Civil rights is the protection of citizens from infringement by governmental entities and the extension of basic rights. Civil rights are based on citizenship status. The 14th Amendment establishes U.S. citizenship that has been extended throughout history to different groups. Civil rights legislation is grounded in this question of citizenship. As social workers, it is important that we understand this relationship and advocate to continue broadening the constitutional promise of “equal protection under the laws” to all who reside within the United States.
Tanya Smith Brice, Denise McLane-Davison, and Tyler A. Brice
Dr. Morris F. X. Jeff Jr. (1938–2003) was an Afrocentric-centered social worker, practitioner, activist, advocate, trainer, and consultant who spoke with clarity on urban problems and solutions using an African-centered paradigm.
Cynthia Akorfa Sottie
Nana Araba Apt (1942–2017) was a renowned gerontologist, researcher, author, advocate, and a pioneer in social work education in Ghana. She was a professor of Sociology and Social Work and the founder and Director of the Center for Social Policy Studies at the University of Ghana. She was the founder of Help Age Ghana, the first aging advocacy organization of its kind in Ghana, and a founding member and president of the African Gerontological Society. Her lifelong passions began with her concerns for street children. She founded the College for Ama, a charitable foundation that runs yearly summer camps for rural girls to challenge them to understand the value of education and delay marriage. Her life and work impacted social work education and the welfare of the underprivileged in developing countries.
Hyejin Jung and King Davis
This entry presents an overview of disparities and inequalities. Disparity is defined as measurable differences between individuals, groups, races, regions, states, or nations. The frequency and severity of disparities distinguish groups by multiple identifiable characteristics. In the United States, minority populations have historically ranked higher in prevalence and incidence than others on most disparity indices. In many nations, at-risk groups are distinguished by historically high rates of disparities. Although the level of adverse conditions has declined in the United States and abroad, troublesome disparities exist in nations torn by war, disagreements, disputes, tribal differences, and dictatorial leaders. The major disparity indices include excess mortality rates from infectious diseases like COVID-19, poor health, poverty, unemployment, limited access to fresh and affordable food, absence of health care, absence of potable water, violence, and substandard housing. It is assumed that populations do not voluntarily choose these disparate conditions or cause them through personal deficits. The historical persistence of disparities and inequalities over decades is indicative of systemic or structural causation. This entry contributes to the historical, theoretical, and evidentiary base of macro social work practices that focus on changes in policies, leadership, planning, resource distribution, agency processes and functions, network development, organizations, lobbying, and communities.
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).
Robert G. Madden
The law is a powerful force in all aspects of contemporary U.S. society. The legal system furnishes the context and procedures for the creation and enforcement of laws to resolve disputes, to protect rights, and generally to maintain order. Social workers are expected to understand the basic workings of the legal system generally, in addition to having knowledge of specific laws relevant to their area of practice. Knowledge of the legal system provides the foundation to support social workers to undertake social justice initiatives, to give voice to vulnerable client populations, and to work for legal rules that support good social work practice and positive outcomes for the clients and communities served.
Founded in May 1968, in San Francisco, California, the National Association of Black Social Workers (NABSW) is the premiere organization of Black social service and social welfare workers devoted exclusively to the development of professional social workers in the Black community. Committed to a philosophy of self-help and self-determination, the mission of the NABSW is to prepare workers to assume responsibility as advocates of social change and social justice, and to actively engage in the fight for racial equality and social liberation for the African ascendant community. The organization is open to all members of the African diasporic community, regardless of educational achievement, occupational status or political, religious, institutional or social affiliations.
Women have a lengthy history of fighting their oppression as women and the inequalities associated with this to claim their place on the world stage, in their countries, and within their families. This article focuses on women’s struggles to be recognized as having legitimate concerns about development initiatives at all levels of society and valuable contributions to make to social development. Crucial to their endeavors were: (1) upholding gender equality and insisting that women be included in all deliberations about sustainable development and (2) seeing that their daily life needs, including their human rights, be treated with respect and dignity and their right to and need for education, health, housing, and all other public goods are realized. The role of the United Nations in these endeavors is also considered. Its policies on gender and development, on poverty alleviation strategies—including the Millennium Development Goals and the Sustainable Development Goals—are discussed and critiqued. Women’s rights are human rights, but their realization remains a challenge for policymakers and practitioners everywhere. Social workers have a vital role to play in advocating for gender equality and mobilizing women to take action in support of their right to social justice. Our struggle for equality has a long and courageous history.