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S0W 3222 Working Across Difference

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1 S0W 3222 Working Across Difference
Lecture Three Working Across ‘Race’ and Racism

2 Challenging Oppressive Beliefs
When thinking and talking about difference, human beings are prone to making inappropriate assumptions, to holding negative beliefs and to using stereotypes. A common notion within anti - oppressive discourse is that of challenging oppressive beliefs. What does it mean to challenge oppressive beliefs? The dictionary may not be of much help, where “to challenge” is to accuse, to charge, to reproach, to object or to call to account. Is challenging more of a process, that starts with “drawing to the attention of?” Should a person who is talking about a group in an oppressive way be challenged? If so, how should such challenging be done?

3 Effective Challenging
Thompson, 1998 p.217 states that, “…crude, unskilled or poorly thought-through forms of challenge can do more harm than good by creating unnecessary tensions and defensiveness. If challenging is to be an effective part of an emancipatory strategy, it needs to be elegant challenging. (Thompson, 1998 p.217)

4 Sensitive Challenging
be tactful and constructive, rather than a personal attack; avoid ‘cornering’ people and allow them to save face; pay attention to the appropriate time and place – a carefully chosen moment can be much more influential than an immediate challenge; Don’t be punitive – the aim is to promote equality and not to create unnecessary tensions and hostilities; acknowledge explicitly or implicitly the vulnerability of the challenger to similar bad practice; be undertaken in a genuine spirit of compassion and a commitment to social justice, rather than in one of taking the moral high ground.” (Thompson, 1998 p.217)

5 Use of the term ‘race’ Different people use the term ‘race’ in different ways. We will be using the term ‘race’ in a restricted way to denote an idea constructed within racist theory that there are different races of human being. Racism centres on the mistaken belief that the human race can be divided into distinct biological groups called races, which vary in ability and aptitude. An anti-essentialist, anti-racist position is that there is only one race, the human race, and that any biological differences between groups of human beings are surface features - not deep features.

6 Definition of Racism The definition of racism is a problematic and contested area. One definition is: A set of beliefs and practices that identifies a group of people on the basis of some physical or supposed biological feature or attribute; And……. The attribution to the group so identified of negatively evaluated characteristics

7 Racist Beliefs the human race can be divided into a number of distinct biological groups (‘races’), there are ‘deep’ as opposed to ‘surface’ differences between these different ‘races’, the different ‘races’ can be compared with each other in terms of superiority and inferiority, all members of a "racial group" can be blanketed together without distinction between different ethnic groups, people with non-white colour of skin are regarded as inferior to people with white colour of skin.

8 The Endurance of the Concept of ‘Race’
Despite being subject to much criticism and being exposed as lacking any substance the use of the term race endures. "No matter how often the concept is exposed as vacuous, 'race' still acts as an apparently ineradicable marker of social difference" (Brah, 1992 p126) Brah, A. (1992) 'Difference, Diversity and Differentiation' in Donald J. and Rattani A. (eds) 'Race', Culture and Difference (London : Sage/Open University)

9 “Black’ as a Positive Political Identity
“The African-Caribbean and South Asian people who migrated to Britain in the port-war period found themselves occupying a broadly similar structural position within British society - as workers performing predominantly unskilled or semi-skilled jobs on the lowest rungs of the economy. Their 'non-whiteness' was a common referent within the racism confronting them. ..." "The term 'black' was adopted by the emerging coalitions amongst African-Caribbean and South Asian organisations and activists in the late 1960s and 1970s. They were influenced by the way the Black Power movement in the USA, which had turned the concept of Black on its head, divested it of its pejorative connotations in radicalised discourses, and transformed it into a confident expression of an assertive group identity. ..." (Brah, 1992 p127)

