Racism And Social Work Practice Research Paper Example
Racism remains one of the biggest social issues despite the many decades of civil rights talks and policies. Mainstream media still air a significant number of reports on racial attacks and slurs, hate groups, and many other examples that we witness in our day-to-day lives. Racism is defined as the ideology that is demonstrated through perceived superiority of one group of people over another through cultural heritage, ethnicity, color, or race. Usually, the ideology is manifested at an institutional, group, or individual level and tends to be a part of cultural inheritance (Lawrence, 2005). Social workers have since the past tried to make changes in the society to eradicate racism, but more still needs to be done.
The Different Facets of Racism and the Social Inequality
In the United States, history, and modern day realities dictate that racism against people of color must be addressed. The law does not take care of the issue adequately as evidenced by the fact that Blacks always get unfair treatment from the judicial system while the Whites always get away unscathed thanks to their white privilege (Donnelly, Cook, Ausdale, & Foley, 2005). It has been common for security and law enforcement agents to harass, oppress, and devalue Blacks. In many cases the oppressed and devalued people of color are fed by judicial system and learning institutions into the line of incarceration (Jeanquart & Sekaran, 2006).
According to the American Bureau of Statistics, Blacks are about six times more likely to be blamed falsely than Whites, and two times more than Hispanics (Furedi, 2001). This means that if this trend continues, one-third of males born today is likely to face imprisonment. Devalued people of color are not treated the same as the perceived superior people, and subjected to violence and institutional injustices. It is not only the blacks that are subject to such social injustices, as the Latinos of America are also great victims of police brutality (Lawrence, 2005). They understand that police are meant to provide security for all, but they find themselves fearing the excessive brutality aimed at them. Nearly all adult Latinos know a friend or relative who has been tortured by law enforcement forces. The victims of this kind of racism are usually the less educated and poor, and undocumented persons (Jurkiewicz, 2012).
As the world continues to witness this kind of social injustice, social workers are thinking bigger about the creation of a society that respects the lives of all individuals equally. It is a very hard task, but social workers must step up and reverse the situation by focusing on immediate needs, and the creation of societal goals and demand for total reforms. This can only be done without fear of facing the reality since most of the people shy away from the topic of racism (Lawrence, 2005). This way, every member of every cultural minority in the United States and in other countries can enjoy the real sense of freedom and equality, as mandated by the constitution. In order to achieve total change, the social work professions must begin at the individual level then slowly towards the government level, and then finally, the society level. Society must be held accountable for its actions and perceptions towards the apparently sensitive issue of racism and inequality. The process must be aimed at achieving institutional fairness and fundamental balance among cultural minorities (Furedi, 2001). The criminal justice and law enforcement system and society, in general, will have to make a lot of adjustments and changes in order to turn these goals into reality.
For instance, in the case of failure of judicial systems in equally upholding the rights of every citizen regardless of their race or social status, the officers in charge must embrace the concept of equality and fair treatment or more specifically, the protection that each individual’s rights to due process, whenever they are apprehending someone for committing a crime or any offense. The national and local governments must accept the call for fundamental changes in its policies so that people’s rights are not violated (Furedi, 2001). This is because social identity structures such as race, class, and gender have a relationship called intersectionality which according to research is the characteristic that makes it life changing (Gopaldas, 2013). It is therefore the job of individuals working as social agents to deal with these issues and ensure that institutions and criminal justice and law enforcement professionals who fail to respect the rights and freedoms of their subjects will be held accountable in order to discourage any other group or person from doing the same (Jurkiewicz, 2012). The accountability procedure must be immediate and long term in order to create the necessary impactful and sustainable changes. At the individual level, people must be aware of the importance of embracing the concepts of transparency and self-scrutiny. In order to win the battle, there must be fundamental political changes, and social workers must have a passion and commitment to uphold and maintain social justice (Cooper & Mack, 2012).
Three Broad Categories of Social Work Against Racism
In social work, the issue of racism is examined at the three broad categories namely, macro, mezzo, and micro. At the macro level, the problem is viewed via a large scope that encompasses everything from an entire community to other social systems. At mezzo level, the problem is viewed via an intermediate scope that involves much smaller groups compared to the ones at the macro level such as neighborhoods and institutions. At the micro level, the problem is viewed via a smaller scope which targets small groups such as a family or even an individual. However, it is important to note that these three levels of defining the underlying social problem which is racism and inequality tend to overlap and influence one another (Johnson, Rush, & Feagin, 2000).
At the macro level the social worker deals with a large system and in order to help the clients with their problems, the person may take drastic measures such as lobbying for changes in existing laws advocating for major changes in social policies, or countrywide activist activities (Jeanquart & Sekaran, 2006). At this level, social work comes out clearly as a distinct profession from the others that deal with racism and oppression. This is because it takes a very wide scope and incorporates features of mezzo and macro social work categories besides working on a general social work research. This is an important aspect of solving the problem because successfully addressing this part would bring the help of the affected people in ultimately solving the problem (Constantine, Hage, Kindaichi, & Bryant, 2007).
