Calls for Papers

Chapter Descriptions: Social Justice through a Diversity, Equity, Inclusivity and Fairness Framework

Social Justice and Discrimination within a Diversity and Equity Perspective
Invited Contributor – Social Work

Dr. Shalunda Sherrod, Associate Professor of Social Work & Program Chair, Oakwood University,
Dr. Juanita White, Assistant Professor of Social Work, Walden University,

Justice is the concept of fairness. Social justice is fairness as it manifests in society. That includes fairness in healthcare, employment, housing, and more. Discrimination and social justice are not compatible. While social justice as a term sees widespread use these days, it’s not new. It appears in The Federalist Papers and was most likely first used in the 1780s. As the Industrial Revolution wound down, American legal scholars applied the term to economics. Now, social justice applies to all aspects of society, including race and gender, and it is closely tied to human rights. Diversity is inextricably linked to social justice. Embracing diversity and social justice in various spheres of society creates a rich atmosphere for holistic and inclusive development. This is a necessary condition for preparing people for success in a diverse world and to change for the better. Within the context of social justice is a history of oppression, inequity, and structural discrimination that has permeated every fabric of society at the local, state, and national context. Leveraging social justice, diversity, inclusivity, equity, and interdisciplinarity are as critical components to leveling fairness and empowerment. This is also a requirement for advancing understanding of the diverse world and for arriving at solutions that make it possible to effectively serve all of humanity.

Cultural Awareness and Belonging
Invited Contributor – Social Work

Dr. Pablo Arriaza, Associate Professor of Social Work & Program Chair, West Chester University,
Dr. Shalunda Sherrod, Associate Professor of Social Work & Program Chair, Oakwood University,

Cultural awareness is the understanding that one’s own culture differs from one individual and group to the next, and specifically from one’s target language. Being culturally aware enables people to communicate with other people more effectively, beyond words and grammar, by understanding their culture. Further, cultural awareness helps break down cultural barriers between races and ethnic groups. It helps to build cultural bridges as well as helps people to learn how to love, and appreciate those different from them. People can relate better to people with cultural differences as they begin to understand themselves better. This results in more cultural connection and less cultural conflict. When encountering new languages and cultures, one may begin to make comparisons and realize that his or her own behaviors, values, and beliefs are not the general norm found elsewhere in the world. By being culturally aware, people are to recognize and have an appreciation for other’s values, customs, and beliefs and meet them without judgment or prejudice. When people are culturally aware they can know what is considered inappropriate or offensive to others. For example, incorrect body language often leads to misunderstandings. Cultural awareness enhances a sense of belonging to a greater community which in turn improves motivation, health, and happiness. The one single factor that consistently and universally is tied to a person is a sense of belonging.

Gun Violence and Drug Trafficking and Policy Implications
Editor and Invited Contributor – Social Work

Dr. Samson Chama, Professor of Social Work, Alabama A & M University,

It is estimated that more than 200,000 people throughout the world die each year as the result of homicides, suicides or accidents involving small arms. Until very recently, gun violence showed a decade long decrease in the U.S. Even during this “low” period in gun violence, many Americans still die by gunfire and, of course, many more are affected by non-fatal gun violence. In 2004, there were 11,344 gun-related murders, 164,998 gun assaults, and 162,938 gun robberies (Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S.). Similar trends are noted in Canada where after a decade long decrease in violence, homicide rates began to increase with gun homicide trending upwards and alternating with knives as the most frequently used weapon. Though Canada has a much lower rate of gun homicide than the U.S., there is concern that the current gap may begin to narrow. David Miller, who served as the 63rd mayor of Toronto from 2003 to 2010, implicated the U.S. experience with gun violence by stating that the US was exporting its problem of violence to the streets of Toronto. To prevent gun violence in Canada from rivalling levels found in its southern neighbor, lawmakers in Canada would do well to learn from the decades of failed, as well as successful, U.S. policies aimed at curbing gangs and gun violence. Developing and implementing effective programs to reduce gun violence deserve high priority at all levels of government. National policies are most useful in addressing issues of gun accessibility both in terms of the access to firearms by private citizens and restricting the flow of illegal firearms across one’s borders. Federal governments also need to provide the resources such as social services, criminal justice agencies, perhaps data, and the funding necessary to implement specific gun violence initiatives at the local level.

