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White Privilege and Racism in Child Welfare

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1 White Privilege and Racism in Child Welfare
University of Minnesota School of Social Work Title IV-E Curriculum Module Lisa Albrecht & Juliana Keen

2 Purpose of this module To assist child welfare workers and other social workers in understanding white privilege and racism, and how they affect the study and practice of child welfare work. The authors of this Powerpoint, Lisa Albrecht and Juliana Keen, are white social work educators. We have created this module primarily for white social workers and students since we believe it is our responsibility as white people to educate each other about the damaging effects of racism and white privilege in child welfare work and not rely on people of color to do this work alone.

3 What is racism? Racism, both personal and institutional, involves prejudice and the power to enforce it (Allies for Change, 2009). It is revealed in attitudes, behavior and systems in which white people maintain supremacy over people of color. As a way to be transparent about the language that we are using in this module. People frequently have different understandings of key terms when we discuss racism and white privilege.

4 What is white supremacy/institutional racism?
White supremacy is the institutionally enforced system of racism. (Challenging White Supremacy Workshop, 2000). Institutional racism/white supremacy is the network of institutional structures, policies, and practices that create advantages and benefits for whites, and discrimination, oppression and disadvantage for people of color. Institutional racism or white supremacy is built in to many institutions in the U.S (Martines, 1995).

5 What is white privilege?
White privilege is a historically based, institutionally perpetuated system of: preferential prejudice for and treatment of white people based solely on their skin color and/or ancestral origin from Europe exemption from racial oppression (that is, oppression based on skin color and/or ancestral origin from Africa, Asia, the Americas and the Arab world (Challenging White Supremacy Workshop, 2000).

6 Examples of white privilege
I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented I do not have to educate my children to be aware of systemic racism for their own daily physical protection I can be pretty sure that if I ask to talk to the "person in charge", I will be facing a person of my race. (McIntosh, n.d)

7 What is discrimination?
Discrimination is the differential allocation of goods, resources, and services, and the limitation of access to full participation in society based on individual membership in a particular social group (Racial Equity Tools, n.d.).

8 What is oppression? Oppression is the illegitimate institutionalized power, built and perpetuated throughout the course of history. Allows certain 'groups' to confer illegitimate dominance over other 'groups', and this dominance is maintained and perpetuated at an institutional level (Colours of Resistance, n.d.).

9 What is race? Race is a concept invented by people to use characteristics such as skin tone, ancestral heritage, and ethnic classification to artificially divide people (Wijeyesinghe et al, 1997). Research has shown that there is more difference within racial groups than across racial groups (O’Neil, 2009). Racial categories change over time. An example of how race changes over time is the U.S. Census; it is administered at ten year intervals. We can see that there are “new” races added to the race category (Staples, 2007).

10 What is whiteness? The term white was created by colonial rulers (e.g. Virginia slave holders) in the 1600s. The purpose was to differentiate European plantation owners from African slaves, indigenous peoples and poor white people. ‘White’ was used to separate the servant class on the basis of skin color and continent of origin (Adair and Powell, 1988).

11 What does the term ‘people of color’ mean?
People of color is a term used to refer to nonwhite people instead of the term "minority“ which implies inferiority and disenfranchisement. The term ‘minority’ is inaccurate since people of color are the majority of the world’s population, as well as the majority in many communities in the United States. (Colours of Resistance, 2008). The term emphasizes common experiences of racial discrimination or racism (Colours of Resistance, n.d.).

12 What is prejudice? Prejudice is a set of negative personal beliefs about a social group that leads individuals to pre-judge people from that group or the group in general regardless of individual differences among members of that group (Goodman and Shapiro, 1997 p 118). We can all be prejudiced, regardless of our power status. For example, “all blondes are dumb,” is a common prejudice often reinforced in Hollywood films. Another common prejudice on college campuses suggests that “all athletes are dumb.” This becomes a racial prejudice when the majority of athletes on campus are students of color. Can Black people be prejudiced against Latino/as? Yes; they can make incorrect assumptions about their citizenship or their language use. We do not believe that African Americans can be racist toward Latinos. Racism involves prejudice plus the power to enforce that prejudice.

