Anti-Oppressive Social Work Practice

Submit a 2- to 3-page APA formatted paper in which you:

Explain the potential impact of white privilege on clients from both dominant and minority groups (consider impact of both positive and negative stereotypes).

Explain how intersecting identities might impact an individual’s experience (for example, race/ethnicity and gender, race/ethnicity and class, race/ethnicity and ability, race/ethnicity and sexual orientation, race/ethnicity and class).

Providing specific examples, explain how a social worker might utilize cultural strengths when working with clients.

Describe 2-3 social work skills and how a social worker might use them to engage in anti-oppressive work.

Support ideas in paper with at least 2-3 course resources (please reference specific chapters, not the entire textbook) and at least one additional peer-reviewed article from the Walden library (not assigned in this course) to support your ideas.

Paying Attention to White Culture and

Privilege: A Missing Link to Advancing

Racial Equity

 

Gita Gulati-Partee, M.B.A., OpenSource Leadership Strategies, and Maggie Potapchuk, M.Ed., MP Associates

 

 

(PEER REVIEWED)

 

Introduction

 

Against the backdrop of persistent racial inequi- ties in every region of the country and across nearly every aspect of U.S. life, few foundations can escape reflecting on race and how it relates to their grantmaking priorities, internal operations, and community leadership. While many founda- tions have chosen to focus on diversity and inclu- sion, a small but growing number have engaged more deeply with the cumulative impact and current reality of structural racism1 – the ways that history, culture, public policy, institutional practices, and personal beliefs interact to maintain a racial hierarchy.

 

These foundations have developed and invested in compelling strategies to address the root causes of systemic racism. Some are asking their grantees to show the impact of their efforts to close racial gaps and reflect the concerns of those most af- fected and marginalized. Others have reviewed their grantmaking portfolio to examine the impact of their investments in communities of color, while some have increased their grants for community organizing, advocacy, or other policy change interventions to address racial inequities. And some have turned the lens inward to examine barriers that may exist to staff and board mem- bers of color, taken on recruitment and retention strategies, and assessed vendors and other policies to overcome access and inclusion issues.

 

All of these efforts are important and necessary. But we believe they will prove insufficient to ad- dressing structural racism or fulfilling the promise of racial justice because they ignore or obscure the other half of the problem.

 

The racial disparities driven and maintained by public- and private-sector policies that many foundations seek to address not only disadvantage communities of color but also over- advantage whites. But processes aimed at racial equity change can overlook the privileged side of inequity. For foundations to work toward racial equity through their philanthropic investments and leadership, they must shine a light on white privilege and white culture both internally and externally. This means engaging in dialogue, reflection, and action on racial equity, not only to target their grantmaking and leadership activities to effect equity in the fields they fund, but also to examine and change their staffing, operations, and organizational culture to more closely align with their equity goals and values.

 

 

For more than a decade individually, and overthe past five years in partnership, the authors – a woman of color and a white woman – have con- sulted on and supported the racial equity efforts of foundations and other social change organiza- tions. Through our experience as racial equity practitioners, we have encountered at least three challenges to engaging foundations in exploring white privilege and white culture in their internal and external work toward racial equity:

 

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  1. Foundation structures often embody domi- nant (white) culture and white privilege. By definition, this is normalized and difficult to see, prompting resistance and defensiveness about dissecting core ways of doing business.

 

  1. Accustomed to identifying social inequities that focus on the community, it can be chal-3. This change process itself can privilege white people by centralizing and accommodating their learning curve, which is sometimes steep and often lags behind people of color – who might appreciate the change process while also at times feeling marginalized within it due to the priority given to supporting the needs of whites.

 

  1. This change process itself can privilege white people by centralizing and accommodating their learning curve, which is sometimes steep and often lags behind people of color – who might appreciate the change process while also at times feeling marginalized within it due to the priority given to supporting the needs of whites.

 

This article offers our reflections on these chal- lenges, as well as the following tools for tackling them:

  • Create a container with intentional group norms.
  • Explore accumulated racial advantages and disadvantages.
  • Reflect on white culture. • Caucus by racial identity.