Employment Opportunities and People with Previous Convictions
Invited Contributor – Business Administration

The fact that an individual was arrested is not proof that he engaged in criminal conduct. Therefore, an individual’s arrest record standing alone may not be used by an employer to take a negative employment action such as not hiring, firing or suspending an applicant or employee. However, an arrest may trigger an inquiry into whether the conduct underlying the arrest justifies such action. The Fair Chance to Compete for Jobs Act of 2019 is a federal “ban the box” policy that was signed into law on December 20, 2019. The law prohibits federal employers and private employers that contract with the government from inquiring about conviction history until a conditional offer has been made. Approximately 77 million Americans, or one in three adults, have a criminal record. Having a criminal record can make it difficult, or even impossible, for an individual to work in a given field, especially one that requires an occupational license. In 2014, employment barriers faced by people with felony convictions—including occupational licensing and other challenges, such as lower levels of education and job skills—were associated with a reduction in the overall employment rate, amounting to a loss of at least 1.7 million workers from the workforce and a cost of at least $78 billion to the economy. For Canada, according to the most recent numbers from Public Safety Canada (2016), approximately 3.8 million Canadians have a criminal record, and nearly ninety percent of those criminal records remain open. Those seeking relief from the effects of criminal records through record suspensions or pardons may have led crime-free lives for years after completing their sentences and have demonstrated a positive transformation. Relief from the discrimination often experienced by those with a criminal record would allow individuals to pursue improved employment opportunities, to secure housing and to contribute more fully to their communities which would be a benefit to society more broadly. In light of this, everyone has the right to work. The right to work is a foundation for the realization of other human rights and for life with dignity. It includes the opportunity for all to earn a livelihood by work freely chosen or accepted. Closely connected with the right to work are the right to just and favorable conditions of work, and trade union-related rights. States are obliged to ensure fair wages, equal pay for equal work, and equal remuneration for work of equal value. Workers should be guaranteed a minimum wage that allows for a decent living for themselves and their families. Working conditions must be safe, healthy, and not demeaning to human dignity. Employees with criminal records must be provided with reasonable work hours, adequate rest and leisure time, as well as periodic, paid holidays.

Immigration: People Movements from Country to Country
Invited Contributor – Social Work

The world is experiencing the biggest displacement of people since the Second World War, with more than 22 million displaced from their home countries. Extensive migration and movement across the globe can bring with it challenges, including pressure on infrastructure and basic services. Some migrants are entrepreneurs, workers, consumers, and taxpayers. More than one million people arrived in Europe in 2015 alone. It highlights the mass movement of people across Europe and the Middle East, as well as along clearly defined routes in Africa. As the number of international migrants reaches new highs, people around the world show little appetite for more migration—both into and out of their countries—according to a Pew Research Center survey of 27 nations conducted in the spring of 2018. In Europe, majorities in Greece, Hungary, Italy, and Germany say fewer immigrants or no immigrants at all should be allowed to move to their countries. Each of these countries served as some of the most popular transit or destination countries during Europe’s recent surge in asylum seekers. In several countries, most disapprove of how the European Union has handled the refugee issue. People in other countries around the world hold views similar to those in Europe. Large majorities in Israel, Russia, South Africa, and Argentina say their countries should let in fewer immigrants. Worldwide, a record 258 million people lived outside their country of birth in 2017, up from 153 million in 1990. Their share of the global population is also up compared to 1990. In recent years, a surge in migration has focused public attention on issues related to this, leading to the rise of political parties that question national immigration policies in some destination countries. Meanwhile, immigrants make up the largest shares of national populations in countries like Australia, Israel, Canada, and Sweden. About 14% of the U.S. population is foreign born, a share comparable to that of Germany, the U.K., and Spain. More than two million migrants have sought asylum in Europe since 2015. In the Americas, thousands of Central American families and children have sought to enter the United States. Recently, immigration has declined as an issue of public concern in parts of Western Europe, even as it has remained a top issue in U.S. It is vital to realize that immigrants are people too, they need appropriate support and services that promise not to consign them to lives of poverty and oppression.

