Another Voice: The value of licensed clinical social workers

By James Golden Tragedy struck the social work profession recently as Pamela Knight, a licensed clinical social worker  for the Illinois Department of Child and Family Services, died from injuries sustained when she was brutally beaten by the child’s father as she attempted to take a child into protective custody. Social workers are often called upon to serve, protect, and advocate for those in society who are most vulnerable, and, while Ms. Knight’s death is a rare occurrence in the field of social work, it is unfortunately not without precedent, as several social workers have been killed in the line of duty throughout the country. While the term “social work” has become a catchall title applied to most any federal, state, or local government position directly involved with child protection or public, there is a significant difference between engaging in the tasks of social work and being a licensed clinical social worker. This is often difficult to parse for those not familiar with the training and ethics of the profession of social work, leading to a public perception of social workers as either naïve do-gooders or wasteful public employees. Though social work is rooted in centuries of community-focused outreach and advocacy, the vast and rapid cultural changes in post-World War II America required additional and specific expertise to work alongside those in the medical and criminal justice systems to address the emerging realities of a racially, religiously, economically, and socially diverse population. The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) was created in 1955, and a new approach to addressing social problems that viewed human behavior as inextricably tied to prevailing social forces, joined the ranks of doctors, psychologists, and police officers on the front lines of social change. Though social work’s rise to professionalization was timely, coinciding with the tumult of the 1960s, it was not without peril, Continue Reading

Russia exploited race divisions on Facebook. More black staffers, diversity could have have helped.

SAN FRANCISCO — In a heated moment during  last week's hearings on Russian social media ads, Rep. Terri Sewell questioned whether the dearth of African Americans in Facebook's workforce contributed to the company's failure to catch Russian operatives using fake accounts to stoke racial tensions ahead of last year's presidential election.Displayed behind Sewell, a Democrat from Alabama, was one of the Russian-backed ads sharing a famous black-and-white photograph of the Black Panthers from 1968. The message: “Black Panthers were dismantled by U.S. government because they were black men and women standing up for justice and equality." The Facebook ad, which also pointed out that the Ku Klux Klan was not disbanded, was intended to exploit racial divisions and get African-American users to follow a fake Russian account called Blacktivist. It was shared on Facebook at least 29,000 times."Who are your vetters and are they a diverse group of people?" Sewell asked Facebook's general counsel Colin Stretch.Stretch didn't answer directly. The majority of ads, placed through Facebook's largely self-service, automated system, don't get reviewed by the teams of reviewers whom Facebook relies on to moderate content. Even if they do, odds are the reviewers are not African American. Despite repeated pledges to close the racial gap in its U.S. workforce, a tiny fraction — 3% — of Facebook is African-American. In all, Facebook employs 259 black people, according to the company's most recent government filing. That's out of 11,241 people.With moderators spread around the globe, it's probable that few of them are African American and even fewer are familiar with how messages are racially coded in the U.S., says University of Southern California professor Safiya Umoja Noble, author of the upcoming book Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Continue Reading

Prison diversion was supposed to save her. Instead, she fell back to the life she knew.

The fifth in a series of multimedia projects that examine causes for recidivism in the American justice system.OKLAHOMA CITY — Nekia Brown says she wants nothing more than to get her son back.  She sits in the basement of a small brick building in downtown Oklahoma City, surrounded by other women for end-of-day checkout. It's not mandatory to speak, but many of the mothers in ReMerge — an alternative to incarceration that allows would-be inmates to stay in their communities — want to unburden themselves.  RE-ENTRY: Is America failing its prisoners? They pass a microphone around a make-shift conference table and talk about the day's accomplishments and failures. Some women cry as they recall how long they've been sober. Others recap their life stories, often involving introductions to selling drugs, theft and addiction. They are grateful for the chance to begin anew.In each woman's voice is a tinge of apprehension — fear of giving in to the temptation of crime. But there is also hope that their lives will be better. They remind one another to stay strong and complete the program. A run-in with the law or breaking ReMerge's many rules could be a ticket to prison.    LISTEN: Brown tells her story in her own words Brown, 42, talks about the son who was taken away from her. In 2014, when her child was just 10 months old, Brown was arrested for forging signatures to purchase and sell prescription drugs. By then, she had spent most of her adult life in and out of the criminal justice system. The Oklahoma Department of Human Services set her baby on a course that was familiar to Brown. As a child, she lived through foster care herself, she said. “I sit here, today, fighting for my baby,” Brown says. “It's been a long battle. ... Continue Reading

