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Cultural Sensitivity in the Context of Cultural Humility  

Robert M. Ortega and Roxanna Duntley-Matos

In social work practice, our ability to demonstrate culturally responsive service delivery has become a perennial challenge. The rapidly changing landscape in the context of cultural and linguistic diversity makes the urgency of establishing culturally inclusive professional practice more necessary. Evidence of its importance can be found in federal directives, state mandates and professional best practice guidelines that are undergirded by a recognition that responsive practice requires an awareness of cultural influences and manifest differences. This is particularly important as efforts to more fully engage with culturally responsive practice coincides with the push for a higher standard for professional caring to be culturally relevant. From a basic social science-informed perspective, culturally based experiences vary in such profound ways, both within and across groups and communities, that limiting practice to common or core sets of cultural meanings or shared practices for practice purposes merely minimizes the complexity of culture. Cultural experiences are experienced and expressed in complex and dynamic ways, and how cultural differences become framed has major implications for how they become recognized and incorporated into socially just practice. Various approaches to cultural sensitivity and institutional attachments appear in the literature although there is a particular need to uncover the many ways that a focus on cultural competence may impair our ability to embrace the ambiguity and uncertainty of cultural differences. Cultural humility offers a perspective that invites tolerance, inclusion, and diversity while promoting transformation, facilitation, and collaboration in knowledge development and in the search for cultural relevance in its social work application. It is a perspective that ultimately invites the sharing of both social opportunities and social fate, and is at the core of socially just empowerment

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Abolitionist Social Work  

Noor Toraif and Justin C. Mueller

Abolitionist social work is a theoretical framework and political project within the field of social work and an extension of the project of carceral abolitionism more broadly. Abolitionists seek to abolish punishment, prisons, police, and other carceral systems because they view these as being inherently destructive systems. Abolitionists argue that these carceral systems cause physiological, cognitive, economic, and political harms for incarcerated people, their families, and their communities; reinforce White supremacy; disproportionately burden the poor and marginalized; and fail to produce justice and healing after social harms have occurred. In their place, abolitionists want to create material conditions, institutions, and forms of community that facilitate emancipation and human flourishing and consequently render prisons, police, and other carceral systems obsolete. Abolitionist social workers advance this project in multiple ways, including critiquing the ways that social work and social workers are complicit in supporting or reinforcing carceral systems, challenging the expansion of carceral systems and carceral logics into social service domains, dismantling punitive and carceral institutions and methods of responding to social harms, implementing nonpunitive and noncarceral institutions and methods of responding to social harms, and strengthening the ability of communities to design and implement their own responses to social conflict and harm in the place of carceral institutions. As a theoretical framework, abolitionist social work draws from and extends the work of other critical frameworks and discourses, including anticarceral social work, feminist social work, dis/ability critical race studies, and transformative justice.