Gender, Equity, and Corporate Transformation
Invited Contributor – Social Work and Business Administration

It’s been more than 75 years since the United Nations adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. One of its greatest successes is that the principles of the documents—such as the right to speak freely, the right to education, healthcare etc.—are widely recognized around the world and have helped countless people gain greater freedom and security. However, there is also a bitter truth: While hardly any human right is invoked as often as the declaration’s ban on discrimination, and nearly all conventions include an anti-discrimination clause, people are still discriminated against every day. And one does not have to look too far to find such injustice; discrimination takes place right where people are. It’s everywhere in the daily lives and in the immediate environment. It even takes place where openness and tolerance should be the defining elements of belief and philosophy: in public institutions and in businesses, places where diversity is said to be welcome, and differences are embraced as enrichment. And it is often the case that people are directly involved in discriminatory behavior without realizing it.  For people who never or only rarely been exposed to discrimination, it is hard to comprehend how frustrating, painful, and destructive these experiences can be, both physically and mentally, and what lasting effects they can have. This is especially the case when discrimination is part of everyday life and never stops. In addition to open discrimination, there are also forms of hidden discrimination, sometimes referred to as microaggressions, and they have long since found their way into many people’s lives as everyday racism.

Discrimination against women exists in almost every sphere of society and in most corporate organizations. For example, when IBM launched its first women in leadership study in 2019, the research revealed a persistently glaring gender gap in the global workplace. At that time, only 18% of senior leadership positions worldwide were held by women. And only 12% of organizations surveyed were going above and beyond their peers to address it head on by formalizing the advancement of women as a top business priority. This is the scenario in almost every sector of society. In the past two years, many organizations have seen an exodus of women during the Great Resignation. These shifts have been juxtaposed with an entrance of social and cultural awareness to the forefront of the corporate world. But for those who stay, the pipeline for women leaders has expanded. In the U.S., though the percentage of women in the C-suite and on executive boards has essentially remained flat, women have stepped into the talent pipeline over the past 12 months, with an overall increase of 40%. Those women’s chances of advancement are higher if their employer is led by a woman. Enabled by more flexible work policies, and a bring-your-whole-self to work ethos, some five million executive women in the United States now stand ready to lead corporate America. They’re finding they can be evaluated on their own merits, unencumbered by the pre-pandemic norms that favored in-person networking and longer hours at the office or with clients. When given prime opportunities to lead, women get results. In fact, companies and organizations where women lead perform better financially and otherwise, found a McKinsey survey, generating up to 50% higher profits. The 12% identified in IBM’s 2019 survey as the most committed to driving change agree. They all view gender inclusivity as a driver of financial performance and organizational efficiency compared to only 36% of other organizations surveyed.

However, women still remain underrepresented at the top. Though the leadership pipeline of women has grown in a variety of professional, managerial, and SVP roles, many are still not breaking into the C-suite or executive board. Startlingly, fewer women hold top C-suite and executive board positions in 2022 than they did in 2021, dropping by roughly a point.

But those few who do end up in a senior seat are driven to change the status quo. A failure for organizations to take concerted actions could lead gender parity to move at a snail’s pace worldwide. At the current rate of change, the global gender gap will not close for 135 years, as estimated by the World Economic Forum. A persistent trend of gender pay disparity, which alarmingly gets worse as women age, could have drastic economic impacts as well, especially as the number of single mothers continues to increase. With so much distance to cover, organizations need to apply the same attention to equal advancement that they reserve for other organizational goals. It’s time to close the gap between awareness and action on equality in position and pay.

Criminal Justice System and Racial Disparity
Invited Contributor – Criminal Justice

The United States criminal justice system is the largest in the world. At the end of the year 2015, over 6.7 million individuals were under some form of correctional control in the United States, including 2.2 million incarcerated in federal, state, or local prisons and jails. The U.S. is also a world leader in its rate of incarceration, dwarfing the rate of nearly every other nation. Such broad statistics mask the racial disparity that pervades the U.S. criminal justice system, and for African Americans in particular. African Americans are more likely than white Americans to be arrested; once arrested, they are more likely to be convicted; and once convicted, and they are more likely to experience lengthy prison sentences. African American adults are 5.9 times as likely to be incarcerated than whites and Hispanics are 3.1 times as likely. As of 2001, one of every three Black boys born in that year could expect to go to prison in his lifetime, as could one of every six Latinos—compared to one of every seventeen white boys. Racial and ethnic disparities among women are less substantial than among men but remain prevalent.

