SWU shines a light on “dog whistle” discrimination in new blog series

A photo of a dog whistle and a bone-shaped dog tag which are both attached to a key ring

Recognising and challenging discrimination is a key pillar of social work.

The Social Workers Union (SWU) is publishing a 4-part blog series on the topic of “dog whistles” in the run-up to LGBT+ History Month and Race Equality Week in February 2023.

Not to be confused with the high-pitched instrument used to train dogs, this kind of dog whistle is “an expression or statement that has a secondary meaning intended to be understood only by a particular group of people.” Even if you are not familiar with the term in this context, you have most certainly have encountered these coded messages in the media.

The introductory blog will walk social workers through how dog whistles work, how they affect vulnerable and marginalised communities, and how to diffuse them. The following blogs discuss the harm that this type of discrimination and stoking of prejudice has caused to individuals and communities with a focus on dog whistles that are racist, ableist, and transphobic.

This collaborative endeavour has been led by SWU Communications, Policy, and Engagement Officer Dr Shawn Major and includes the voices of social work professionals and those with lived experience.

Shawn said, “Dog whistles have a long history of being used to covertly spread and stoke prejudices, and I hope this blog series will give more people the tools to recognize and call out this tactic wherever they see it – from newspaper headlines to online spaces. This type of discrimination is causing real and lasting harm.”

The blogs will be published on the SWU and BASW websites on January 23rd, 24th, 30th, and 31st and will be published together in the February 2023 SWU Newsletter. In the meantime, we invite you to read the SWU blog Intersectionality is a valuable tool for Social Work Practice which is a precursor to this series.