Advocates' Forum 2022 Letter from the Editors
By Mansi Mehta
The past year has felt like a period of readjustment, reintegration, and reflection on my role as a social worker in an ever-changing world. Needless to say, this process has presented its challenges. It involved transitioning back to in-person interactions while navigating both the realities of an ongoing pandemic and the vulnerabilities that pandemic so radically exposed. Even though we are all slowly finding our way back to what some call normal, as social workers we cannot help but be very much attuned to the continuing, palpable suffering around us.
At a time when the plight of humanity can seem all too hopeless, there is the need to know that the work we do—infinite as it may feel—is never in vain. We keep moving, we keep looking for ways to help ourselves and others survive and thrive, and we keep making meaning. As I continue to witness, all around me, the spirit that animates these efforts, it fills me with gratitude and confidence. This issue of Advocates’ Forum is a symbol of that spirit. It provides an opportunity to re-inspire, to remind us of the importance of our investment in social work. Or rather, the work of moving humanity towards peace, love, and compassion.
Recently, I came across an article explaining the Anthropocene—the geological epoch the planet has entered; an age beyond climate change and beyond repair in any conventional sense of the word. In the article, the historian Julia Adeney Thomas writes, “The Anthropocene’s interrelated systematicity presents not a problem, but a multidimensional predicament. A problem might be solved, often with a single technological tool produced by experts in a single field, but a predicament presents a challenging condition requiring resources and ideas of many kinds. We don't solve predicaments; instead, we navigate through them.” She goes on to say that collaboration between fields is the key to such vital navigation. I can’t help but think that this insight is entirely relevant and wise.
I believe that as social workers, we too are dealing with predicaments. For the social issues we aim to rectify, there are no simple solutions. The issues we face are much more complicated than what we might be tempted to assert; and that whatever we believe in earnest to be true and right is nonetheless worth examining, still. I also believe that our temptation to fix problems is the very thing we have to avoid when attempting to engage the predicaments we face. Ours is work that requires expansion, duration, endurance, and humility. As an aspiring therapist, this is the work of mindfulness and consciousness raising. While validating and recognizing the inherent worth of others, we are simultaneously helping them live with and manage their emotional experiences—not get rid of them. Our work therefore involves not just naming the vulnerabilities and suffering we see, but drawing on the multiple resources and ideas required to thoughtfully engage them, and continue to navigate through them. I am pleased to see this sentiment materialize in some of the pieces of this volume.
When I look at the articles that follow, I see themes of dignity and scale. Each author speaks to the dignity of a population or a people while also pointing out a relationship with time. Some authors focus on the now, some direct our attention to the future. As a collection they encourage us, the readers, to consider the varied and complex implications and consequences of the social problems they address. The pieces are thus diverse in content and form as they cover issues that range from what COVID-19 laid bare to nuclear energy and much more in between.
The Editorial Board valued the respective work of Gwen Boone, Anna Gurolnick, and Sophia Eisenberg, each committed to the needs of youth, both youth of color and disabled youth. Boone is able to make impactful points about the complexity of mental health, poverty, race and education during the pandemic with brevity and power. Gurolnick describes a long-standing issue of how youth of color are mistreated through the category of the “disabled.” She does this with thoroughness and clarity. Eisenberg offers a concrete plan for alleviating poverty, the need for which cannot be misunderstood—prompting us towards action. We were, in turn, moved by Eleanor Munk’s urge to reinstate the humanity of the elderly and Olivia Daprile’s dedication to illuminating the needs of Indigenous children, whose plight has been continuously ignored through history. Armando Garcia, Nicholus Tint Zaw, Gracia Lee, and Adrian Hernandez together take a critical, interdisciplinary look at an intervention designed for those who are underserved in Zimbabwe. We appreciated their effort to pull us out of the local and into the global—a reminder that social work has no boundaries. Guutaa Regassa’s passion possesses an infectious quality and he offers a generative, thought-provoking discussion about food, race and economics. Finally, Beth Kacich is at once astute and pithy as she explores the crisis of nuclear energy waste. She presents a dilemma that is commonly misunderstood and so vast that it requires a nuanced approach; one that demands creativity and imagination while questioning the certainty of our reflexes to look away and simplify the risks.
I would like to thank the following for their contribution, hard work, and support: the Editorial Board for taking on the responsibility for reviewing and selecting submissions; developmental editor Daniel Listoe for helping the authors along the path to publication; Crown Family School’s Director of Marketing and Communications, Julie Jung, for all her assistance in the production process; and special thanks to Professor Janelle Goodwill for your encouragement and feedback from day one—having you as a teammate made all the difference.