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Article

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.

Article

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.

Article

This article presents introductory information on asylum seekers, refugees, and immigrants in the United States, including distinctions among them, major regions of origin, demographic, and socioeconomic characteristics, challenges in social, economic, and cultural adaptation, and best practices for social work with these populations.

Article

Julie Guyot-Diangone

This article provides an overview of the phenomenon of child soldiers in war theaters around the world. Research studies are used to illustrate the deficits approach frequently applied to young people’s involvement in armed combat. In addition to a review of the legal protections surrounding the involvement of children in armed conflict, this article broadens the discourse on child soldiers. Diversity is introduced to counter the monolithic characterization of the child soldier, including descriptions of the various forms, levels, and dimensions participation may take, affecting all spheres of life—providing a holistic, community-level view not limited to individualized intrapsychic experiences. The subject of the child soldier has been approached through scholarship from a number of disciplines and centers on reintegration practices, the use of children as a military strategy, the process of weaponizing children, children’s moral development, and the use of traditional healing practices. Core social work ethics, along with the discipline’s strengths-based approach to inquiry are employed to further counter the narrative of “brokenness” that is prevalent in these fields. The introduction of resilience factors is used to broaden awareness of the diversity of outcomes among the various cohorts studied. Childhood as a social construction is discussed, along with its Western-informed biases. Humanitarian aid and development bodies have structured educational programs and livelihood opportunities to assist former child soldiers reintegrate into post-conflict societies, and Western understandings of childhood influence the architecture of these efforts. Although protections surrounding the involvement of minors in armed conflict have grown, the use of child soldiers remains. The article uses the Convention of the Rights of the Child along with the African Charter on Children in Armed Conflict to help unpack the disparate meanings of what it means to be a child within various sociocultural contexts.

Article

V. Thandi Sulé

Critical race theory (CRT) is a framework that unapologetically asserts how and why race matters in the maintenance of U.S. policies and practices. In doing so, CRT counters discourse that situates discrimination and disparities within the realm of individual behaviors or psychological deficits. Therefore, racism is seen for what it is—a willful, institutionalized, and dehumanizing way of being. Though racism prevailed as the quintessential problem of the 20th century, the 21st century has revealed that the color line remains remarkably undisturbed. Whether one is focusing on housing, education, employment, wealth, health, safety, or justice, racial disparities and inequities exist to the disadvantage of racially minoritized people. Born out of discontent for legal remedies for inequality, CRT speaks to the universal way that racism immobilizes minoritized people—thereby providing an almost unwavering advantage to white people. This review provides an overview of the tenets of CRT and how those tenets connect with social work values and practice.

Article

This article defines cultural competence and culturally competent practice and focuses on cultural awareness, knowledge acquisition, and skill development as key components. It traces the historical development of cultural competence in the disciplines of psychology and social work, pointing out how cultural competence has become a professional standard. Cultural competence has also been recognized on the federal and state health and human services levels. Cultural competence is viewed on the practitioner, agency, and community levels as well as the micro, mezzo, and macro dimensions. Among the implications for practice are the issues of cultural competence and cultural competencies, the ethics of cultural competence, social context, and biculturation and multiculturalization. Cultural competence research is briefly surveyed, as is the relationship between cultural competence and critical race theory.

Article

Joseph Walsh

Direct social work practice is the application of social work theory and/or methods to the resolution and prevention of psychosocial problems experienced by individuals, families, and groups. In this article, direct practice is discussed in the context of social work values, empowerment, diversity, and multiculturalism, as well as with attention to client strengths, spirituality, and risk and resilience influences. The challenges of practice evaluation are also considered.

Article

Kendra DeLoach McCutcheon

Social workers have a responsibility to challenge discrimination and promote social and economic justice. To fulfill this responsibility, it must be understood how discrimination exists and the detrimental affect it has on the relationship between individuals who are disenfranchised (targeted groups) and individuals who have privilege, resources, and power (advantaged groups) (Hardiman & Jackson, 2007). This entry will present an overview of discrimination, define the various forms of discrimination, present public policy and legislation regarding discrimination, and discuss implications for social workers and the profession.

Article

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.

Article

Rowena Fong, Ruth G. 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.

Article

Jacquelyn C.A. Meshelemiah and Raven E. Lynch

Genocides have persisted around the world for centuries, yet the debate persists about what intentions and subsequent actions constitute an actual genocide. As a result, some crimes against humanity, targeted rape campaigns, and widespread displacement of marginalized groups of people around the globe have not been formally recognized as a genocide by world powers while others have. The 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide set out to provide clarity about what constituted a genocide and the corresponding expected behaviors of nations that bear witness to it. Still, even with this United Nations document in place, there remains some debate about genocides. The United States, a superpower on the world stage, did not sign on to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide until 1988 due to a belief that its participation was not necessary as a civilized world leader that had its own checks and balances. More genocides have taken place since the enactment of this 1948 legislation. Genocides that have taken place pre- and post-1948 affirm the need for nations around the world to agree to a set of behaviors that protect targeted groups of people from mass destruction and prescribe punishment for those who perpetrate such atrocities. Although it may seem that identifying genocidal behaviors toward a group of people would be clear and convincing based on witnesses and/or deaths of targeted members, history has shown this not to be the case time and time again. Perpetrators tend to deny such behaviors or claim innocence in the name of self-defense. Regardless of any acknowledgment of wrongdoing, genocides are the world’s greatest crime against humanity.