To be sure, as institutions dedicated to advancing the well-being of human kind and as part of a field whose existence is intertwined with the civil rights movement, many foundations steadfastly commit to racial equity as a value and goal. Leadership institutions, those that seek to address root causes and effect systemic change and leave a last- ing legacy of justice, understand that this requires direct reflection on and deconstruction of white privilege and culture.

 

Throughout this article we will be sharing our observations of patterns of behavior by whites and people of color as we have experienced them in our racial equity capacity building work. We

do not aim to oversimplify the human experience. While there is no monolithic response or behavior of all white people or all people of color, and people will demonstrate their own unique behaviors at any given moment, we have observed some patterns that reflect both the existence of and responses to white culture and privilege. We believe these patterns can be instructive, and weoffer them in the spirit of shared learning and reflection with colleagues who are doing this challenging and important work.

 

 

Challenge No. 1: White Culture Operates All Around Us, Yet Remains Invisible

By “white culture,” we mean the dominant, unquestioned standards of behavior and ways

of functioning embodied by the vast majority of institutions in the United States. Because it is so normalized it can be hard to see, which only adds to its powerful hold. In many ways, it is indistinguishable from what we might call U.S. culture or norms – a focus on individuals over groups, for example, or an emphasis on the written word as a form of professional communication. Butit operates in even more subtle ways, by actually defining what “normal” is – and likewise, what “professional,” “effective,” or even “good” is. In turn, white culture also defines what is not good, “at risk,” or “unsustainable.” White culture values some ways – ways that are more familiar and come more naturally to those from a white, western tradition – of thinking, behaving, deciding, and knowing, while devaluing or rendering invisible other ways. And it does this without ever having to explicitly say so.

 

Most foundations, like other institutions, did not have a team meeting to debate and decide to adopt “white culture” as the mode of operating. And yet, there it is – manifesting in every policy and practice and interaction. One can understand the resistance a group of people might have to ex- amining something they don’t consciously know exists. But when it is given a name and examples are pointed out, its presence is undeniable.

 

Thus begins the journey to see, deconstruct,

and potentially transform white culture. In our experience it also can be the place of greatest resistance, for three primary reasons. The first is that the process can feel overwhelming. Culture lurks in every nook and cranny of organizational life, which now must be intentionally examined, considered, and negotiated. Further, an honest look at white privilege might lead to hard truths about the foundation itself, as wealth accumulation and favorable tax policy are primary manifestations of over-advantaging of whites (Kivel, 2006). The time and effort required for this scope of self-examination may exceed what the foundation team envisioned or allocated when it decided to do racial equity work. And yet, not doing this examination means that any equity conversations and work will continue to take place in a larger container that is shaped by the very dynamics that the group aims to change.

 

The second reason this work can spur resistance – especially to internal racial equity work – is that predominately white team members, and perhaps even some people of color, are attached to the current ways of working and do not want change to take place so close to home. Especially a foundation that sees itself as high-performing and successful can be skeptical about the degree of change needed. But racial equity is a change process; leaving out a look at white culture and privilege limits the potential for sustainable change.

 

The third reason is that because white culture and privilege are, by definition, ubiquitous, even if thefoundation makes progress toward its own trans- formation it surely will continue to interact with funding partners, community decision-makers, and grantees who have not done their own examination. Our clients report that their newfound awareness can end up challenging their sense of integrity, as they must make strategic choices about sharing this new consciousness and assess- ing how to interact with community partners and other philanthropic organizations that do not hold the same conceptual frameworks or language about white culture and privilege.

 

 

Key Points-

Key Points

  • Racial disparities are driven and maintained by public- and private-sector policies that not only disadvantage communities of color but also over-advantage whites. Foundation processes aimed at racial equity change of- ten overlook the privileged side of inequity.
  • Through our experience as racial equity practitioners, we have encountered at least three challenges to engaging foundations in exploring white privilege and white culture in their internal and external racial equity work.
  • For foundations to work toward racial equity through their philanthropic investments and leadership, they must shine a light on white privilege and white culture both internally and externally.
  • This article discusses tools for tackling those challenges: creating a container with intentional group norms, exploring accumulated racial advantages and disadvantages, reflecting on white culture, and caucusing by racial identity.

 

 

Last Updated on February 14, 2019 by