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Article

Criminal Justice: Overview  

Michael C. Gearhart

The American criminal justice system is comprised of four main components: law enforcement, the judiciary, corrections, and legislature. These components work together to investigate crimes, arrest individuals, weigh evidence of guilt, monitor individuals who are found guilty, and make laws. Though the criminal justice system is meant to administer justice in an equitable manner, a number of controversial policies and practices exist within the criminal justice system. These practices are typically rooted in historical biases that continue to create disparities today. Social work has a long history of reforming the criminal justice system. However, modern disparities illustrate that there is still work to be done. The skills of macro social workers are foundational to present-day advocacy efforts and emerging criminal justice practice, highlighting the enduring significance of macro social work practice in criminal justice reform.

Article

Critical Pedagogy in Community Practice  

Laurie A. Walker

Contemporary community engagement pedagogies require critical frameworks that facilitate diverse groups working collaboratively toward socially just outcomes. Critical frameworks acknowledge different ways of knowing and experiencing the world, as well as many means to achieve the desired outcomes. Indigenous values focused on relationship, respect, reciprocity, responsiveness, relevance, and responsibility inform key community engagement principles that are often applicable across many groups. Instructors who center Indigenous and other perspectives of groups that experience marginalization and oppression in social work curriculum are able to create community-engaged and socially just outcomes via institutional change and knowledge production efforts. Contemporary community engagement work embedded in social work values requires frameworks that are strengths based, center historically underrepresented groups working toward social justice on their own terms, and include an analysis of power, positionality, systemic causes of disparities, needed institutional changes, and critiques inclusion assumptions.

Article

Cultural Competence  

Terry L. Cross

Cultural competence emerged as a concept in the 1980s; took form as a set of organizational, educational, advocacy, policy, and practice constructs in the 1990s; and has since matured into a broad rubric that addresses social justice and service delivery quality, equity, access, and efficacy for people and groups of diverse backgrounds. Cultural competence, sometimes referred to as cultural competency, ethnic competence, cross-cultural competence, or multicultural competence, has become an essential element of social work at every level of the field, from direct practice to social policy. The history, literature, policy developments, controversies, and implications of cultural competence are discussed. The evolution of cultural competence and its role in social work is examined and summarized in this entry.

Article

Culturally Competent Practice  

Doman Lum

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

Empowerment Practices  

Debora Ortega and Jessica Rodriguez-JenKins

Empowerment practices are rooted in empowerment theory and fundamentally focus on power as a source of equity and inequity. Based on transformation ideology, empowerment is a counter to perceived and objective powerlessness. Amelioration of client problems contain both personal and structural dimensions and are accomplished through multilevel interventions. In this approach to practice, the professional is not the central power figure who assesses, designs, implements, and intervenes on behalf of the client. Rather, historically marginalized people, families, and communities are considered experts in their experience of problems. Empowerment practices are rooted in an understanding of power (personal, social, and structural), consciousness transformation, interactive systems, importance of relationships, and the long history of societal dehumanization of marginalized communities. In this model, social work research is characterized as a form of practice that is influenced by larger social inequities and can be used to reproduce inequity or create partnerships for change with marginalized communities.

Article

Genocide  

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

Political Ideologies and Social Welfare  

Mimi Abramovitz

Political ideologies developed to address “social problems” shape public policy debates, social policy strategies, and social work practice. The clashes among the long-standing political traditions—conservatism, liberalism, and radicalism—reflect fundamental and often irreconcilable differences regarding social, economic, and political life. Ideology also shapes theories of racial and gender inequality. These ideological perspectives and theories diverge on several core issues that underpin social welfare provision, including human nature, the role of the market and the state, definition of social problems, and the role of the welfare state. The resulting distinctions provide social workers with a framework to more effectively assess and change social welfare policies.

Article

Post-Disaster Trauma and Recovery  

Tara M. Powell, Shannondora Billiot, and Leia Y. Saltzman

Natural and man-made disasters have become much more frequent since the start of the 21st century. Disasters have numerous deleterious impacts. They disrupt individuals, families, and communities, causing displacement, food insecurity, injury, loss of livelihoods, conflict, and epidemics. The physical and mental health impact of a disaster can have extensive short- and long-term consequences. Immediately after a traumatic event, individuals may experience an array of reactions such as anxiety, depression, acute stress symptoms, shock, dissociation, allergies, injuries, or breathing problems. Given the economic and human impact of disasters, social workers are often quick to respond. Historically, the social work profession has provided services on the individual level, but initiatives have expanded to address community preparedness, response, and recovery. This article will explore the complexities of disaster response and recovery. Health and mental health impacts will be examined. Resilience and posttraumatic growth will then be discussed, exploring how individuals overcome adversity and trauma. Individual and community level preparedness mitigation, response, and recovery will explore how the field of social work has evolved as disasters have increased. Followed by an exploration of how social work has evolved to develop individual and community level preparedness, mitigation, response, and recovery activities as disasters have increased. Finally, the article will examine special populations, including those with disabilities, children, indigenous people, older adults, and social service workers in all phases of disasters. As disasters grow more frequent it is vital for social work professionals to improve their efforts. We will conclude the chapter by examining the coordinated efforts the social work profession is involved in to help communities recover and even thrive after a traumatic event.

Article

Racism  

Selena T. Rodgers

Racism is pervasive, endemic, and historically rooted in systematic assumptions inherent in superiority based on race and requires the critical attention of all social workers. The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) has made strides in tackling racism as demonstrated by the social worker and civil rights activist Whitney Young Jr. (1921–1971), other pioneers, and more recently, the NASW zero-tolerance racism policy. Undergirded in empirical discussion, this article leads with the etymology of race(ism), followed by a discussion of Racial Formation Theory and Critical Race Theory. The article gives a historical sketch of racism, followed by examples of its contemporary indicators—throughout social institutions—in the United States. Racism is pervasive and impinges on micro-level and macro-level systems. It is, therefore, beyond the scope of this article to address how racism impacts each group in America. Social work scholars and other experts have provided extensive empirical documentation about the historical trauma and sufferings of other racial groups (e.g., Native Americans/Native peoples/American Indians, Mexican Americans) discussed elsewhere. Specifically, the racism endured by blacks in America is the emphasis of this article. Themes of “colorism” and historical trauma are provided to contextualize advances in national reform and encourage a broader conversation about the racism that blacks experience globally. In addition, this article highlights strides by the social work profession to eradicate racism. Implications for social work are discussed.

Article

Suicide and Public Policy  

Janelle Stanley and Sarah Strole

The historical context of suicidal behavior and public policies addressing suicide arose simultaneously within the United States, and both reflect a culture of discrimination and economic disenfranchisement. Systems of oppression including anti-Black racism, restrictive immigration policy, displacement of American Indigenous communities, religious moralism, and the capitalist economic structure perpetuate high-risk categories of suicidality. Suicidal behavior, protective factors, and risk factors, including firearms, are examined in the context of twentieth and early twenty first century public policy. Recommendations for public policy will be discussed with consideration for policies that impact communities disproportionately and social work ethics, such as right to die laws and inconsistent standards of care.