Social work at the mezzo level addresses the problem via smaller increments or efforts. Examples of groups and institutions that work at the mezzo level are the small and medium sized learning institutions, neighborhoods, and local organizations. Social work professionals should initiate community organizing, direct their help towards cultural and institutional change, and enhance management of social work organizations in order to optimize their efforts (Ramirez, Balcazar, & Freitas, 2014). The professionals who give the mezzo help must work in hand with macro and micro social workers so that they may understand the exact needs of the end client once the institutional change takes effect (Constantine, Hage, Kindaichi, & Bryant, 2007).
Racism at the micro level is the most common of the three categories. At this level, the social worker must engage with families and individuals to solve racism issues. The social worker should help the client find a good environment with proper housing and social services. The clients should receive counseling and administration of medical care. Building solidarity may also play a crucial role in organizing for this massive social change against racism and social inequality (Dobbie & Schuster, 2008). Some individuals may suffer from mental illnesses and substance abuse and so these aspects must also be considered when planning for an appropriate intervention. Micro level social works have been found to be common among individuals working as military personnel because of numerous reported cases of their involvement (i.e. they were the victim) in cases of racism and social inequality (Constantine, Hage, Kindaichi, & Bryant, 2007). These types of social work help them cope with the heavy challenges of military life. Social workers should practice their skills in addressing these two issues at the mezzo and macro levels simultaneously in order to solve the issue comprehensively, and borrow tips from micro social workers so that they can have a clearer idea of the real and ultimate victims of racism (Johnson, Rush, & Feagin, 2000).
The issue of racism has existed for many decades if not centuries, and people have been condemning it yet there has not been a significant change. This indeed shows an irony. Its expression and form have become more subtle. This is because racial discrimination has been described as the product of not only maliciousness but also of unconscious acts and irrational reactions unsupported by reason (Renzettin, 2007).The people that used to dominate prisons during the colonial period continue to dominate them even today. One of the greatest obstacles to the process of ultimately ending racism is denial. People always talk about the need for equality, but their actions always demonstrate the segregation of people based on their race and social status, and even on physical attractiveness (Cunningham, Roberts, Barbee, Druen, & Wu, 1995) (Sitomer, 2007).
Social work professionals should embrace a code of ethics that has incorporates principles that promoting social justice and focus on discrimination, poverty, and unemployment (Sullivan, 2005). The activities of social work professionals should foster sensitivity to oppression and diversity in terms of culture and ethnicity (Cucchiara & Childs, 2013). Using such a code of conduct, they will be able to secure resources, services, and access to information that would eventually help them solve the underlying problems and even its root cause. The result will be equality both in terms of opportunity and participation in decision-making processes. In education and practice, social workers should be able to address problems on racial discrimination, oppression, violation of human rights, and other social injustices cohesively (Sitomer, Society Needs Clear, Positive Signals on Racism, 2007). Such a strategy would ensure that racism is addressed maximally at the three levels, and enhance a culture of competence in research and provision of interventions in the areas of cost-benefit analysis, social justice, and well-being (Taylor, 2008). Otherwise, the problem will continue to exist and even spread as a silent code that locks many individuals out of their rights and opportunities.
Professionals should emphasize to individuals, institutions, and the nation, the importance of adhering to the principles of cultural competence. Such an action would ensure that systems and individuals would be able to respond effectively and respectfully to people despite variations in ethnic backgrounds, races, religions, classes, cultures, and other stratifications in a manner that upholds and affirms worth of communities, families, and individuals (Taylor, 2008). It would also help to make people realize the divergence and convergence of values of societies and take care of the unvalued and oppressed populations. The result would be the creation of an inclusive society that allows equal access to education, housing, health, and employment. They should also call for dramatic changes in education and politics, and initiate an overhaul of social worker’s stereotypes and biases (Sitomer, Sustainability and Social Justice, 2007).
Since combating racism is a huge task, social workers should take part in workshops that provide anti-racism trainings and in programs that aim to explore how racial discrimination shapes institution so that they may take the knowledge to their workmates, organizations, and communities (Cooper & Mack, 2012). For instance, there is a workshop in America that is known as Undoing Racism Workshop. The workshop takes place regularly to unearth the sources of racism and evaluate how it can be undone. It emphasizes reversing internalized oppression, creation of networks, studying history, and learning the role of institutions in propagating racism (Cooper & Mack, 2012). Such workshops give the professionals an opportunity to gain a common understanding and language which promotes the process of solving this big problem together.
Conclusions and Recommendations
In conclusion, eradicating racism is a huge task that can be viewed and addressed in three levels or scopes. Each of the three scopes takes care of a particular group in society but they nonetheless relate to each other because racism and social inequality after all is a comprehensive societal problem which means that it is not just experienced by one social group but rather by people within the entire system. Improving college and university education would make students comfortable to talk about their problems. Proper higher education opportunities should give the graduates clarity and equip them with the necessary skills to research and tackle even the most complicated of issues. They then would be able to come up with programs that are culturally sensitive and responsive. Currently, many social work colleges and universities are including racism as a major part of their curriculum, and revising the curriculums to incorporate social stratifications in terms of gender, age, immigration status, ethnicity, and family structure.
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