Social WorkMembers of Congress who believe the only...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

August 22, 1994

Social Work

Members of Congress who believe the only successful approach to crime is through law enforcement recently have made disparaging remarks about social workers.

This may enhance their position politically, but it demeans an honorable profession.

Law-enforcement agencies have long maintained that successful crime control and prevention programs require a total community effort, including not only police but also social workers, educators, clergy, businesses, families, health-care professionals and members of the community. Joint police-social work interventions occur daily in this country.

We work with people in their own environments. Many of our clients suffer from violence and injustice -- rape, robbery, aggravated assault, alcohol-related injuries, child abuse and neglect, etc.

As social workers, we experience the frustration of our clients as we work to foster good health and maximum self-determination on their part. We fight for better social supports and alternatives to violence.

We recognize the need to develop more sophisticated systems to make communities more supportive. We know that when people get decent housing, health care, education and jobs their self-esteem rises, they become contributing members of society and crime diminishes.

We work with legislators to develop policies that ensure adequate funding is available so that people obtain basic services during every phase of the life cycle, from prenatal care through old age.

Our society pays a heavy toll in ill health, long-term suffering and financial loss from the trauma of violence and crime. We must go to the root causes and develop a multiplicity of approaches to deal with an extremely complex problem.

We need a crime bill that unites Americans through law enforcement, prevention and rehabilitation, and which uses the expertise of all professions, including police officers and social workers. We're all in this together.

Moya Atkinson

Baltimore

The writer is executive director of the Maryland chapter of the National Association of Social Workers.

DiPietro and His Reputation

Following the death of former Baltimore City Council member Mimi DiPietro, Sun columnist Roger Simon wrote that Mr. DiPietro's racist, sexist, anti-Semitic and homophobic use of language was not ''colorful'' but part of a ''poison that pollutes our society'' and should be reported and remembered that way.

Sun columnist Michael Olesker responded the next day that, in effect, Mr. Simon should lighten up because Mr. DiPietro was ''limited in education, but large in heart . . . given to some old, coarse language but . . . trying to make the city work for everyone."

I'm afraid that life is more complicated than Mr. Olesker would like us to believe.

The general perception, not disputed here, is that Mr. DiPietro worked effectively in response to his constituents' complaints about city services, but that he was not particularly concerned as a legislator about the future of the city as a whole. Whether Mr. DiPietro personally harbored the social prejudices of which Mr. Simon accuses him and Mr. Olesker excuses him, I can only guess. But I know that they are endemic throughout our society, Mr. DiPietro's East Baltimore not excluded. And they hurt people seriously.

The failure of so many of our community's leaders, including City Council members and columnists, to confront those prejudices legitimizes them and contributes to their persistence. Such prejudices hurt not only those against whom they are targeted but those who hold them. Mr. DiPietro's constituents have many real problems that require political solutions. But bigoted thinking sidetracks many of us from addressing those problems constructively.

The message I take from the memory of Mr. DiPietro is that elected officials should work hard for their constituents, just as so many people remember him doing. But we will all be better off when the social prejudices that his use of language reflected are widely acknowledged and repudiated.

Robert A. Seidel

Baltimore

I wish to congratulate Roger Simon on his column regarding the late Mimi DiPietro. No one else at the Sun -- including Michael Olesker -- has done anything other than make passing reference to this man's obvious disrespect for large segments of this society. Rather, they have fallen all over themselves being reverent. Mr. DiPietro's wife's comments about his loving everybody can be accepted as the right of a widow. Any reasonable person can respect that. But Mr. Simon's article reminds us that the man was quite capable of being sexist, homophobic, racist and anti-Semitic.

As Mr. Simon states in his first sentence, ''Nothing enhances your reputation like dying.'' The Sun has as a whole done an excellent job in proving this statement. Its one act of objectivity was to print Roger Simon's column.

Thomas J. Myers

Baltimore

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