13 What is ethnicity? Ethnicity is a social construct which divides people into social groups based on characteristics such as a shared sense of group membership, values, behavioral patterns, language, religion, political and economic interests, history and ancestral geographical base. Ethnicity shapes a group's culture. Everyone has an ethnicity, though many white people today do not identify themselves ethnically. As white people, whether we come from a German background, an Irish background, or a combination of many backgrounds, these ancestral ethnic identities have most likely played a very important role in shaping how we view, interpret, and interact with the world. African American ethnicity is based on the African tribal identity of the person. Obviously, most African American people do not know their ancestral roots. Latino/as often identify ethnically based on their country of origin, e.g. Puerto Rican, Colombian, Mexican, etc. This is similar for Asian Americans, e.g. Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, Hmong (Navigating a Diverse World, n.d.). For American Indians, ethnicity is tribal identity, e.g. Dakota. For Euro-Americans, ethnicity is connected to place(s) of ancestry, e.g. Russian or Scottish.

14 What is culture? Culture is passed from generation to generation through institutions, groups, interpersonal, and individual behavior. Culture provides the glue which gives institutions their legitimacy. For individuals, culture provides a sense of identity, belonging, purpose, and worldview. In the U.S. “white” culture provides the dominant basic values and worldview, assumptions, ways of thinking, styles of learning, and ways of relating to each other (Challenging White Supremacy Workshop, 2000).

15 What is affirmative action?
Affirmative action refers to policies that attempt to redress the cumulative harm of hundreds of years of oppression and policies that subjugated people of color, women, and low income whites (King, 2004). According to this definition, affirmative action does not mean quotas, rather it impacts decisions when all other characteristics are equal. For example, what happens when a white man and an African American woman apply for the same social work position? Both have excellent resumes, M.S.W. degrees, five years of experience and great recommendations. In this case, with all things equal, the African American woman would get the job. We believe this is not the perfect remedy for historical injustices. Interestingly, the group that has most benefited from affirmative action is white women. QUESTION FOR DISCUSSION: Is affirmative action fair?

16 What is an ally? An ally is someone who supports a group other than his/her own. Allies stand in solidarity with a group by acknowledging the group’s historical and/or current marginalization and commit themselves to reducing their own collusion in the oppression of that group (Albrecht and Brewer, 1988). QUESTION FOR DISCUSSION: Can you think of an example? An example, a white woman could challenge a promotion that another white person gets in her organization if a person of color was passed over with equal qualifications. She would be acting as an ally in this situation.

17 How does racism harm white people?
As a result of white supremacy/racism, white people cannot be whole human beings. If we do not treat people of color as equals, we not only deny them their own humanity, but we deny ourselves as well. We believe that part of being fully human means treating each other with dignity, and practicing a belief that all people should have the chance to reach their full potential. White people cannot reach our full potential as humans if we treat people of color as lesser human beings.

18 How does racism harm people of color?
Racism affects people of color’s health, safety, educational aspirations, access to housing, economic options and psychological well-being (Kivel, 2002). Effects of racism are associated with psychiatric symptoms, physical diseases, and the general well being of people of color (Landrine and Klonoff, 1999; Lawrence, 2001; Miller & Garran, 2007). Hundreds of thousands of deaths could have been prevented from 1991 to 2000 if African Americans had received the same care as whites (Woolf, 2004).

