimbursement rates; determination of medical necessity; and other conditions of coverage.  NASW testified in favor of this bill.  We are working on several levels  (locally and nationally) to increase the reimbursement rates of clinical social workers  and this bill is in line with NASW’s goals.

The second bill,  SB578 - An act relative to mental health certified peer specialists would direct MassHealth to cover mental health services provided by certified peer specialist. The testimony given by people who have experienced mental illness in their own lives and got better with the help of peer specialists (along with different forms of therapy) was compelling and substantive. What eye opening experiences they shared!  The social work community would certainly agree with the findings that the use of peer specialists has become an accepted and proven practice in the provision of mental health services in many states which also reimburse for their services.

Keeping mental health issues in the conversations, hearings and testimonies at the State House is clearly alive and well.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Guest Blogger Gary Bailey: "Black Like Me... NOT! Rachel Dolezal and the Myth of (Her) Blackness"

Written by guest blogger Gary Bailey, MSW, ACSW
Reprinted with permission from The Huffington Post

Earlier this month I watched with shock and dismay as what has now come to be referred to as the "Pool Party Brawl" which occurred in McKinney, Texas. The video that went viral shows Officer David Eric Casebolt briefly waving his handgun at young partygoers who approached him as he tried to subdue a bikini-clad 15-year-old African-American girl, Miss Dajerria Becton. The officer ultimately immobilized her by putting her face down on the ground whilst straddling her and ultimately placing a knee on her back. Playing out before my very eyes was a collision of racism and sexism.

This week has brought another collision of sorts that is playing out in the media and involves both innate racial identity and the co-opting of a racial identity. Ms. Rachel Dolezal, the former president of the Spokane branch of the NAACP, was outed in the media by her parents and adopted siblings as someone who was passing as an African-American woman, but who, in fact, was White. Certainly, many young White people identify strongly with African Americans and African-American culture. A White person running a chapter of the NAACP is not a problem either; the history of the NAACP itself is that the majority of the original founders of the NAACP over a century ago were actually White people.

The issue at hand is that a White person who is pretending to be Black, and is running a branch of the NAACP is indeed the problem. Of more concern is Ms. Dolezal's lack of honesty and integrity, and the collateral damage she has done to the community she claims to want to be a part of.

The incident in McKinney, Texas for many people, was yet another example of the ways in which young African-American children are viewed as "older" and in the eyes of many and as less than. Watching the images of that scantily clad young African-American girl, with an older white male astride her, was startling and had deep historical connotations that hard as she may will never be the lived reality of Ms. Dolezal. Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart quotes Dolezal's brother Ezra saying, "Back in the early 1900s, what she did would be considered highly racist." Capehart goes on to say, "Blackface remains highly racist, no matter how down with the cause a white person is."

In her book "Killing Rage: Ending Racism," scholar, feminist, and social activist bell hooks states "Whether they are able to enact it as lived practice or not, many white folks active in anti-racist struggle today are able to acknowledge that all whites (as well as everyone else within white supremacist culture) have learned to overvalue "whiteness" even as they simultaneously learn to devalue blackness."

As a clinical social work practitioner for more than 35 years, the complexity of family dynamics is very seldom lost upon me and indeed what we are seeing with the Dolezals are some deeply rooted family issues. After watching the abuse and humiliation of that young African-American teenager last week, I would say to Ms. Dolezal that though she might have compassion and empathy for what it means to be Black in America, that her 15-year-old self would not have suffered the indignities as were meted out to Dajerria Becton in McKinney, Texas. No way, no how. And that is the major difference between a truly lived experience and the co-option of a people's experience.

Gary Bailey, MSW, ACSW, is a Professor of Practice at Simmons College School of Social Work, as well as former president of the NASW-DC Chapter and former president of the NASW-MA Chapter.