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.
Cheryl L. Franks and Marion Riedel
Critical whiteness studies can be understood in terms of three overlapping waves ranging from the national to the international and from the 19th to the 21st centuries. Beginning in the Reconstruction era in the United States, the first wave criticized whiteness in the form of protection of white femininity, possessive ownership, and the public and psychological wages paid to white people during Jim Crow America. The second wave began after the end of World War II, when challenges to legalized racial segregation and European colonialism flourished. The third wave, whose beginning can be marked roughly at the end of the 20th century, is distinguished by increased examination of nonblack immigrants’ relation to whiteness, the growing number of white authors contributing to the field, and a blossoming international range of critical studies of whiteness.
Social inclusion is a well-meaning concept with something of a chequered history. Its beginnings were in the attempt by France to find a way of dealing with the social dislocation associated with transitioning from an agrarian to an urban society. The view promulgated was that some people were being pushed to the margins and thereby excluded in this process. From these origins the term was picked up and deployed in Europe, the United Kingdom, and other countries seeking to find ways of including people deemed excluded from participation in society as a result of social dislocation. Where the difficulties have arisen with the term is in conceptualizing where the “causation” resides—in individuals and their alleged deficiencies; or in the way societies are organized and structured that produce situations of inequality in the first place, where some people remain on the periphery. Where the former interpretation is adopted, the policy attempts that follow are reparative and designed to try and mend the bonds that bind people to society, and which are seen as having been disrupted. The attempt is to try and help those who are excluded to transgress the exclusionary boundaries holding them back. In the second interpretation, the focus is upon the way in which power is deployed in producing exclusionary social structures. Envisaging how structural impediments operate, as well as doing something about it, has been much more problematic than in the former case. When applied to educational contexts, there have been some major policy initiatives in respect to social inclusion, around the following: (i) school-to-work transition programs that aim to make young people “work ready” and hence obviate their becoming disconnected from the economy—that is to say, through labor market initiatives; (ii) educational re-engagement programs designed to reconnect young people who have prematurely terminated their schooling through having “dropped out,” by putting them back into situations of learning that will lead them to further education or employment; and (iii) area-based interventions or initiatives that target broad-based forms of strategic social assistance (education, housing, health, welfare, employment) to whole neighborhoods and communities to assist them in rectifying protracted historical spatial forms of exclusion. There remain many tensions and controversies as to which approach to social inclusion is the most efficacious way of tackling social exclusion, and major research is still needed to provide a more sociologically informed approach to social inclusion.
Marginalization, a fluid concept, challenges status quo understandings and representations of individuals throughout the world. Considered to reference individuals who have been excluded from the mainstream dialogue, marginalization has developed into a term that evokes an examination of the master narrative, also known as the metanarrative. In a world where the master narrative predominates, individuals are systematically excluded based on a characteristic or characteristics they possess that disrupt a specified system of cultural norms. In relation to the global media, marginalized voices represent groups that have self-contained cultural norms and rules that differ from mainstream norms and rules. While marginalized groups may share some norms, rules, and values with the mainstream culture, they possess differences that can be viewed as transgressive, existing outside the mainstream norms, rules, and values. Media representations of groups that are globally marginalized, and sometimes stigmatized, include but are not limited to race, ethnicity, sexuality, gender, class, ableism, and religion. A study of these marginalized groups reveals an implied system of privilege that reifies the status quo and supports the master narrative. Media invisibility results from marginalization, and when marginalized groups are represented, often those representations are through a marketable, stereotypical lens. As a result of the dearth of images, and a system of privilege, few studies examine marginalized groups in countries throughout the world. By creating a global dialogue about marginalized voices, images, and self-representations, advocacy for difference and understanding allows these voices, images, and self-representations to become expressive renderings of specific transgressive cultural norms.