The source of such disparities is deeper and more systemic than explicit racial discrimination. The United States in effect operates two distinct criminal justice systems: one for wealthy people and another for poor people and people of color. The wealthy can access a vigorous adversary system replete with constitutional protections for defendants. Yet the experiences of poor and minority defendants within the criminal justice system often differ substantially from that model due to a number of factors, each of which contributes to the overrepresentation of such individuals in the system. These double standards are not, of course, explicit; on the face of it, the criminal law is color-blind and class-blind. But in a sense, this only makes the problem worse. The rhetoric of the criminal justice system sends the message that U.S. society carefully protects everyone’s constitutional rights, but in practice the rules assure that law enforcement prerogatives will generally prevail over the rights of minorities and the poor. By affording criminal suspects substantial constitutional rights in theory, the Supreme Court validates the results of the criminal justice system as fair. That formal fairness obscures the systemic concerns that ought to be raised by the fact that the prison population is overwhelmingly poor and disproportionately black.

By creating and perpetuating policies that allow such racial disparities to exist in its criminal justice system, the United States is in violation of its obligations under Article 2 and Article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to ensure that all its residents, regardless of race, are treated equally under the law.

In 2016, Black Americans comprised 27% of all individuals arrested in the United States—double their share of the total population. Black youth accounted for 15% of all U.S. children yet made up 35% of juvenile arrests in that year. What might appear at first to be a linkage between race and crime is in large part a function of concentrated urban poverty, which is far more common for African Americans than for other racial groups. This accounts for a substantial portion of African Americans’ increased likelihood of committing certain violent and property crimes. But while there is a higher Black rate of involvement in certain crimes, white Americans overestimate the proportion of crime committed by Blacks and Latinos, overlook the fact that communities of color are disproportionately victims of crime, and discount the prevalence of bias in the criminal justice system. In 1968, the Kerner Commission called on the country to make massive and sustained investments in jobs and education to reverse the segregation and poverty that have created in the racial ghetto a destructive environment totally unknown to most white Americans. Fifty years later, the Commission’s lone surviving member concluded that, “in many ways, things have gotten no better, or have gotten worse. The time to act is now.”

Politics, Voting Rights, and Voter Suppression Efforts
Invited Contributor – Social Work and Political Science

In any democratic political system, voting should be as easy and accessible as possible. However, in recent years, more than 400 anti-voter bills have been introduced in 48 states. These bills erect unnecessary barriers for people to register to vote by mail or in person. The result is a severely compromised democracy that doesn’t reflect the will of the people. A democratic system of governance works best when all eligible voters can participate and have their voices heard. Recently, suppression of voters has emerged. Suppression efforts range from the seemingly unobstructive, like strict voter ID laws and cuts to early voting, to mass purges of voter rolls and systemic disenfranchisement. These measures disproportionately impact people of color, students, the elderly, and people with disabilities. And long before election cycles even begin, legislators redraw district lines that determine the weight of your vote.

Restricting the terms and requirements of registration is one of the most common forms of voter suppression. Restrictions can include requiring documents to prove citizenship or identification, onerous obstacles for voter registration drives, or limiting the window of time in which voters can register. Politicians often use unfounded claims of voter fraud to try to justify registration restrictions. In 2011, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach championed a law requiring Kansans to show “proof of citizenship” documents in order to register to vote, citing false claims of noncitizen voting. Most people don’t carry the required documents on hand—like a passport, or a birth certificate—and as a result, the law blocked the registrations of more than 30,000 Kansans. The ACLU sued and defeated the law in 2018. In 2020, the Supreme Court and a 10th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the ruling. After a surge in registrations during the 2018 midterm election, Tennessee legislators imposed substantial requirements on groups that foster political participation via voter registration efforts and created criminal and civil penalties against those who fail to comply with these onerous requirements and turn in “incomplete” applications. The ACLU filed a federal lawsuit challenging the law and blocked it from going into effect in 2019.

Some states are discouraging voter participation by imposing arbitrary requirements and harsh penalties on voters and poll workers who violate these rules. This is also known as criminalization of the ballot box. In Georgia, lawmakers have made it a crime to provide food and water to voters standing in line at the polls — lines that are notoriously long in Georgia, especially for communities of color. In Texas, people have been arrested and given outrageous sentences for what amount at most to innocent mistakes made during the voting process. Other ways of voter restrictions include the following: Felony disenfranchisement, Voter Purges, Redistricting and Gerrymandering, and Voter ID Laws. Everyone is affected by voter restriction. Democracy is debased when the vote is not accessible for all. But the fact is that some groups are disproportionately affected by voter suppression tactics, including people of color, young people, the elderly, and people with disabilities. The right to vote is the most fundamental constitutional right for good reason: democracy cannot exist without the electoral participation of citizens. We vote because it’s we, the people, who are supposed to shape our government. Not the other way. National leaders can enact measures to encourage rather than suppress voting. Automatic, online, and same-day voter registration encourage participation and reduce chances of error. Early voting helps people with travel or accessibility concerns participate. And states must enforce the protections of the Voting rights. At an individual level, the best way to fight voter suppression is to know one’s rights, and vote.

