This summer, the entire School of Social Policy & Practice (SP2) community has been invited to engage in a collective experience focused around the book Unapologetic: A Black, Queer, and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements.
The communal endeavor is tied to “One Book, One SP2,” a new initiative at SP2 intended to foster a stronger sense of unity and reinforce antiracism efforts and cultural humility throughout School.
Unapologetic, authored by American activist Charlene A. Carruthers, is described as a forward-thinking manual that outlines how social justice movements can become sharper and more effective through principled struggle, healing justice, and leadership development. Published in 2018, the book provides a framework for activists committed to dismantling racism, prejudice, ableism, homophobia, and the patriarchy. The publication encourages readers to reexamine history, effectively organize, and see themselves as visionaries and leaders.
“This initiative, as well as this specific book, reflects our school priorities,” Dean Sally Bachman, PhD, said in a School-wide message. “Sharing the experience of reading and integrating the book into our work and study will help promote more meaningful conversations to connect us.”
The book was suggested and voted on by a diverse representation of students, faculty, and staff, according to Jenn Jones Clinkscales, MSW, LCSW, associate director of Student Services. Bachman and other leaders behind “One Book, One SP2” expect the book to not only propel constructive discussion in the fall, but that it will continue to permeate exchanges in and out of the classroom throughout the year.
“I think the message is important. The author is introducing a framework of thought that initially feels unique but it should be the norm; we should keep these ideas in mind,” said Clinkscales, who has previously read the book. “Unapologetic encourages readers to unpack the beliefs ingrained within white supremacy and patriarchy. It sets the tone for one of the ways we want our students to think about creating and sustaining impact within the social work, policy and nonprofit sector–within the marginalized populations they work with.”
The SP2 initiative also asks that individuals who identify as white read a second book: White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo. According to DiAngelo, “white fragility” is a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves.
“I have read both books now. I already owned White Fragility and had read parts of it earlier this year. Reading it, particularly in the context of strong student advocacy around addressing white supremacy, helped me to better appreciate my own defensiveness around change. It’s one thing to acknowledge white privilege in the abstract; it’s another thing to recognize how it affects how I act,” said Amy Hillier, PhD, SP2 associate professor and chair of the Racism Sequence. “Unapologetic is a book I would not have read if not for this initiative. It is beautiful, full of humility, as well as challenging, with its emphasis on advocacy and social change that does not necessarily reflect conventional social work practice.”
The School’s Task Force on Race and Social Justice spearheaded the new reading initiative, which was modeled after “One Book, One Philadelphia.” The group, spurred by student activism, was formed in March 2019 to address issues of identity, inclusion, intersectionality, and white privilege throughout the SP2 community.
“This reading exercise is a way for us to answer a call that has come from students, and an approach that we hope further empowers them to push the envelope and stay at the forefront of these recurring topics all around us. We’re asking our entire community to look at these issues through a critical lens and be vulnerable together,” Clinkscales said. “In order for us to keep evolving, we need to continue having candid and difficult dialogues about race, patriarchy and LGBTQ issues, especially when it is so close to home. Change often happens from the bottom up, and SP2 is no exception.”
The Task Force has been working from a position of cultural humility and in service of the School, to gather and examine information, make recommendations, and develop an action plan to further promote and embrace identity, intersectionality and inclusion. Hillier says the group aims to adopt a book each summer.
“We have to hold one another accountable for growing and learning. That process never stops,” Hillier said. “And rather than thinking that work only happens in the classroom, this initiative welcomes everyone—including staff—to be part of that process.”