19 Four interconnected parts or racism/white supremacy
Standards - the standards for appropriate behavior reflect and privilege white norms and values which represent the dominant culture. Decision-making - the capacity to make and enforce decisions is disproportionately or unfairly distributed along racial lines. Systemic racism dramatically affects people of color in every aspect of their lives. Even when it is not visible, white supremacy shapes how all social institutions operate, including the child welfare system. We want to highlight four ways that white supremacy shapes institutions where we work. QUESTION FOR DISCUSSION: What are white norms and values? Can you think of an example of how standards at your place of work may reflect white norms and values? Example of standards: individualism is typically a Eurocentric value. Many other cultures place more of a value/emphasis on collectivism, and communal sharing. A white social worker may unfairly assume that a child sharing a bed with his parents is unhealthy. Example of decision making: The vast majority of legislators are white, the majority of those making decisions on a daily basis about child welfare are white, whereas those affected by these decisions are predominantly people of color. The power to make decisions does not rest in the hands of those who are most affected by the decision.

20 Four interconnected parts or racism/white supremacy
Resources – People of color do not have the same access as white people to resources like money, education, and information. Naming Reality - "reality" is defined by naming "the problem" through the perspective of White dominant culture. Who gets to name "the problem" determines the framework for solutions. Can you think of an example for each of these? Resources: For example, if a Latino family comes to the U.S. and does not speak English, it is likely that they will not be able to access the same level of information that English-speaking families can access when it comes to healthcare, social services or education. It is also likely that they may be discriminated against in the job market. Naming reality: it is possible that a middle class white social worker may assume that the “nuclear” family is the healthiest model for raising children. If that is the case, this social worker may define a household with a poor single mother of color and children as unhealthy.

21 Historical overview of race and social welfare history: Mother’s Pensions in the early 1900s
While African Americans were more deeply impoverished, the aid was given almost solely to white women with Anglo ancestry. Because benefits were administered locally, rules frequently were created explicitly to exclude women of color. One common requirement was that a mother maintained a ‘suitable home’ for her children. The term ‘suitable’, which was not clearly defined, was frequently used to exclude African American women. Having an understanding of history helps us understand our present situation. Unless otherwise cited, this history is drawn from Neubeck and Cazanave's (2001) Welfare Racism: Playing the Race Card Against America’s Poor.

22 Historical Overview (con’t):The New Deal and Aid to Dependent Children (ADC) in the 1930s
Language from the original Social Security Bill that outlawed racial discrimination was removed from the bill. The children of poor African American women were commonly barred or removed from ADC rolls under “suitable work” or “employable mother” rules The same standards were not applied to white mothers- where staying home with children was socially valued. Under the Old-Age Insurance Provisions Act, the majority of professions covered were occupations for whites. Occupations filled mostly by African Americans (domestic work, seasonal labor, farm labor) were excluded. White widows were offered an alternative to ADC that was preferable as there was no need to demonstrate economic need or morality tests, or compulsory work requirements. These white widows were considered the ‘deserving poor’, and they rapidly left ADC creating a two-tiered system.

23 Historical Overview (con’t): Post World War II
More restrictive policies were instituted, including more “suitable home” policies, which were used to racially discriminate. “Man-in-the-house” policies implemented, which denied ADC to families whose mothers were suspected of receiving financial assistance from adult males. Practiced more commonly on African American households. During the 1960s many studies showed that families of color received less in ADC money than their white counterparts. States where more people of color on the rolls were more restrictive with benefits. Practices like "redlining" began- which marked a red line on a map where primarily people of color lived to delineate the area where banks would not invest (Brown, 1999).

24 Historical Overview (con’t): LBJ and “The Great Society” in the 1960s
A stated goal of the Great Society was the elimination of racial injustice, however the racially biased programs were not changed. Many of the gains were made by people of color as a result of the War on Poverty were reversed by Nixon’s administration

25 Historical Overview (con’t): 1960s-1980s and the role of the media
The media played a key role in fostering and reinforcing racist stereotypes and negative controlling images African Americans who relied on welfare. The idea of the “Welfare Queen”-- an African-American woman who allegedly lived lavishly on Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) money was a powerful racialized controlling image perpetuated by President Reagan. Growing national sentiment of white people’s hostility toward welfare. 1980s and the rise of neoliberalism-- more emphasis was placed on the market to solve problems than on social programs. Neoliberalism is associated with exacerbating racism and inequalities by not acknowledging that social stratifications exist.

