The disproportionate impact of COVID-19 isn’t exclusive to the black community. But the daily reports about the inequities and challenges that black people are facing across the spectrum almost makes it seem that way. Now, black social workers are speaking out about their experiences on the front lines as they do their work.
In an exclusive interview with NBC, Michael Guynn, a social worker in Los Angeles, and Dr. Tanya Smith Brice, a national relations co-chair of the National Association of Black Social Workers (NABSW), shared what it has been like serving people in the midst of the crisis and the professional and personal toll it is having on them.
As social distancing pushes the nation to go digital, how social workers show up and engage with their clients has changed. And for black social workers, NBC’s report highlighted the unique stressors that they face.
“We are now at high risk while also being the helpers. We can become our clients so quickly,” Dr. Brice told NBC.
“The big issue that black social workers are having to contend with is the devastation happening in our communities,” said Brice, who also serves as the dean of the College of Professional Studies at Bowie State University in Bowie, Maryland.
Dr. Brice went on to express the importance of advocating for equal healthcare access as it relates to black people getting tested for COVID-19 and the government doing its part to make sure that it happens.
“We have to put pressure on our local governments to protect our workers and to protect our community,” Brice said. “That is done by a number of means — reaching out — which we can’t do now, so calling offices of mayors, city councils and the state legislature. We have to galvanize our communities to speak out.”
In response to the dire needs of people on the West Coast, Guynn who serves as the president of the Los Angeles chapter of the NABSW, shared that all is not lost but there is much work to do.
Many social workers in the black community, their candles are burning on both sides. In June, Guynn plans to host a virtual healing circle for black social workers.
“I want us to come out of this better than when we started, before the pandemic — maybe be stronger and more connected when this is over,” Guynn told NBC.
“It’s frustrating that we have always known and seen the inequities in health services, but then this pandemic comes and suddenly we hear, ‘Oh, we have inequities.'”
To read more about how COVID-19 is impacting the black community, click here.