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Article

Cheryl L. Franks and Marion Riedel

Privilege is the invisible advantage and resultant unearned benefits afforded to dominant groups of people because of a variety of sociodemographic traits. Privilege provides economic and social boosts to dominant groups while supporting the structural barriers to other groups imposed by prejudice. Social work education and practice seldom challenges us to evaluate the effects of privilege on our professional relationships and the concomitant systems of oppression that marginalize many of the groups we work with. Privilege nurtures dependence, distances us from others, and creates a barrier to reflective social work practice. Acknowledging the effects of privilege increases our capacity to affirm our humanity and that of the communities we serve.

Article

Carolyn I. Polowy, Sherri Morgan, W. Dwight Bailey, and Carol Gorenberg

Confidentiality of client communications is one of the ethical foundations of the social work profession and has become a legal obligation in most states. Many problems arise in the application of the principles of confidentiality and privilege to the professional services provided by social workers. This entry discusses the concepts of client confidentiality and privileged communications and outlines some of the applicable exceptions. While the general concept of confidentiality applies in many interactions between social workers and clients, the application of confidentiality and privilege laws are particularly key to the practice of clinical social workers in various practice settings.

Article

Betty Garcia and Dorothy Van Soest

A firm grasp of the nature of oppression, with its dynamics of power and its systemic character, is required so that social workers can avoid unintended collusion with pervasive oppressive systems if they are to be successful in promoting social and economic justice. Recognizing the relationship between macro-level and micro-level dynamics and their implications for practice is an substantive part of social work practice. This perspective includes attention to the ubiquitousness of privilege and oppression and the potential consequences of ignoring this reality as complicity in and normalizing exclusionary and marginalizing behaviors. This article discusses the concept of oppression, its dynamics and common elements, and anti-oppressive practices that can expose and dismantle oppressive relationships and systemic power arrangements.

Article

Ann Marie Yamada, Lisa Marie Werkmeister Rozas, and Bronwyn Cross-Denny

Intersectionality refers to the intersection of identities that shape an individual’s standing in society. The combining of identities produces distinct life experiences, in part depending on the oppression and privilege associated with each identity. The intersectional approach is an alternative to the cultural competence model that can help social workers better address the unique and complex needs of their diverse clients. This entry provides a general overview of the historical and interdisciplinary roots of intersectionality and addresses its use as a theoretical perspective, methodology, mechanism for social change and social justice, and policy framework in social work. The role of intersectionality in social work policy development, teaching, and research will be presented with consideration of future directions and areas for further development.

Article

The ally model of social justice is a philosophical approach that is congruent with social work’s values and emphasis on social justice and human rights. Using concepts from multiple identities and social justice, it directs those with privilege to act on behalf of those without privilege who belong to a different social group. It is developmental in nature and contains an extensive list of specific ally characteristics that inform social workers at the intrapersonal, interpersonal, and system levels. Despites its limitations, the ally model of social justice is instructive for all social workers regardless of setting as they continue the profession’s mission to eliminate social injustice.

Article

This article proposes social equity as a paradigm to guide social work practice and education. “Cultural equity” encompasses the multiplicity of personal, social, and institutional locations that frame identities in therapeutic practice as well as the classroom by locating these complexities within a societal matrix that shapes relationships of power, privilege, and oppression. Foregoing cultural competency for a cultural equity framework requires both analysis and interruption of the “otherizing” process inherited through multicultural discourses and the legacies of colonization. Through the use of education for critical consciousness, accountability through transparency, community-learning circles, progressive coalition-building, and usage of action strategies, transformative potential is revealed across multiple sites, both local as well as global. Multiple illustrations for the coherent application of cultural equity in social work practice and education are offered.

Article

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.

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.