Climate Change and Environmental Protection
Invited Contributor – Social Work

Climate change is now affecting every country on every continent. It is disrupting national economies and affecting lives; costing people, communities, and countries dearly today and even more tomorrow. People are experiencing the significant impacts of climate change, which include changing weather patterns, rising sea levels, and more extreme weather events. The greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are driving climate change and continue to rise. They are now at their highest levels in history. Without action, the world’s average surface temperature is projected to rise over the 21st century and is likely to surpass 3 C this century—with some areas of the world expected to warm even more. The poorest and most vulnerable people are being affected the most.

Climate change is also a direct threat to men, women, young people and children’s ability to survive, grow, and thrive. As extreme weather events such as cyclones and heatwaves increase in frequency and ferocity, they threaten people’s lives and destroy infrastructure critical to their well-being. Floods compromise water and sanitation facilities, leading to diseases such as cholera, to which every person is particularly vulnerable. Droughts and changing global rainfall patterns are leading to crop failures and rising food prices, which for the poor mean food insecurity and nutritional deprivations that can have lifelong impacts. These also have the potential to destroy livelihoods, drive migration and conflict, and cripple opportunities for people. Children are the most vulnerable to diseases that will become more widespread as a result of climate change, such as malaria and dengue fever. Close to 90% of the burden of disease attributable to climate change is borne by children under the age of five. The drivers of air pollution are the same as those of climate change. Approximately two billion children live in areas where air pollution levels exceed standards set by the World Health Organization (WHO), causing them to breathe toxic air and putting their health and brain development at risk. Every year, over half a million children under the age of five die from air-pollution-related causes. Even more will suffer lasting damage to their developing brains and lungs. Pneumonia remains the leading infectious cause of death among children under five, killing approximately 2,400 children a day. Child deaths caused by pneumonia are strongly linked to undernutrition, lack of safe water and sanitation, indoor air pollution and inadequate access to health care─all challenges that are exacerbated by climate change. For children who are already disadvantaged, the stakes are even higher.

Poorer families have a harder time coping with shocks. The most vulnerable are already losing their homes, health, and education. And as climate change makes crises more common, it becomes harder to recover from them. Already today, some 785 million people lack access to basic water services. And by 2040, almost 600 million people are projected to live in areas where the demand for water will exceed the amount available. Without action now, climate change will exacerbate the inequalities that people already face, and future generations will suffer. The evidence for the impact of climate change and air pollution on everyone is firm and growing, but time is running out fast.

According to the latest research from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), there is less than 11 years to make the transformation necessary to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would have to be cut by 45% by 2030 to prevent global warming above 1.5 C; in other words, the threshold at which the worst impacts of climate change could be averted. This is the first time a global generation of people will grow up in a world made far more dangerous and uncertain as a result of a changing climate and degraded environment. Addressing climate change, protecting the environment, and mitigating its impact are imperative to protecting people as well as fulfilling their rights.

Although greenhouse gas emissions are projected to drop about 6% in 2022 due to travel bans and economic slowdowns resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, this improvement is only temporary. Climate change is not on pause. Once the global economy begins to recover from the pandemic, emissions are expected to return to higher levels. Saving lives and livelihoods requires urgent action to address both the pandemic and the climate emergency. As countries move toward rebuilding their economies after COVID-19, recovery plans can shape the 21st century economy in ways that are clean, green, healthy, safe, and more resilient. The current crisis is an opportunity for a profound, systemic shift to a more sustainable environment, and economy that works for both people and the planet. Restoring and protecting nature is one of the greatest strategies for tackling climate change, but not just for the obvious reason that it sucks carbon out the air. Forests, wetlands, and other ecosystems act as buffers against extreme weather, protecting houses, crops, water supplies, and vital infrastructure.

