2022 CRSSW Steering Committee Retreat
By Brie and Brittany
We're back with Part 2 of our observations during the 2022 CRSSW (pronounced CRIS-DUB) Steering Committee, where folks discussed the collective's future and address pressing issues regarding its place in the field of social work. The retreat took place against the background of an assault on Critical Race Theory (CRT) and targeted attacks against CRT scholars.
We are Masters level students who agreed to participate in the retreat as notetakers. We split our observations into two parts. Here's a link to part 1. Share your thoughts and reactions in the comments section below. As aspiring anti-oppressive social workers that want to engage in community-level practice, our takeaways were the following:
A Grassroots Anti-Oppressive Organization Distributes Power Differently.
We were encouraged to see a community of people intentionally create space to be anti-oppressive and practice counter-to-white supremacist culture. As novice social workers and CRT advocates, it was humbling to see veteran members of the field navigating questions that we have also struggled with. One tension emerged around wanting to maintain the integrity/sacredness of the space without being exclusionary to those who are still learning. While CRSSW is looking to formalize in some ways, such as establishing criteria for active membership (e.g., working knowledge of CRT), members also voiced the importance of sustaining the organic quality of the group and NOT falling into the patterns of white supremacy culture. They all agreed that it was important to cultivate a space that is not exclusionary and felt there should be levels of membership according to sweat equity to alleviate burdens while cultivating a diverse community of people on a journey toward an anti-oppressive world. Members had various ideas of how to address this tension, but even after some discussion, the consensus remained elusive. This seems like a longer conversation as the group works to determine their values and the actions that will best allow them to realize these values. Although it was spearheaded and organized by a small few, everyone that came felt empowered to share and lead, which made us feel a tangible shared power among the group.
"Even if the process is messy or uncertain, the fact that CRSSW exists is hugely meaningful; it provides a source of hope for the CRT social work community because it is resistance in its rawest form."- Brie and Brittany
Leading the charge can be lonely– community is important!
In sharing their counter-narratives, members expressed that. While they continue to do the meaningful and necessary research, teaching, and advocacy, the individual effort of advancing CRT and holding the field accountable can be lonely– especially amidst the backdrop of the intense national criticism CRT has garnered over the last year. Multiple members highlighted the importance of creating spaces for folks doing CRT work. Sacred spaces like CRSSW foster brave expression, community, and resistance– CRSSW, in particular, has also become a space to care for one another. People shared about wanting this organization to help others' journeys in CRT work while also sharing a yearning to remove the burden of representation, education, and resistance and instead create a place of refuge, rest, and relief within this organization. CRSSW members are committed to expanding the group's reach and providing supportive, sacred spaces to CRT scholars and practitioners.
There is room for something different from what's been done before.
CRSSW is a counter-narrative, demonstrating that an alternative way of gathering and creating change is very much possible. Even if the process is messy or uncertain, the fact that CRSSW exists is hugely meaningful; it provides a source of hope for the CRT social work community because it is resistance in its rawest form. Observing the group members' interactions and their visions for the future of CRSSW shows us that communities can be rooted in inclusion, horizontality, and anti-racism– we have to be brave enough to realize them. As we embark on our graduate school journeys and cultivate our visions for an anti-racist practice, we feel a sense of hope in knowing that there are people ahead of us trying to carve out space to undo systems of oppression in the world within this organization and within themselves.
Even if the idea of CRT and organizing
around the cause can become messy,
there is joy in collectively unraveling
the oppressive ways of practicing social work.
Please share your thoughts and reactions in the comments section below. What does CRT mean to you?
Brie and Brittany