Dean’s Statement on Black History Month 2021

Friday, Feb 05, 2021 Dean Scott Ryan

Black History Month 2021

February is Black History Month and it’s a designated time each year when we recognize and celebrate the contributions of African Americans to the history of our country and the world.

Chosen by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, the theme of Black History Month for 2021 is "The Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity."

This theme connects with the ideals and teachings of Social Work. This past year we’ve seen a tremendous upheaval in politics and in our society.  One area that, rightfully so, was brought to the forefront is the recognition and need to truly address racial injustice, inequality and systemic racism.

As we celebrate the numerous achievements and contributions of African Americans in building and developing of our country, we need to also recognize the issues facing the Black Family due to racial injustice, over policing of communities, police brutality, economic inequality, health disparity, poor housing, high unemployment or underemployment, poorly performing schools, discrimination and institutional racism.

Here in the School of Social Work, we take seriously our responsibility to educate a generation of Social Workers who recognize, understand and will not only speak out, but act to address these issues in our society.

As with any organization, there is always room for improvement. We’ve heard the call and know that addressing these issues starts first at home here in the School of Social Work. For the past year we’ve had a singular focus in ensuring our course curriculums, School events and classroom lectures include discussing these issues and how properly to address them. We’ve also embarked on an effort to ensure the culture and climate in our School exceeds the already high standards and expectations in the Social Work career field.

This past year Americans truly saw the deep and ugly stain of racism, inequality and social injustice. From George Floyd to Breonna Taylor to voter suppression to the Jan. 6 Capitol Insurrection riot, we see that America has yet to fully address and eradicate its original sins of racism, slavery and injustice. In addition, we’ve seen the vast disparity in health care and economic relief during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last year we held a series of discussions related to addressing racial injustice, health disparities and systemic racism. We sponsored a Black Lives Matter protest to voice our concerns and frustrations with police brutality and the daily injustices that take place against African Americans. Many of our faculty, through their research and analysis of policy practices, are seeking solutions to dismantling oppressive and discriminating systems.

We have events starting this Friday and throughout the month of February, but also others being planned throughout the year to address issues affecting the Black Family and what Social Workers can do to advocate for change and justice.

I encourage all of you to attend and participate in our School of Social Work sponsored events as well as events taking place on UTA’s campus and in our community celebrating the vast achievements of African Americans, but also discussing and seeking solutions to issues affecting the Black Family.

In solidarity,

Scott Ryan 

Scott D. Ryan
Dean and Professor
School of Social Work
The University of Texas at Arlington