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A Framework for Addressing Racial Disparities The multicultural approach is the hallmark of social work education.
It pushes individuals to develop awareness of their own perspective and to acknowledge the legitimacy of other cultural views. Yet, it does not provide an opportunity for students to address the striking persistence of disparities between different cultures in the United States. Scholars contend that failure to directly and seriously address the striking inequality in a society leads to a divided society with self destructive tendencies. In this paper I postulate that fully embracing critical race theory (CRT) in social work education can help to overcome the shortcomings of the current multicultural approach in addressing disparity in the United States. Keywords: critical race theory, multicultural, social work, education Many years after the Civil Rights Movement, racial inequality remains woven into the fabric of American society. For example, Blacks lag behind Whites in education (Ryan Siebens, 2012), wealth (Kochhar, Fry, 2011), income (Hegewisch, Williams, Henderson, 2011), and accessing government contracts (Bangs, Murrell, Constance Huggins, 2007). These disparities can have severe implications for racial minorities. For example, they are an important source of violent crime (Harer Steffensmeier, 1992), and can lead to diminished opportunities in education, health, and other areas of well being (Mishel, Bernstein, Shierholz, 2009). Children from wealthier families have more access to quality education relative to those from poorer families. Further, if quality health care is more accessible to the haves than to the have nots, then individuals from disadvantaged groups will continue to experience a vicious cycle of disadvantage (Deaton, 2003). The persistence of these racial gaps is an area of concern to social workers. Social work is based on a tradition of helping individuals, especially those from disadvantaged populations, to improve their well being (National Association of Social Workers (NASW), 2008). For example, the profession early and seminal association with settlement houses centered around recognizing and addressing unmet needs created by economic, demographic, and policy changes (Koerin, 2003). The deep disparities that exist mean that many individuals from oppressed populations have poor quality of life fueled by unmet needs. Therefore, in keeping with this tradition of working with and for people in need, the profession should be keenly concerned about the disparities that exist. Further, social work is based on the ethical principle of challenging social injustice both with and on behalf of oppressed populations. The persistent racial gaps are suggestive of the cumulative effect of race based social stratification and the resulting institutional arrangements that disadvantage Blacks (Ortiz Jani, 2010) and hence a matter of social injustice. Despite social work concern for racial inequality, this topic is not always addressed within the multicultural approach used in social work pedagogy. The multicultural approach evolved in the aftermath of the civil rights movement and redresses the marginalization of non dominant groups (Schoorman Bogotch, 2010). Its main areas of focus are content integration, prejudice reduction, and equity pedagogy. In this vein, the multicultural approach has great value in social work education, but Schoorman and Bogotch (2010) suggest that it may overemphasize group differences instead of the underlying processes that create these differences. As a result, this could render the mission of pursuing social justice elusive. Fundamental to this goal of promoting social justice is having an awareness of the existence of racial inequality and the role of race in shaping disparate outcomes for individuals. In this vein, the multicultural approach is inadequate. In this article, I suggest that the integration of critical race theory (CRT) into social work education is needed to fill the gap left by the multicultural approach in addressing racial inequality, thereby promoting social justice. First, I provide a summary of the multicultural approach and highlight some of its weaknesses in addressing racial inequality and social justice. I then introduce CRT and emphasize its relevance to social work education, particularly in educating students about racial inequality as social and economic injustice. Multicultural Approach in Social Work Education The multicultural approach remains at the core of social work pedagogy, practice, research, and policy. It is emphasized both in the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) education policy (2008) as well as in the NASW (2008) code of ethics. Further, it is promoted in a plethora of social work textbooks and articles (see Rothman, 2008; Schiele, 2007; Spencer, Lewis, Gutierrez, 2000). The multicultural approach is one that allows us to recognize the many influences on a person life. The approach recognizes that the totality of an individual existence is underlined by social elements such as values, beliefs, thoughts, language, customs, and action (Garcia, Wright, Corey, 1991). Patini (2006) surmised that, in turn, these elements are shaped by an individual group membership. Traditionally, the multicultural approach was seen as only encompassing people of different races and ethnicities. This is partly a result of the efforts of the civil rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s. The efforts were geared towards uncovering racism as a form of oppression, and pushing for ways to mitigate it (Patini, 2006). However, over the years, the term has expanded beyond race and ethnicity to account for other forms of oppression. Today, the multicultural approach relates to broader categories such as sex, religion, socio economic status, life style, political views, geographical region, historical experience with dominant cultures, and others (Abrams Moio, 2009). This broader inclusion is consistent with the realization that individuals are members of multiple social groups, and that the intersectionality of these groups complicates the oppression they face (Collins Andersen, 2001). In fact, according to Garcia, Wright, and Corey (1991), of us can be considered multicultural because we are members of several cultural groups (p. 86). The multicultural approach in social work is guided by two general ideological underpinnings self awareness and skills development (Abrams Moio, 2009). The self awareness ideology is fueled by the notion that individuals bring their own perspectives and worldviews into the helping relationship. These perspectives, in turn, can hinder the