The concept of White supremacy is introduced and its impact on society and the social work profession is examined. The ideological and historical foundations of Whiteness in the United States are summarized, and an overview is provided of the legal supports that codified White supremacist ideas into structural racism. White supremacy’s influence on social work is discussed, with an emphasis on language and concepts, history, pedagogy, and organizations. Critical theory and practice frameworks are explored as responses to White supremacy. The limitations of social work’s responses and specific implications for macro social work are discussed.
Tracy Whitaker, Lauren Alfrey, Alice B. Gates, and Anita R. Gooding
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.
Sharon E. Moore
Black people number about 46.8 million or 14% of the U.S. population. Throughout U.S. history, regardless of social class, Black people have had to remain cognizant of their race. The COVID-19 pandemic and police shootings of unarmed Black people have revealed that American racism toward Blacks is as virulent today as it has always been. Because of purposeful structural inequality, Black people in America suffer disproportionately in every sector of human activity. They are still facing social issues such as racism, substance abuse, mass incarceration, poverty, police brutality and police murder, infant mortality that is twice as high as among whites, residential segregation, racial profiling, and discrimination. And yet the strengths of the Black community have allowed it to thrive amid these arduous circumstances.
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.
Aswood Bousseau and Diane Martell
American racism has produced systems of oppression that continue to impact Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) in the United States. Critical race theory (CRT) asserts that racism is a longstanding, pervasive, and permanent component of social structure. Perceptions of and concepts relating to race are used to manipulate societal conditions to add value to and benefit the dominant, white population. CRT can be used as a lens to (a) understand current social and economic conditions, (b) analyze policies including municipal, state, and federal laws, regulations, and court decisions, and (c) develop and implement policies and programs that increase racial justice. For social work administrators, CRT provides a framework for identifying and assessing implicit and explicit racism in internal and external organizational policies, structures, and practices. In community work, CRT places race and racism at the center of localized patterns of disempowerment and inequality.
Shetal Vohra-Gupta and Rowena Fong
This entry Structural racism exists among Asian American communities and affects the family members residing in them. Therefore it is necessary to describe the contexts to understand cultural values and their role in the underpinnings of daily life in Asian American communities. While there is great diversity in Asian American populations, there are still stereotypes about Asian Americans being the model minority or passive victims. Racism is still a problem within Asian American communities as policies and macro level practices are subtle or even blatant in their discriminatory tendencies, impacts, and consequences. With the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, racial profiling was reported toward Chinese Americans living in the United States who were not in China when the pandemic started in 2019. Addressing racism and understanding its biased tenets are very important to stop oppressive attitudes and discriminatory practices. Used in legal studies and education, critical race theory (CRT) allows an examination of racism from a structural racism lens in macro social work practice. A descendent of CRT, AsianCrit theory looks at Asian American populations with a critical lens toward the permanence of racism, color blindness, counter storytelling, intersectionality, historical and contemporary contexts, and commitment to social justice. Understanding how these macro systems impact individual racist attitudes and actions is important to know for future social justice implications for practice, policy, and research with this population.
Mary Ohmer and Emily Underwood
Communities are shared spaces that can be geographic, virtual, or based on shared interest, identity, or function. All three types of communities can exist on their own and overlap with one another. Virtual communities have grown considerably over the years and were particularly important during the coronavirus pandemic. Study of these communities begins with conceptual definitions of communities and a historical overview of communities in macro social work practice. A discussion follows of theoretical and conceptual frameworks that can help macro social workers better understand how to engage communities in their work, including systems theory and the ecological perspective, theories that inform community social processes, conflict and consensus approaches to working with communities and the role of power and community empowerment, and critical race theory. Illustrative examples demonstrate how these theories and conceptual frameworks can be applied to communities.
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.