COVID-19 Global Pandemic and Implications for Social Justice
Editor and Invited Contributor

The outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus, or SARS‐CoV‐2, and the disease caused by it, COVID‐19, has disrupted life around the world. Indeed, as a pandemic, COVID‐19 has led to rampant human suffering and deaths, posing threats not only to public health and health security but more generally to societal stability and wellbeing across levels of analysis, whether local, national, or global. The pandemic has impacted virtually all sectors of society and is changing the world, even against the backdrop of other conflicts and competition, within and across countries and populations. However, COVID‐19 has disproportionately impacted certain individuals and groups identified particularly by factors such as race, class, gender, disability, age, displacement and homelessness, and migration status, among others, reflecting longstanding disparities and inequalities not only in health and health care but in general society. Rates of infection have been higher in lower income and more populated areas, increasing the contagion risk. In the same vein, COVID‐19 has further highlighted imbalances in power and resource distributions relative to technology and knowledge divides, supply chain disruptions, and demographic and rural‐urban disparities in health‐care access and capacities. Together, these circumstances constitute questions of social justice as a fundamental determinant of health and societal wellbeing.

The concept of social justice is typically understood relative to notions of human rights, with particular emphasis on bettering the lives and life chances of peoples who have been marginalized or treated as the “other” in society relative to various identifying factors, as mentioned above. The uneven impacts of COVID‐19 on such populations have occurred for several reasons, including already existing social, environmental, and health inequities. Limited health‐care capacities and resources in many parts of the world have affected responses to the virus. For example, across countries and communities, health care systems have faced problems of surge capacity for hospitalization, treatment, and other essential services during the pandemic. Existing health problems and underlying conditions also add to the likelihood of comorbidities, which, in turn, mean more dire reactions to the virus. Furthermore, consistent exposure to environmental health hazards, such as contaminated water and industrial air and land pollutants and toxins, is linked to more severe COVID‐19 outcomes. The unequal distribution of benefits and burdens in society, as expressed in health inequalities and responses and the disproportionate suffering of disadvantaged and vulnerable groups from the virus and its effects, calls for an examination of how the pandemic plays to, complicates, and intensifies social inequities and problems.

In addition, this situation emphasizes the need to attend to social disparities that make society in general more susceptible to the pandemic. The advent of COVID‐19 has served to underscore—and has exacerbated—social, political, economic, and environmental inequalities and inequities, borne especially by already vulnerable and disadvantaged populations. Serious problems in relation to health and health‐care infrastructures and provisions, working and living conditions, access to clean water, and so on, represent serious threats to wellbeing in general. Recognizing specifically disadvantaged populations and communities as particularly vulnerable to the ravages of the pandemic, related threats to public health also are translated and understood within broader struggles for social and environmental justice and human rights. Accordingly, addressing the global challenge posed by the virus calls for investigating its effects on some of the world’s most pressing problems, pointing not merely to questions of public health and medical preparedness in isolation, but necessarily in relation to social justice as a health determinant and efforts to eliminate resulting gross disparities across countries and populations.

The working and living conditions of many vulnerable and disadvantaged peoples continue to create risks in the larger scheme of pandemic effects, marking situations in which their health is already compromised, for example, lacking clean water and sanitation facilities, and lacking access to quality health care, including inequalities in diagnosis and treatment. Persons of lower social circumstances and statuses defined especially by relative deprivation in terms of income, wealth, occupation, and education have been marked by poor health conditions and outcomes. Such groups have been the most impacted by the disease, in terms of health, working, and living conditions, and include those living and working in industries and under conditions that leave them especially vulnerable to pandemic exposure. For example: migrant farmworkers, health‐care workers, and food processing plant workers typically live in medically underserved and impoverished situations. The profoundly disparate health conditions marking these populations have been magnified in the wake of COVID‐19 in keeping with persistent social inequalities and inequities. These things go hand-in-hand with poor educational capacities, limited employment opportunities, below living wages and earnings, crowded living conditions, reliance on public transportation, food crises, etc. However, having said that, the COVID‐19 crisis is changing the world and affecting people’s lives in a variety of ways, not only in direct reference to health disparities but to a range of more general social, economic, and technological divides. The social, political, and economic implications of, for example, how and to whom services are provided during the pandemic can have implications far beyond the individuals and communities directly or immediately involved, affecting possibilities for COVID‐19 transmission across society and overall societal wellbeing.

Achieving social justice, identifying and addressing systemic inequalities, must be a priority for all sectors with the pandemic threatening the biggest rise in inequality since records began. Good and fair policies, practices, and partnerships are needed to ensure a just recovery in the decade of delivery.