Maxine Williams: The face of Facebook on diversity

MENLO PARK, Calif. — Maxine Williams is very visible on the Facebook campus. And not just because she's one of the few black people working here.With its ambitions encircling the globe, diversity has become a top priority at the giant social network. As global head of diversity, Williams is the one charged with making Facebook's workforce better reflect the demographics of its users.Like most major high-tech companies in Silicon Valley, the giant social network is mostly staffed by white and Asian men. Yet Facebook users are predominantly women and span every race and ethnicity. Most of the more than 1.3 billion users are not even in North America.That means Facebook must tap a variety of perspectives, experiences and backgrounds, Williams said in an interview."For Facebook, diversity is imperative to our future growth," she said. "If we don't get it right, we risk losing relevance in an incredibly diverse world."Facebook began owning up to its diversity problem last year.In 2014, leading technology companies released data showing they vastly underemploy African-Americans, Hispanics and women.Technology companies are mainly staffed by men. African-Americans and Hispanics make up 5% of the companies' workforces compared with 14% nationally.That's a serious challenge for the high-tech industry. Whites are expected to become a minority in the USA by 2044, and Latino and African-American buying power is on the rise.Intel last week pledged $300 million to the hiring and retention of women and underrepresented minorities, the largest investment yet in a diversity initiative by a technology company.Though Facebook caters to a broad cross-section of consumers, it employs few blacks and Hispanics. 2% of U.S. Facebook workers are blackFour percent of Facebook's workers in the U.S. are Hispanic, 2% are black.Fewer than a third of its workers around the world are women.To attract more blacks and Hispanics, Williams says Facebook is trying to make it known "that we want Continue Reading

Venture capital is facing up to its diversity problem

SAN FRANCISCO — For decades the venture capital industry — made up almost entirely of white men — has had the distinction of being the most exclusive club in Silicon Valley.Now the financiers who have funded some of the world's most powerful companies and minted hundreds of billionaires are trying to face up to their diversity problem.The trade group for the venture capital industry said Monday it is forming a task force to brainstorm ways to bring aboard more women and minorities.It's pledging to hold a series of public events in 2015 to solicit ideas on how to increase diversity in venture capital.Kate Mitchell of Scale Venture Partners, who is serving as co-chair of the task force, said in an interview that the National Venture Capital Association is committed to "moving the needle on this.""Silicon Valley is about solving hard problems, and this is a hard problem," she said. "We have to acknowledge that this is only a first step. We have to make a long-term commitment."Yet even the task force the National Venture Capital Association has appointed to promote diversity is not diverse.Seven of 11 members are white men. Three are women. There are no African Americans or Hispanics on the task force.Mitchell says the make-up of the task force reflects the leadership of the trade group."I love the idea that the white guys were clamoring to be on it. This is not a check-the-box commission," she said. "We wanted the leaders of the industry to put their stamp on it."Mitch Kapor, the Lotus Development Corp. founder and Silicon Valley veteran who runs the Kapor Center for Social Impact in Oakland, says the task force should represent where venture capital "wants to get to, not where they are.""There is something very important about the industry coming to resemble the community it is trying to serve," Kapor said. "If you want to know at a deep level why there aren't more African Americans and Latinos in venture capital ranks then bring them to the table. Continue Reading

Mesa diversity efforts pick up steam; more work needed

Like the pendulum of a grandfather clock, the tone of a recent city-hosted session on discrimination in Mesa swung back and forth, back and forth.One woman said residents of her low-income, ethnically diverse complex had no problem working together to improve the conditions of their neighborhood. But a lesbian couple said interaction with neighbors dropped off sharply after the pair corrected the assumption that they were sisters.A Black man with a White wife said he had never been hassled for his interracial relationship within city limits. But a woman with physical limitations said waiters repeatedly assumed that she couldn't order food or pay for herself.The mix of experiences closely mirrored the findings of the survey that spurred the city's three Community Conversations on Inclusion and Diversity.Conducted by Arizona State University's Morrison Institute for Public Policy, the survey of 600 residents found that while a majority of respondents felt comfortable living in Mesa, discrimination continued to plague certain minority groups. And about half of respondents — whose ethnic, religious, sexual and other identities reflected those of the Mesa population at large — rated Mesa residents' overall cultural awareness as average or below average."We've worked hard as a council over the last few years to try to put the heart and soul back into the community, with community-gathering events, Veterans Day parades — really looking for those opportunities so the newcomers feel welcome, included and needed," Mesa Mayor Alex Finter said. "That said, we're always needing some improvements. I heard some examples of experiences (at one of the diversity sessions) and went, 'Darn, we missed that opportunity.' "The survey, a Mesa Human Relations Advisory Board initiative, isn't the be-all, end-all analysis of tolerance in Mesa. Results will be combined with forum feedback and online Q&A responses to provide a comprehensive report to the City Council in Continue Reading


NAMES LIKE LEE, RUIZ, Martinez and Ko were ushered in yesterday as the city's newest firefighters - one of the most diverse classes in the FDNY's 140-year history. "It's great that it's more diverse, but it doesn't really matter to me," said Darius Collins, 26, one of nine black firefighters to graduate yesterday. "As long as you have a good heart it doesn't matter the color of your skin." Continuing a five-year streak of higher minority graduation rates, 21% of yesterday's class of 183 probies identified themselves as black, Asian, Hispanic or Native American, an FDNY spokesman said. Flushing native Woody Kal, a Korean-American recruit, said the ceremony fulfilled a dream that began shortly after 9/11, when he was still a social worker. "I knew this is what I wanted and I just stuck with it," said Kal, 31, a Stuyvesant High School graduate who called the 13-week training "grueling." The graduating class, the second this year, also included 21 current and former soldiers, as well as new recruit Woodley Joseph, whose brother Karl Joseph, a firefighter, died on 9/11. "I'm told you are the most disciplined, most eager, most promising group of probies to graduate in years," Mayor Bloomberg told the group. "You showed that at the academy, and you've demonstrated that throughout your lives." Join the Conversation: Continue Reading