helping process if they are different from the worldviews of the louis vuitton bracelet bow clients being served. Social work educators therefore use this premise to encourage their students to become conscious of the basis and development of their own worldviews. Once they have become aware of these worldviews, they are encouraged to set them aside during their work with clients. Yan and Wong (2005), however, argue that the process of setting aside one perspectives is unrealistic. They believe that the helping relationship is not morally neutral but instead it is mutually influential and intersubjective. Despite this, the multicultural approach pushes for continual efforts to develop self awareness as one value perspective is constantly in flux (Abrams Moio, 2009). In addition to its focus on self awareness, the multicultural approach emphasizes building knowledge about different cultures and developing the skills and techniques to effectively work with these groups. Rothman (2008) suggests that although the skills and techniques will be applied within the frames of a standard helping relationship, they are modified to the specific needs, and worldviews of the client. In view of these ideological bases, the multicultural approach offers pedagogical utility in this current era of increasing diversity. One of the areas of contribution is in helping students develop a concern for different cultures. The multicultural approach stresses the need to take into account the unique perspectives of individuals from varying social groups. By so doing, it enables students to go beyond a myopic view of the world and to be more considerate of the differences that exist across cultures. Further, it presents an opportunity for them to become more aware of their own personal value orientations (Abrams Moio, 2009). The multicultural approach is also useful in helping to mitigate positioning. According to Tochon and Karaman (2009) colonial positioning refers to situations in which individuals of dominant cultures impose their perspectives on others as the single best way of viewing reality. Such a sense of superiority can lead to the creation of policies that are both invasive and based on flawed assumptions. Further, Korten (2006) contends that colonial positioning is not only amoral, but it is also indicative of an individual having a low level of social awareness. He posits that in extreme cases, this lack of social awareness can be considered psychopathic. For example, in 2010, 27.4% of Black people and 26.6% of Hispanic people were poor compared to 9.9% of non Hispanic White individuals (Trisi, Sherman, Broaddus, 2011). There is also a staggering gap in median income. In 2010, Black families had a median income of 32,068, compared to $54,620 for White and $64,308 for Asian families (DeNavas Walt, Proctor, Smith, 2011). In education, White people (30%) are more likely than Black (19%) and Hispanic (13%) people to graduate from college (Ryan Siebens, 2012). Additionally, there are staggeringly high incarceration rates for minorities compared to White individuals. The incarceration rate for Black men is six times higher than that for White men (West, 2010). Disparities persist in many other areas including wealth (Kochhar, Fry, 2011) among others. These racial disparities raise concerns about the persistence of racist practices, institutional racism, and ultimately social injustice. Yet, issues of racial disparities are often not addressed within the frames of a multicultural education. institutional racism). According to Potocky (1997) the approach essentially targets change at the individual and agency level. Although challenging students to be aware of their personal values and worldviews is important in promoting a united society, this focus overlooks the role of structure in creating racial disparities in society. Furthermore, it ultimately overemphasizes individual deficits, particularly the culture of poverty, as reasons for racial disparity. The culture of poverty posits that the poorer class, which is made up largely of Black individuals in the United States, manifests certain values and behavior which are strikingly different from those of (White) middle class, and the dominant culture (Waxman, 1983). Such a myopic focus on individual barriers to equity serves to limit the policy and program intervention that could be crafted to bridge racial gap in outcomes. By continuing to view things this myopically, social work practice ignores structural barriers and adopt measures that help people to adjust better to injustice. Second, the multicultural approach also does not provide an avenue for addressing racial disparity because of its failure to prepare students to handle discussion on racism in the classroom. Scholars (Abrams Gibson, 2007; Razack Jeffery, 2002) have noted that students are often resistant to materials on racism, particularly, when it centers on White privilege. For example, students may deny occupying a privileged position at the expense of other social groups. This denial may even take the form of anger, guilt, and resentment (Julia, 2000). Helms (1995) contends that the multicultural model may be unable to usher students from these defensive responses to a place where they can critique their own privilege. As a result, the multicultural approach may not be able to help agents of oppressions counter any false sense of superiority. This is problematic as oppressors are often trained not to see advantages they have gained at the expense of the oppressed (McIntosh, 1989). Accordingly, they do not see the need to respond to current color coded differences in society. In a similar vein, the multicultural approach may not fully enable the oppressed to clearly articulate the meaning of race and racism in shaping their experiences. According to Freire (2000), this is critical given that the oppressed are often taught not to see the structural etiology of their oppression. Although the multicultural approach helps the racially oppressed to recognize personal histories and perspective reflected in the makeup of society (Banks, 1989), it falls short of explaining their current reality of lagging behind dominant groups. Further, as Pon (2009) suggests, the cultural competency emphasis of multicultural education promotes a new form of racism by non White people and by defining culture without consideration of power. Neglecting the issue of racial disparities in social work education has serious implications. Tochon and Karaman (2009) suggest that failure to directly and seriously address the striking inequality in a society leads to a divided society with self destructive tendencies. Given this, the fact that multicultural education may not