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.
V. Thandi Sulé
Ovita F. Williams and Cheryl L. Franks
Sitting in a place of having an unearned benefit because of a particular social identity or social group membership is defined by the term privilege. Privilege is described as advantages across multiple dimensions of identity, race, class, gender, sexual orientation, sexual identity, age, ability status and more. For example, white privilege is the types of access white people have in society because of the color of their skin. This includes access to better schools, higher pay, good housing, and more. Privilege offers protection, advantage, access to resources, and limited surveillance. Privilege implies the freedom to be allowed to navigate easily through daily activities and life milestones, and to benefit from long-term advantages and gains. Social groups that have privilege reap specific benefits, which ultimately means another social group doesn’t have the same advantages and are thus disadvantaged, often severely. The social work profession demands social justice is sought, and in this effort, it is important to recognize that, where privileges are granted to people because of an observed social identity, this is harmful and creates systems and structures of oppression. Understanding how privilege operates to oppress and subjugate people increases the ability to see these injustices and inspires people to seek equity and liberation.
Darcey H. Merritt, Rachel D. Ludeke, Krushika Uday Patankar, Muthoni Mahachi, and Morgan Buck
Racial justice remains a hot-button issue in the United States, particularly in the aftermath of several high-profile murders of Black and Brown people due to state-sanctioned violence. There is an increased need to explore how racial injustice remains prevalent intentionally and comprehensively in all aspects of micro, mezzo, and macro social work practice. Racism is pervasive in the social work profession, and it is therefore important to address the ways in which it underpins established human service systems (e.g., public assistance and child welfare).
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.