26 Historical Overview (con’t): Clinton and G.W Bush’s administrations
Emphasis on reducing those who receive welfare by instituting work requirements, ending welfare as an entitlement program, mandatory time limits, and the encouragement of two-parent households. Many believe that the philosophy behind Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act’s (PRWORA) is a fear that immigrants and people of color relying on government aid instead of working. “By the 1990s a major goal of welfare reform was the reassertion of racial, gender, and class control over impoverished African-American mothers, and through them, control over their children (Neubeck and Cazenave, p 155)” During George W. Bush’s presidency, eligibility for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) became increasingly limited. However, funding was increased for marriage initiatives (Limbert and Bullock, 2005). In 1996 AFDC was replaced by the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act’s (PRWORA) Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Program.

27 Contemporary effects of white privilege and racism on the child welfare system
Racial disparities and disproportionality in child mistreatment cases. African American children represent 15% of the general child population, but comprise approximately 42% of the children in Child Welfare Services (Hines et al, 2004). Multiple studies have shown that child maltreatment is experienced across races at approximately the same rates, however, children of color enter the system at much higher rates. Children of color are less likely to receive services, and more likely to be removed from their homes (Cross, 2008; Rivaux, 2008). Studies show that racial disparities cannot be explained by poverty and substance abuse alone (McRoy, 2004).

28 Contemporary effects (con’t)
While in many areas the majority of clients are people of color, approximately 70% of those receiving social work degrees (BA, MA, and PhD) are white (Council on Social Work Education, 2007). Approximately 25% of all Social Work faculty members were identified as people of color (CSWE, 2007). 78% of child welfare workers are white and 80% of supervisors are white, whereas the majority of their clients are African American (National Child Welfare Training Center ).

29 Contemporary effects (con’t)
How white social workers define ‘normal’ or ‘dominant’ determines what characteristics they see as strengths and weaknesses of their clients. The NCWTC found that the majority of workers have not received training in service provision to African Americans (McRoy, 2004). Most social work programs only offer one or two required courses that focus on “diverse populations,” or “cultural competencies.”

30 “The real culprit appears to be our own [white social workers] desire to do good and to protect children from perceived threats and our unwillingness to come to terms with our fears, deeply ingrained prejudices, and ignorance of those who are different from us (Cross, 2008, p 11).”

31 Thirteen Action Strategies and Recommendations (from Kivel, 2002)
1. Assume racism is everywhere, every day. 2. Notice who is the center of attention and who is the center of power. 1) Just as economics and gender influence everything we do, assume that racism is affecting your daily life. A privilege of being white is the freedom to not deal with racism all the time. We have to learn to see the effect that racism has. Notice who speaks, what is said, how things are done and described. Notice who isn’t present when racist talk occurs. Notice code words for race, and the implications of the policies, patterns, and comments that are being expressed. You already notice the skin color of everyone you meet—now notice what difference it makes. 2) Racism works by directing violence and blame toward people of color and consolidating power and privilege for white people.

32 Action Strategies and Recommendations (con’t)
3. Notice how racism is denied, minimized, and justified. 4. Understand and learn from the history of whiteness and racism. 3.Frequently white people minimize the anger of people of color. When a person of color or white ally brings up an instance of racism, other white people may say it is an overreaction or that that person is playing ‘the race card’ rather than taking the concern seriously. 4. Notice how racism has changed over time and how it has subverted or resisted challenges. Study the tactics that have worked effectively against it.

33 Action Strategies and Recommendations (con’t)
5. Understand the connections between racism, economic issues, sexism, and other forms of injustice. 6. Take a stand against injustice. 5. We all have multiple overlapping identities that shape our experience of the world. While this module focuses on racial oppression and white privilege, class privilege and oppression as well as heterosexism, ableism, sexism, and other forms of injustice work similarly in our lives. 6. Take risks. It is scary, difficult, and may bring up feelings of inadequacy, lack of self confidence, indecision, or fear of making mistakes, but ultimately it is the only healthy and moral human thing to do. Intervene in situations where racism is being passed on.