Article

Manohar Pawar and Marie Weil

This article presents an integrated perspective and framework for global practice towards achieving the Global Agenda. First, it presents the origin and current understanding of the Global Agenda for social work. Second, it illustrates the utility of the term “global practice” as a progressive, comprehensive, and future-oriented term that encompasses social work and social, economic, and sustainable development at multiple levels: local, national, regional, international, multinational, and global. Third, it discusses ways of moving forward on the Global Agenda at multiple levels through an integrated perspectives framework consisting of global, ecological, human rights, and social development perspectives to guide practice. Finally, it concludes that global practice and the Global Agenda need to be translated into local level social work and development practice and local level agendas, making a case for social work and sustainable social development leadership and practice at grassroots and national levels.

Article

Nancy A. Humphreys and Shannon Lane

Hate crimes and their traumatic repercussions are an important area for social worker intervention. This entry will examine how hate crimes are defined and handled, and the difficulties inherent in categorizing and responding to them. Collection of hate crime statistics and hate crime–related legislation are reviewed. The entry will also examine how social workers can help victims and perpetrators and influence how society conceptualizes and prevents hate crimes and their consequences.

Article

Michele Rountree and Courtney McElhaney Peebles

Communities of color are disproportionately burdened by the prevalence of HIV/AIDS. Research has shown that race and ethnicity in the United States are population characteristics that correlate with other fundamental determinants of health outcomes. This entry will chronicle the history of the epidemic, report the disparate impact of the disease affecting communities of color, and acknowledge the social determinants of health that contribute to the vulnerability of risk. A call to address the imbalance of health inequities, with a complement of individual-level interventions and new approaches that address the interpersonal, network, community, and societal influences of disease transmission, is discussed.

Article

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) affirms a social worker’s responsibility to social change and social justice on behalf of vulnerable and oppressed peoples (NASW, 2008). Because of this directive around social justice, it is the profession’s responsibility to make connections between individual human rights issues within the broader social, economic, and cultural context that creates conditions where injustice can take place. This article attempts to illustrate how social workers in the twenty-first century must be able to recognize and emphasize human rights in their practice on a local, national, and international level. The article also shows the need for social workers to be the catalyst bringing attention to the need to craft solutions to human rights violations that take into account global human rights standards.

Article

Uma A. Segal

Individuals and families from around the globe form a continuous stream of immigrants to the United States, with waiting lists for entry stretching to several years. Reasons for this ongoing influx are readily apparent, because the United States is one of the most attractive nations in the world, regardless of its problems. There is much in the United States that native-born Americans take for granted and that is not available in most other countries, and there are several amenities, opportunities, possibilities, lifestyles, and freedoms in the United States (U.S.) that are not found together in any other nation. In theory, and often in reality, the U.S. is a land of freedom, of equality, of opportunity, of a superior quality of life, of easy access to education, and of relatively few human rights violations. This entry will focus on immigration policy through legislative history and its impact, demographic trends, the economic impact, the immigrant workforce, educational and social service systems, ethical issues, and roles for social workers.

Article

Patricia O’Brien

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.

Article

Indigenous people across the globe are struggling for the cultural survival of their families and communities. This article provides an overview of indigenous people across the world and some of the many challenges they face to keep their cultures alive and strong. Indigenous peoples live throughout the world and share many common characteristics, which are described in detail in the article. Historical and contemporary challenges affecting cultural survival are provided, including accounts of the history of colonization and some of its lasting impacts on indigenous people and their cultures. Bolivia is highlighted as a country that has embraced the “living well” concept. The article closes by encouraging people to learn about and become allies with indigenous people because, ultimately, we are all impacted by the same threats.

Article

This entry will provide an overview of psychosocial issues and social work intervention relevant to working with lesbians. Practice issues related to the impact of heterosexism, coming out, lesbian identity development, and lesbian couple and family formation will be discussed. Assessment and intervention methods appropriate for social work practice with lesbians will be addressed.

Article

Rhea Almeida, Diana Melendez, and José Miguel Paez

The process of decolonizing is a precursor to liberatory transformation and the foundation for the creation of liberation-based practices. Decolonizing strategies call for changing the lens and the language and debunking the myth of healing through diagnostic codes; and the rigid compartmentalization of mind-body of individuals, and of individuals with regard to their families, their context, and their healing spaces Decolonizing strategies encompass the multiplicity of personal and public institutional locations that frame identities within historic, colonial, economic, and political life. People in various global localities are unwittingly situated within a range of broad and nuanced descriptors, such as indigenous hosts, nationality, ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, ability, or religious preference or a combination of these. These personal economic, social, and political intersections are largely unacknowledged by early-21st-century Western models of psychological practice in social work and allied disciplines. Postmodernism and poststructuralism as epistemological frameworks still reproduce a particular form of coloniality. Alternatively, liberation-based practice locates the complexities of these frameworks within a societal matrix that shapes relationships in the context of power, privilege, and oppression. Accompanied by tools for identifying and decolonizing lived experiences within culture circles, liberation-based practice builds on the foundations of critical consciousness, empowerment, and accountability.