Larry E. Davis, John M. Wallace Jr., and Trina R. Williams Shanks
African Americans have been a part of the nation's history for nearly four hundred years. Although their history includes the forced imposition of chattel slavery, the strict enforcement of legal segregation, and a tenuous acceptance as equal citizens, African Americans have been, and continue to be, major contributors, creators, investors, and builders of America. In this article we summarize briefly the history of African Americans, we examine racial disparities in key indicators of social, mental, and physical well-being, and we highlight persistent strengths that can be built upon and areas that provide hope for the future. The challenge for social work is to simultaneously celebrate the historical successes and ongoing contributions of African Americans to this country while also recognizing the vestiges of structural racism and fighting for greater civil rights and social and economic justice.
This article discusses the African American social welfare system that began to develop during the early 20th century. This social welfare system, designed by African Americans to serve African Americans, addressed needs that were not being met by any other formal social services while the nascent social work profession was emerging. The myriad programs included settlement houses, boys and girls programs, training schools, and day nurseries. The women’s club movement played a critical role in the development of this social welfare system and provided much of the impetus for change and inclusion. Through formal organizations, including the National Urban League (NUL) and the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), and an array of clubs and social groups, social services were extended to urban and rural communities throughout the United States.
King Davis and Hyejin Jung
This entry defines the term disparity as measurable differences between groups on a number of indices. The term disparity originated in France in the 16th century and has been used as a barometer of progress in social justice and equality in the United States. When disparity is examined across the U.S. population over a longitudinal period, it is clear that disparities continue to exist and that they distinguish groups by race, income, class, and gender. African American and Native American populations have historically ranked higher in prevalence and incidence than other populations on most indices of disparity. However, the level of adverse health and social conditions has declined for all population groups in the United States. The disparity indices include mortality rates, poor health, disease, absence of health insurance, accidents, and poverty. Max Weber’s theory of community formation is used in this entry to explain the continued presence and distribution of disparities. Other theoretical frameworks are utilized to buttress the major hypothesis by Weber that social ills tend to result from structural faults rather than individual choice. Social workers are seen as being in a position to challenge the structural origins of disparities as part of their professional commitment to social justice.
Rowena Fong, Ruth McRoy, and Alan Dettlaff
Racial disproportionality and disparities are problems affecting children and families of color in the child welfare, juvenile justice, education, mental-health, and health-care systems. The term “disproportionality” refers to the ratio between the percentage of persons in a particular racial or ethnic group at a particular decision point or experiencing an event (maltreatment, incarceration, school dropouts) compared to the percentage of the same racial or ethnic group in the overall population. This ratio could suggest underrepresentation, proportional representation, or overrepresentation of a population experiencing a particular phenomenon. The term “disparity” refers to “unequal treatment or outcomes for different groups in the same circumstance or at the same decision point.” A close examination of disproportionality and disparities brings attention to differences in outcomes, often by racial group, and by social service systems. It is necessary to examine the reasons for these differences in outcomes and to be sure that culturally competent practices are upheld.
This article summarizes the incidence of women in the United States who have been sentenced to prison as a consequence of a felony conviction for violation of state or federal laws. It also describes their characteristics and co-occurring health conditions; issues that contribute to women’s experiences after release from prison, including those that lead to success and failure during re-entry; and gendered practices and policies that provide alternatives to incarceration.
Flavio F. Marsiglia, Jaime M. Booth, and Adrienne Baldwin
Undocumented immigrants represent a large and vulnerable population in the United States. When conducting individual practice with undocumented immigrants, social workers must be aware of the laws that impact service provision, the unique psychosocial stressors that are experienced by this population, as well as their strengths that can be built upon. To that end, this chapter provides a snapshot of who undocumented immigrants are, a history of laws governing immigration in the in United States, an overview of the current legal climate, and a discussion of the process of acculturation and psychosocial stressors and strengths. Specifically, this chapter outlines environmental, instrumental, social, interpersonal, and societal sources of stress and strength. The chapter concludes with a discussion of how laws and unique psychosocial stressors impact individual practice with undocumented immigrants and provides suggestions for culturally competent practice.
According to the 2010 Census, 308.7 million people resided in the United States on April 1, 2010, of which 50.5 million (or 16%) were of Hispanic or Latino origin. The Mexican-origin population increased by 54% since the previous Census, and it had the largest numeric increase (11.2 million), growing from 20.6 million in 2000 to 31.8 million in 2010 (Ennis, Rio-Vargas, & Albert, 2011). The current U.S. Census demographic information was used to project the social needs of Mexican-origin Hispanics. An estimated 11.2 million unauthorized Hispanic-origin migrants reside in the United States. Select provisions of the failed 2007 Immigration Reform Act are discussed in context of the Reagan Administration’s 1986 Immigration Reform Act. Key words are defined to facilitate understanding of issues presented that affect the well-being of the Mexican-origin population. Best social work practices for working with Mexican-origin Hispanics are proposed in the context of issues identified in the narrative. Future trends are speculative predictions with suggestions based on the author's social work practice experience, research, and knowledge of the literature.
Private money clubs or mutual financial aid and saving associations (MFASAs) are commonly identified as one of the contributing factors to high small business ownership rates among Chinese, Japanese, and Korean immigrants in the United States. This article discusses MFASAs among the immigrant groups in the United States. Included are MFASAs’ historical roots, trends, operational procedures, and their role in building financial assets among these groups. As MFASAs have roles other than that of being private financial vehicles for immigrants, other functions are also discussed. The potential for MFASAs to be considered a development model beyond the Asian American community is presented.
Cheryl L. Franks and Marion Riedel
Privilege is the invisible advantage and resultant unearned benefits afforded to dominant groups of people because of a variety of sociodemographic traits. Privilege provides economic and social boosts to dominant groups while supporting the structural barriers to other groups imposed by prejudice. Social work education and practice seldom challenges us to evaluate the effects of privilege on our professional relationships and the concomitant systems of oppression that marginalize many of the groups we work with. Privilege nurtures dependence, distances us from others, and creates a barrier to reflective social work practice. Acknowledging the effects of privilege increases our capacity to affirm our humanity and that of the communities we serve.
Karen Lyons and Nathalie Huegler
The term social exclusion achieved widespread use in Europe from the late twentieth century. Its value as a concept that is different from poverty, with universal relevance, has since been debated. It is used in Western literature about international development, and some authors have linked it to the notion of capabilities. However, it is not widely used in the social work vocabulary. Conversely, the notion of social inclusion has gained in usage and application. This links with values that underlie promotion of empowerment and participation, whether of individuals, groups, or communities. Both terms are inextricably linked to the realities of inequalities within and between societies and to the principles of human rights and social justice that feature in the international definition of social work.