34 Action Strategies and Recommendations (con’t)
7. Be strategic. 8. Don’t confuse a battle with the war. 7. Decide what is important to challenge and what’s not. Think about strategy in particular situations. Address the source of power. 8. Behind particular incidents and interactions are larger patterns. Racism is flexible and adaptable. There will be gains and losses in the struggle for justice and equality.

35 Action Strategies and Recommendations (con’t)
9. Don’t call names or be personally abusive. 10. Support the leadership of people of color. 9. Since power is often defined as power over others—the ability to abuse or control people—it is easy to become abusive ourselves. However, we usually end up abusing people who have less power than we do because it is less dangerous. Attacking people doesn’t address the systemic nature of racism and inequality. 10. Do this consistently, but not uncritically.

36 Action Strategies and Recommendations (con’t)
11. Learn something about the history of white people who have worked for racial justice. 12. Don’t do it alone. 11. There is a long history of white people who have fought for racial justice. Their stories can inspire and sustain you. 12. You will not end racism by yourself. We can do it if we work together. Build support, establish networks, and work with already established groups.

37 Action Strategies and Recommendations (con’t)
13. Talk with children and other young people about racism. Even young children are aware of racism. Share experiences and thoughts with children about your identity and experiences. Listen to their thoughts and experiences about racism and privilege.

38 Suggested Activities Go over each of the 13 recommendations (from previous slides) with a partner. Discuss it and see if you can name an example of how you might do this in your life.

39 Suggested Activities (con’t)
With a partner or small group, discuss the following: When was the first time you thought about race in your life? What is that story? What commonalities do you notice in your stories? What differences? (Hint: When doing this activity with white people, what we have found is that in almost every story, the first time that a white person thought about race in our lives, it was connected to a person of color. For example, “the first time I thought about race was when I met a Black person for the first time…” Or, “The first time I noticed race was when my mother told me that I could not go on a date with the young Latino man who asked me out…” It is very rare to hear a white person say that the first time they thought about race was when they noticed that they were white, and that they were treated in a special way. Now ask each other, when was the first time you thought about being white? And what is that story? Again, note commonalities and differences in your stories.) After discussed in small groups, come back to the full group and share.

40 Questions for discussion
Why is the anger of people of color valid? What purposes does it serve? What choices do people of color have besides being angry? What is white guilt and fear? Why does it happen? How does it make white people feel? What purposes does it serve? What else can white people do besides feeling guilty and afraid for confronting personal and institutional racism?

41 Creating a Personal Action Plan Dismantling white privilege in your life
What needs to change? What do you need to do first? What’s your main priority? Information I plan to seek out to further my understanding of white privilege, white supremacy and other forms of institutional and systemic oppression: A topic of conversation related to white privilege and white supremacy I would like to have with my friends, colleagues or family: The different groups being negatively affected or benefiting from privilege I feel I still need to gain knowledge about: Events or activities I plan to participate in to increase my understanding of white privilege and white supremacy: An action I can take (through a leadership position, organization or project) to end any types of privileges and oppression in my ____________?

42 Creating a Personal Action Plan (con’t)
Once you identify your main priority, how do you go about making change? Identify specific objectives. Objective 1: What will you do? What do you need to do this? How will you do this? When will it be done & how will you hold yourself accountable? Objective 2: When will it be done and how will you hold yourself accountable? Objective 3:

