“You do not have to be me in order for us to fight alongside each other. I do not have to be you to recognize that our wars are the same. What we must do is commit ourselves to some future that can include each other and to work toward that future with the particular strengths of our individual identities. And in order for us to do this, we must allow each other our differences at the same time as we recognize our sameness.” – Audre Lorde
I start this editorial with the powerful words of the Black American feminist and civil rights activist, Audre Lorde. It seemed particularly apposite in the week that we witnessed the brutal killing of George Floyd, a Black man, by the police in Minneapolis, and the outpouring of anger that Black Lives Matter on the streets of America, Britain and elsewhere. Professor Cornell West on television denounced Donald Trump, but also said the failure of the nation—one that allows for endemic inequality and a culture of greed and consumerism that tramples on the rights and dignity of poor people and minorities decade after decade—goes much beyond the current president. His reflections on America speaks to so much about Britain as well. Grenfell, Windrush and the disproportionate number of COVID-19 deaths amongst BAME people and in deprived communities are just a few of many, many examples.
This week in Britain we have seen the enactment of privilege and power, which may also prove to be deadly, in the government press conferences and the rose garden of No 10 Downing Street. As George Orwell famously wrote in his allegorical novel about totalitarianism, Animal Farm: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”. Both the US and UK, two rich countries riven with entrenched inequalities, seem to be adrift during this pandemic with a vacuum in moral leadership from those in power and a lack of ability to hold them to account.
Social (in)justice has been a theme running through many of the contributions in previous editions, and rightly so for a journal about social work. This edition is no exception. Both Sally Nieman and Alisoun Milne draw attention to the tragedy and scandal of coronavirus related deaths of older people in care homes. Peter Simcock’s article shines a light on the needs of deafblind people during lockdown, who have remained invisible in policies and public debates. Annie’s interview with ATD Fourth World highlights the links between poverty and the child protection system, drawing attention to particular struggles during the pandemic. Raksha Sidhu discusses a number of intersectional power relationships in her piece on mental health social work.
One of the pleasures of being part of the editorial collective is that we read, and facilitate the reading of, writings from a wide range of people on the same platform; people who don’t often share spaces as equals. In this edition, alongside academics and practitioners, we have articles from three women, Claire Moruzzi, Tanya Killick and Pam Hodgkins, who all have experience of adoption and continue the theme of ‘wondering and not knowing’ that started with the voices of birth parents in the third edition. Also, we have the third, as ever insightful, video from Michael Clarke. A beautifully written piece from social work student, Becky Salter in Wales, is also included in this edition.
Many of these, alongside other articles in this edition, pose questions about what are the lessons we can learn from the pandemic. This is our penultimate edition, with the deadline for submissions for the last edition being the 23rd June. We particularly welcome any articles that continue the themes of looking back on the lessons of the pandemic and looking forward to life after coronavirus. My final words are also those of a Black political activist and academic, Angela Davis:
“It is in collectivities that we find reservoirs of hope and optimism.”
Anna Gupta, Professor of Social Work, Royal Holloway University of London