always challenge social injustice, is cause for alarm. For example, Schoorman and Bogotch (2010), relying on focus group interviews, found that most of the individuals identified multicultural education with demographic diversity and not social justice. Accordingly, it is important to examine closely the current multicultural approach to identify how it fails to address adequately the disparities in American society. These critiques highlight the limitations of the multicultural approach in addressing racial disparities and the role of race and institutional racism in these disparities. Additionally, it signals the need to incorporate approaches that fill this very crucial gap. The persistent color coded disparities in this era signal the need to go beyond multicultural education to address the role of race in maintaining the status quo. The use of CRT offers such an opportunity. If educators are concerned about promoting social justice through multicultural education then CRT should play an increasing role in this endeavor. An Overview of Critical Race Theory CRT emerged in the 1970s as a result of the work of Derrick Bell (African American) and Alan Freeman (Caucasian). These scholars sought to examine the ways in which race, racism, and power continued to flourish even in the years after the Civil Rights Movement (Delgado Stefancic, 2001). They were particularly concerned about the slow pace of racial transformation in the American society and about the reversal of many of the gains of the Civil Rights Movement. Bell and his colleagues were also critical of the positivist and liberal legal discourse around the Civil Rights Movement. Critical legal scholars had been examining legal doctrines to uncover their internal and external inconsistencies as well as to expose the ways that ideology has helped to create, support, and legitimate America present class structure (Crenshaw, 1988, p. 1350). Bell, however, argued that the Critical Legal Studies (CLS) critique of the law had little utility in engineering social transformation because it excluded race and racism from the analysis. He further purported that the voices of those who experienced oppression from institutional racism were not heard (as cited in Delgado Stefancic, 2001). Although CRT grew out of law and legal studies, in recent times the theory has become attractive to scholars from a wide range of disciplines including economics, psychology, political science, education, and sociology. Regardless of the field, CRT scholars (Bell, 1980; Delgado Stefancic, 2001) postulate that the claims of objectivity and neutrality of the law ignore the structural inequalities in society. In this vein, these claims result in normalizing and perpetuating racism. CRT is therefore rooted in the perspective that racism is enduring and tightly woven into the fabric of the society. It is guided by six key tenets which shape its approach to research and pedagogy. Racism is Endemic. First, CRT asserts that racism is not an abnormal experience, but an everyday occurrence for people of color. It is reproduced in our structures, customs, and experiences. Accordingly, race should be seen as a central rather than a marginal force that defines and explains human experiences (Sol Bernai, 2001). Given this endemic nature, CRT suggests that the functions and effects of racism are often invisible to people with racial privileges. Social Construction. The second tenet of CRT is that race is a social construct. It acknowledges that race is a system that was designed to characterize people based on observable physical attributes. These attributes, it asserts, have no correspondence to genetic biological reality. CRT further acknowledges that this social construction of race is a formidable force in shaping outcomes for racial louis vuitton purses eva minorities (Haney Lopez, 2000). Haney Lopez (2000) surmised that the dominant groups typically determines race, using means such as the law and empirically based knowledge to protect their interests. Differential Racialization. Third, CRT suggests that dominant groups in society can manipulate and recreate racial groups in different louis vuitton purses imitation ways at different times to determine who is or of the dominant group. For example, at one point in our history the Irish were an oppressed, unwelcomed social group, but over time, they have become part of a White racial class (Ignatiev, 1995). Similarly, Asians were once demonized in popular discourse when their economic success seemed to threaten the national economy. Today, they are heralded as the minority (Ortiz Jani, 2010). According to CRT, those groups that are considered have access to fewer social resources and opportunities. A fourth tenet of CRT is that of interest convergence and materialist determinism. This suggests that racism confers psychic and material benefits to the majority race. Whites) (Bell, 1980). According to Stec (2007), that directly help blacks must implicate white interests because white economic (and other) interests and black oppression are inextricably interwoven and depend on each other for their survival (p. 2). This means that those in the dominant culture who enact social, political, and economic change on behalf of racial minorities would only support changes if their own louis vuitton neverfull epi replica self interest is better served. For example, Bell (1980) argues that the landmark decision of Brown v Board of Education was more advantageous for White interests than Black interests. He suggested that the decision provided credibility to America struggle with Communist nations to win the support of third world people. Also, Whites realized that the South could transition from a rural, plantation society to a Sunbelt one, while maintaining its potential and profit only by ending the struggle to remain divided by segregation. segregation was viewed as a barrier to further industrialization in the South (Bell, 1980, p. 525). Advancing the Voice of the Marginalized. Fifth, CRT asserts that racial minorities are routinely excluded from the historical accounts given by dominant groups. It suggests that this is an attempt by the dominant group to justify and legitimize its power.
CRT therefore calls for the voices of the oppressed to be reflected in any recount of history. It asserts that minorities are best able to articulate the meaning of race and racism because they have experienced oppression and that such experience is insightful and legitimate. Therefore, new approaches must be developed to capture and incorporate their experiences as members of marginalized groups living in existing institutional arrangem.
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