43 REFERENCES Adair, M., Howell, S., & Adair, N. (1988). The subjective side of politics. San Francisco: Tools for Change. Albrecht, L. D., Brewer, R. M. (1990). Bridges of power: Women's multicultural alliances. Philadelphia, PA: New Society Publishers. Allies for Change. (2009). Glossary of terms. Retrieved January 30, 2009, from: Bell, L. A. (2003). Telling tales: What stories can teach us about racism. Race, Ethnicity & Education, 6(1), 3. Brown, M. K. (1999). Race, money, and the American welfare state. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Casey Family Programs. (2008). Child welfare fact sheet. Retrieved March 30, 2009, from: Challenging White Supremacy Workshop. (2000). A glossary of some terms used in CWS workshops. Retrieved December 12, 2008, from Choi, S., Tlaib, R. (n.d.). Focus on affirmative action. Retrieved April 20, 2009, from African American Policy Forum. Website: Code of Ethics of the National Association of Social Workers. (2008). Retrieved December 1, 2008, from Colours of resistance. (2008). Real definitions. Retrieved December 8, 2008, from Cross, T. L. (2008). Disproportionality in child welfare. Child Welfare, 87(2), Council on Social Work Education. (2001). Educational policy and accreditation standards. Retrieved March 30, 2009, from Council on Social Work Education, Office of Social Work Education and Research. (2007) Annual survey of social work programs. Alexandria, VA: Council on Social Work Education. Davis, K. E., Kim, E., & Romero, J. (2004). The color of social policy: Mexicans, Chinese, and Japanese in America. In Davis, K. E. and Bent-Goodley, T.B. (Ed.), The Color of social policy (pp ). Alexandria, VA: Council on Social Work Education. Goodman, D., & Shapiro, S. (1997). Sexism curriculum design. In Adams, M., Bell, L. & P. Griffin (Eds.), (pp ). New York: Routledge. Kivel, P. (2002). Uprooting racism: How white people can work for racial justice. Gabriola Island, BC: New Society Publishers. Klonoff, E. A., & Landrine, H. (1999). Cross-validation of the schedule of racist events. Journal of Black Psychology, 25(2),

44 References (con’t) Limbert, W. M., & Bullock, H. E. (2005). 'Playing the fool': US welfare policy from a critical race perspective. Feminism & Psychology, 15(3), Martinas, Sharon. (1995). Challenging white supremacy: Definitions and descriptions. San Francisco: Tides Center. McIntosh, P. (n.d.). White privilege: Unpacking the invisible knapsack. Retrieved March 29, 2009, from McRoy, R. (2004). The color of child welfare. In Davis, K. E. and Bent-Goodley, T.B. (Ed.), The Color of social policy (pp. 81). Alexandria, VA: Council on Social Work Education. Miller, J., & Garran, A. M. (2007). The Web of institutional racism. Smith College Studies in Social Work, 77(1), 33. Navigating a diverse world. (n.d.). Retrieved February 2, 2009, from Neubeck, K. J.and Cazenave N. A. (2001). Welfare racism: Playing the race card against America's poor. New York: Routledge. Nolan, T. J. (1997). Racism in the criminal justice system: Problems and suggestions. Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, 20(2), 417. O'Neil, D. (2008). Nature of ethnicity. Retrieved March 10, 2009, from Racial equity tools: Glossary for racial equity. Retrieved December 5, 2008, from Rivaux, S. L., James, J., Wittenstrom, K., Baumann, D., Sheets, J., Henry, J., et al. (2008). The Intersection of race, poverty, and risk: Understanding the decision to provide services to clients and to remove children. Child Welfare, 87(2), Staples, B. (2007, February 5, 2007). On race and the census: Struggling with categories that no longer apply. The New York Times, Weinberg, M. (2006). Pregnant with possibility: The paradoxes of "help" as anti-oppression and discipline with a young single mother. Families in Society, 87(2), Wijeyesinghe, C. L., Griffin, P., & Love, B. (2007). Racism curriculum design. In M. Adams, L. Bell & P. Griffin (Eds.), Teaching for diversity and social justice: A sourcebook. New York: New York : Routledge. Woolf, S. H., Johnson, R. E., Fryer Jr, G. E., Rust, G., & Satcher, D. (2004). The Health impact of resolving racial disparities: An analysis of US mortality data. American Journal of Public Health, 94(12),


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