As alluded to earlier, although disparities in resource distribution have always run deep across communities, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and further exacerbated these inequities. The current crisis serves as a giant wake-up call for communities to bolster stability and wellbeing for all as a way to more effectively and equitably provide needed services in general. Then, communities will be better positioned to withstand the next pandemic. Similarly, the pandemic has created opportunities to review and do better, and not to go back to a normal state that was far less than ideal for large groups of the world’s population, but to put programs and policies in place that will address related social problems and improve current societal relations and conditions for all. Although scientific advances are ongoing to combat the disease, the world still faces uncertain times in relation to the pandemic, and reactions to COVID‐19 constitute an analytical project aimed at challenging social, political, and economic forces that determine observed disparities. A more critical and expansive perspective is required to better understand related morbidity and mortality rates and patterns, especially from the perspective of social justice, and to plan interventions accordingly to engage the global challenge that is the pandemic.

Education Equity and the Challenges of Emergency Remote Teaching (ERT) and Learning During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Invited Contributor – Education

Dr. Gatsinzi Basaninyenzi, Associate Professor of Education, Alabama A & M University,

The COVID-19 pandemic is overwhelming the functioning and outcomes of education systems, some of which were already stressed in many respects. When it emerged, the pandemic forced worldwide lockdowns due to the spread of the coronavirus. This led schools and campuses to shut down and then shift to distance learning to prevent cancelled semesters. The change from a face-to-face format to ERT through online learning (henceforth termed ERT-OL) was swift. Hence, it lacked the meticulous planning and design essential for high-quality online learning during normal times. Online learning, alternatively called e-learning, refers to the use of computer technology tools to enhance learning and teaching, often through the use of internet technologies that deliver information and improve knowledge and performance. The unprecedented magnitude of this educational transformation, which was facilitated by the use of technological resources and tools that offer functions such as, synchronous or asynchronous access, communication, and course management has enabled students to continue their study routine from home, despite the challenges.

This is true across the world and affects all children, young, and older people attending school—though to differing degrees depending on multiple factors, including the country/region where they live, as well as their ages, family backgrounds, and degree of access to substitute educational opportunities during the pandemic. In early spring, as the pandemic was hitting its first peak, the virus consigned nearly all 55 million school children under the age of 18 in the U.S. to staying in their homes, with 1.4 billion out of school or child care across the globe. Not only did these children lack daily access to school and the basic supports schools provide for many students, but they also lost out on group activities, team sports, and recreational options such as pools and playgrounds. The shutdown of schools, compounded by the associated public health and economic crises, poses major challenges to our students and their teachers. The public education system in the U.S. was not built, nor prepared, to cope with a situation like this. It lacks the structures to sustain effective teaching and learning during the shutdown and to provide the safety net supports that many children receive in school. While the exact impacts are not known, it is clear that children’s academic performances are deteriorating during the pandemic, along with their progress on other developmental skills. It also known that, given the various ways in which the crisis has widened existing socioeconomic disparities and how these disparities affect learning and educational outcomes, educational inequities are growing. As a consequence, many of the schoolers who struggle the hardest to learn effectively and thrive in school under normal circumstances are now finding it difficult, even impossible in some cases, to receive effective instruction, and they are experiencing interruptions in their learning that will need to be made up for.

Among the most important challenges created by COVID-19 is how to adapt a system of education built around physical schools. In addition to what has been mentioned above, at its peak more than 188 countries, encompassing around 91% of enrolled learners worldwide, closed their schools to try to contain the spread of the virus. School closures have a very real impact on all students, but especially on the most vulnerable ones who are more likely to face additional barriers. Children and youth from low-income and single-parent families; immigrant, refugee, ethnic minority and Indigenous backgrounds; with diverse gender identities and sexual orientations; and those with special education needs suffer by being deprived of physical learning opportunities, social and emotional support, and extra services such as school meals. They risk falling further behind and becoming isolated with school doors closed. These students are likely to lose the most in terms of educational outcomes and the support provided by schools if countries take insufficient measures to promote educational equity and inclusion.

