Another unarmed Black man murdered by police. Shot eight times in the back. His name was Walter Scott. Sickened by this news, I sat down to write. But the words didn’t come. Instead, it was that feeling of sickness that prevailed, along with the haunting question, “Who am I to address this?” I posed the question directly to my colleague, Professor Gary Bailey. His response was simply, “If not you, then who?”

I understand, and I agree. Racism was born of White people, and has been perpetuated (and denied) largely by White people. But the tendrils of racism are so vast, the wounds so deep, and the structures that protect it so embedded, that feelings of hopelessness persist. And then there is the burst of shame that I would spend even a moment with my hopelessness.

So, what is to be done? How can our voices be lifted in a way that makes a difference? And what does this have to do with social work field education? These are some of the questions addressed in this issue’s Conversation between Gary Bailey, Professor of Practice at the Simmons School of Social Work, and Cynthia Williams, Assistant Dean for Field Education and Community Partnerships at the George Warren Brown School of Social Work in St. Louis, Missouri. Their discussion focuses on the response of a social work community near Ferguson, Missouri to the killing of Michael Brown. In Students Speak, Justin Marotta, a foundation year student at Simmons, offers a student’s perspective on the topic, and describes the response of his peers at Simmons.

In the Conversation, Cynthia Williams notes students’ need for a “roadmap.” Ideally, it is this very “roadmap” that classroom and field create together. At a time when our country is again at a breaking point on issues of race, students have ripe opportunity, in the words of Gary Bailey, “to step into the arena and have conversations with themselves and each other about White supremacy and the issues of race in America.” It is our responsibility to model these conversations for our students. We must also involve our community partners in an understanding of what it means to engage students in discussions on diversity and social justice. On a larger scale, the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) convened a Field Summit in 2014. This was a starting point in the effort to envision a new generation in social work field education. One such effort should focus on how we can more effectively socialize a new generation of social workers to assume a stronger stance on matters of social justice in general, and on racism in particular.

“Dash cams” and body cameras are not the solution. Perhaps such devices bolster accountability, but there is no camera capable of peering into the intense and displaced hatred toward Black people. There isn’t any easy way to alter human behavior without getting into that “arena.” We must be willing to challenge one another and speak the dirty truth. At a breakfast honoring the late Martin Luther King Jr. earlier this year, a friend approached the Commissioner of the Boston Police Department, and introduced himself as a new resident of the city. He asked the Commissioner if he had read The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, a book that examines racism as it is manifested by the mass incarceration of Black men in America. When he responded that he had not, my friend asked if he would be willing to do so. Although we have no way of knowing whether the Commissioner heeded this advice, I applaud my friend for having the courage to present the challenge. Let this “tipping point” in our country be a call to become engaged, uncomfortable, and mobilized. After all, if not us, then who?