NASW-MA Martin Luther King, Jr. Forum on Racial Justice

In honor of the work and memory of MLK Jr., the Massachusetts Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers organized a forum to discuss the current state of racial justice.


  1. Panel Discussion [with the speakers in this order]
    Michael Melendez, MSW, Ph.D
    Bet MacArthur, LICSW
    Dawn Belkin Martinez, Ph.D, LICSW
    Phillipe Copeland, Ph.D, LICSW

  2. Speaker One: Michael Melendez

  3. The above was not to say that discrimination on the basis of perceived race wasn't a material reality, but that we should interrogate our use of language and not just keep using the same terms for ages without questioning their purpose and how they serve our current movements.
  4. One of the things Melendez mentioned was that, in courts, so often there can be an acknowledgement of discriminatory practices but until a SPECIFIC judge or SPECIFIC individual can be pointed out as a racist, as someone enacting that clear discrimination, change doesn't happen [and thus the whole "language of intentionality" stuff comes up, and sometimes becomes wrapped up with intention+culpability and some have a hard time untangling them].

  5. Speaker Two: Bet MacArthur

  6. Whereas before the Europeans went off colonizing different parts of the "New World" [new to THEM] there was definitely war, slavery, subjugation, and all that, it was not done on the basis of a concept called "race" as we know it today.
  7. MacArthur talked about how she doesn't personally like the phrase, how it strikes her as Eurocentric, and so on. Thing is, less than "Eurocentric," it's just a United States construction specifically. The origin of the phrase says a lot about it, and how at the time—and now, to a certain extent—it made sense to build solidarity, community, and a sense of cohesion when looking at racial constructions and White supremacy.
  8. Regarding the above: there's a difference between expressing a preference/a thought and expressing your view as "this is how things should be," y'know? I did appreciate MacArthur's suggestion of other forms of describing these "racial" realities and constructions through language of "heritage" or "background" but I don't think that's the only way.

    We have a lot of words: they are all valuable in different contexts.
  10. Read up on the Homestead Act of 1862, check out how land ownership actually happened, and the history of racialized preference for those deemed "White," and specifically those in the upper echelons.