GARDEN CITY will have a more diverse, less upper-crust population if the Long Island village embraces a housing proposal presented yesterday by Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi. Standing in front of 11.8 acres of untouched county-owned land across from Roosevelt Field Mall, Suozzi announced a plan to build a "high-quality, mixed-income housing project" at the site. "This property happens to be in Garden City, historically viewed as a community that didn't want affordable housing in it," Suozzi said. The $10 million proposal would create 100 affordable housing units, priced at 2 1/2 a buyer's annual income, or at 30% of annual income for rentals. For a family of four living on a yearly income of $100,000, the unit could be sold for up to $250,000, Suozzi said. The initiative would target young workers, senior citizens and longtime residents, who struggle to keep up with Long Island's rising housing costs. Suozzi praised the plan as a "great compromise for what has historically been a not-in-my-backyard attitude." But village leaders, who must approve zoning changes for the area if the proposed housing is to be built, and residents of Garden City have yet to jump onboard. The owner of a restaurant in downtown Garden City, who spoke on condition his name not be used, said, "People work hard to make it to this area, and it [the proposed housing] might adversely affect people's property values . . . school district . . . and quality of life." Civil rights lawyer Fred Brewington said, "Garden City has made it clear that the issue of affordable housing is not on the table." Brewington is representing the Long Island chapter of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now in a suit filed against the county in 2005. ACORN said Suozzi's proposal is a step in the right direction, but is not enough. The group is suing to force the county to include affordable units in all its housing proposals, particularly its plans to use the site of the old Continue Reading

Graphic designer launches World White Web to add diversity to Google searches

The World White Web is trying to change the plethora of white hands in Google searches. Graphic designer student Johanna Burai, from Stockholm, Sweden, launched World White Web as a project to bring attention to the norm of whiteness online. "This work started when I searched for 'hand' on Google and the search results showed only white hands," Burai wrote on her portfolio website. "Then I noticed that the themes of white hands were recurring every time I visited a portfolio or blog about graphic design." Burai's campaign aims to add more diverse images featuring people of color in searches like "hands," "legs" and other body parts. Currently, when a user searches for a hand they'll get hundreds of results of white hands. In order to get a different skin color users have to be more specific and include other keywords like, "African" or "Latin." Burai uploaded six different non-white hands to her online campaign site that can be shared on all social media platforms. Burai said the more people share the images on her site, the higher the ranking they'll be on Google, and the higher the probability of coming up as a top result when people search for "hand." World White Web is currently just a school project, but Burai hopes it actually makes an impact. "I think representation is very important for all of us," Burai told The Next Web. "To be represented in a positive or neutral way in all kinds of media, such as television, magazines, commercials, films etc. That's why I want to make the Google Image Search a little more diverse." Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Nepalese New Yorkers gather at Diversity Square in Queens for support, use prayer and Facebook to help find loved ones

All they could do was pray — and search Facebook. As the death toll from the killer quake that wrecked their homeland climbed past 4,000, local Nepalese took comfort in time-tested expressions of faith while they used the web to locate lost loved ones. Bishaka Hirachan carried two roses to the makeshift memorial growing in Diversity Square in Jackson Heights, Queens after a weekend of frantic searching online. NEPAL EARTHQUAKE RECOVERY IS SLOW AS CHAOS REIGNS IN KATHMANDU AND DEATH TOLL PASSES 4,000 “We’ve been able to get in touch with almost everyone,” said Hirachan, 18, who moved to the U.S. a year ago from Nepal’s second city, Pokhara. “There's one person who went for vacation to Kathmandu (the Nepalese capitol) and we can't reach them," she added, shaking her head. "Excuse me." Her friend, Sugen Gurunz, 29, said he too has been using social media to track down his family Pokhara. “Most people are using Facebook,” he said. “My family, friends are fine. We are fortunate enough. There are a lot of people in places in the mountains, they need support. I don't know if the government is doing enough." As Gurunz spoke, Nepalese flags bookended a mass of pictures posted on a nearby wall of beautiful, ornate buildings and colorful villages that many fear are now rubble. “In my village, monasteries that were there for over 500 years? Gone,” said Kunsang Chyaba Hyolmo, 31, whose last name is also the name of his village. “All our memories are gone. Because our houses are in the hills, hundreds of villages have come down. It's very terrible." Hyolmo said his family has been decimated. “My uncle's back is broken,” he said. “His daughter died, his granddaughter died, his wife died. The homes are stone. When they tried to run, it came down, and they died.” NEPAL NATIVES IN QUEENS RAISE MONEY TO HELP Continue Reading