During the coronavirus crisis, countries have been using digital pedagogical tools and virtual exchanges between students and their teachers, and among students, to deliver education. However, vulnerable students may have little access to such tools and require further attention and support. To respond to the challenges they face, some countries have developed specific policy initiatives, such as providing equitable and inclusive access to digital learning resources and good learning conditions, ensuring that socio-emotional needs are being met, offering equitable and inclusive access to extra services for vulnerable students, and ensuring support by and to teachers. As noted in the previous discussion, an almost universal response to school closures has been the creation of online learning platforms to support teachers, students, and their families. However, not all students have the same access to information and communication technologies (ICTs), which also varies greatly across countries. While the most vulnerable students might not have access to digital learning resources, some governments and civil society organizations have provided them with computers or tablets as well as internet access, or have organized teaching through television, phones, or radio. A number of countries offer useful insights into some of the most equitable and inclusive solutions to provide access to digital learning resources and effective distance education.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Emergency Remote Teaching through Online Learning (ERT-OL) has become the prevalent form of learning at many universities worldwide. At the same time, voices around the world have pointed to difficulties in online learning and concerns regarding educational equity. Hence, online learning is not without its difficulties. Broad categories of e-learning challenges have been noted, including pedagogical difficulties in group interaction, technological constraints in quality of e-learning systems and their adaptability to academic requirements, and concerns regarding diverse student learning styles. Other difficulties include barriers faced by isolated online learners: inhibited group work related to an inability to draw upon non-verbal cues and body language; challenges involving the creation of a sense of community among online learners; teachers’ inability to see students, causing them to overlook students’ needs; limitations of specific software that slow down interaction, add to time limitations, increase frustration, and hamper sense of community; and insufficient technical competency among students and teachers, making simple tasks complex.

The Black Lives Matter Social Movement
Invited Contributor – Social Work

Dr. Cassandra Scott, Assistant Professor of Social Work, Alabama A & M University,

Over the last few years, the Movement for Black Lives Matter (M4BLM) movement has captured worldwide attention, with the issue of racial prejudice as relevant as ever. The Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) is a coalition of more than 50 groups representing the interests of Black communities across the United States. Members include the Black Lives Matter Network, the National Conference of Black Lawyers, and the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. Endorsed by groups such as Color of ChangeRace Forward, Brooklyn Movement Center, PolicyLink, Million Women March Cleveland, and ONE DC, the coalition receives communications and tactical support from an organization named Blackbird. Black Lives Matter originally used various social media platforms that included Hashtag activism to reach thousands of people rapidly. Since then, Black Lives Matter has embraced a diversity of tactics. Black Lives Matter protests have been overwhelmingly peaceful; when violence does occur, it is often committed by police or by counter-protesters.

In terms of possible topics, one can compare the M4BL with the student protests in the 1970s, or the Montgomery Bus Station protest. The Black Lives Matter movement began as a response to U.S. police violence and structural racism in the legal system. It quickly evolved into a broader movement targeting wide-ranging U.S. racial inequities in society and in 2020, as protests engulfed the United States following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, matured into a broad critique harnessed by immigrant communities, their descendants, and their advocates worldwide. The immigrant-focused narrative was a small part of the broader conversation in the United States, where the Black Lives Matter movement was born. And calls to defund the police which rose in prominence amid the 2020 protests paralleled demands by some immigrant-rights activists to abolish U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), whose mission of carrying out arrests, detention, and deportations of removable noncitizens became even more contested during the Trump administration.

But the Black Lives Matter movement’s expansion was particularly visible in Europe in 2020, where a variety of demographic and historical factors have, in recent decades, led to an overlap between movements for racial and immigrant justice. In France, Floyd’s killing met an uneasy parallel in case of the 2016 death of Adama Traoré, the son of an immigrant from Mali. The case gained new prominence this year as thousands protested against French policies and police that disproportionately targeted minority and immigrant communities. In Italy, the September death of Willy Monteiro Duarte, a naturalized child of immigrants from Cabo Verde, sparked a reckoning over the definition of racially motivated violence. Even Hungary, which is home to just a few thousand African immigrants, witnessed a moment of solidarity among foreign-born university students critical of the government’s anti-immigration rhetoric. At the same time, native- and foreign-born protesters alike demanded the tearing down of monuments and renaming of institutions dedicated to colonialists such as Belgium’s King Léopold II, British imperialist Cecil Rhodes, and the trader of enslaved people Edward Colston. Amid a new moment of consciousness around racial injustice, the legacies of these men and others are being re-examined. Other countries that have experienced the Black Lives Matter influence include Australia, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Japan, and New Zealand.

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