10 The Political Use of “Black” in the British Context’
One criticism is that the political use of the term "Black” specifically refers to the historical experiences of black Americans of sub-Saharan African descent. When used in relation to South Asians the concept is emptied of its cultural meaning. Many British South Asians do not define themselves as black, and many British African-Caribbeans do not recognise them as such. Brah’s counter arguments are: Its political meaning does not deny the cultural differences between African, Caribbean and South Asian people. Brah (1992 p129) found that South Asians will frequently describe themselves as 'kale' (black) when discussing issues of racism. The whole social being of South Asian and African-Caribbean peoples is not constituted only by their experience of racism: indeed they have many other identifications based on, for example, religion, language and political affiliation. Black activism had aimed to generate solidarity; it had not necessarily assumed that all members of the diverse black communities inevitably identify with the concept." (Brah, 1992 p129)

11 Social construction of ‘White‘ an invisible category (1)
Dyer states that: “as long as race is something only applied to non-white people, as long as white people are not racially seen and named, they/we function as a human norm. Other people are ‘raced’, we are just people. There is no more powerful position than that of being just human.” (Dyer, 1997 p. 1) Bonnett writes: "how obvious is it that this book has been written be a white person? I have left it until now to admit. Many readers will, no doubt, 'have worked it out' some time ago. But how could that have been done? And what exactly am I confessing to? Whiteness is, after all, a peculiar identity. It appears to be both everywhere and nowhere. Largely undiscussed, absent. As Judith Levine (1994, p. 11) notes, whiteness is 'the standard against which the Other is inferior, like the moon from a moving car - it remains ever the same, untouchable, yet right outside the window'." (Bonnett, 2000: 138)

12 Social construction of white as an ‘invisible’ category (2)
"The focus of the new area of race scholarship known as white studies' is upon the racialisation process that produces whiteness. The political problematic of writers and activists within this, mainly North American group, is how this process may be simultaneously identified and challenged." (Bonnett, 2000: 139) "The editors of Race Traitor explain their project in the following terms: 'Two points define the position of Race Traitor, first that the "white race" in not a natural but historical category; second, that what was historically constructed can be undone' (Allen, 1994, p. 108)" (Bonnett, 2000: 140)

13 The Reconstruction of ‘Race’ Categories
The reconstruction of what is to be 'black’ The reconstruction of 'black' into a positive political identity. The reconstruction of what is to be 'white’ “White” (European descent) people becoming aware of the construction of ‘whiteness’ as a superior category in relation to non-white peoples of the world and its deconstruction and intermediate reconstruction into being equal but different, until white-on-black racism is eradicated.

14 Issues when white social workers work with black clients
Will black clients think all white social workers are racist no matter how non-racist and anti-racist they are? Will racism creep in despite my best efforts? In the context of racism can white and black people work together on an equal basis and effectively communicate with each other? How can I avoid coming over as patronising when endeavouring to understand the situation from a black perspective?

15 Anti racism for ‘white’ practitioners
confront your internalised racism that you will have learnt by virtue of being brought up within a culture imbued with racism, monitor your own practice and practice knowledge in relation to the potential for racism to either creep in or be endemic, work within your agencies to counteract any racism that has been institutionalised within policies, procedures and established ways of doing things, recognise and be sensitive to black people having a different ethnicity to white people and to other black people of a different ethnicity, recognise and counteract the dominance of white culture and white ways of looking at things and value other perspectives including black perspectives, be sensitive to and take into account the fact that black people can experience racism on a day to day basis and be proactive in endeavouring to counteract this racism. (O’Sullivan, 1999 p. 120)

16 Issues for Black Social Workers Working with White Clients
If subjected to racism by white clients, will I be supported by agency management and colleagues? Will I feel disempowered by covert racism from colleagues and managers? Will I be subjected to racial abuse from white clients? Will I be discriminated against by my agency? Will white clients request a white social worker?

17 Anti Racism for Black Practitioners
critically reflect on your own beliefs about white people, including stereotypes of white people; learn ways to respond to white clients who make racist comments that includes gaining the support of colleagues and agency management; work with black and white colleagues to counteract any racism that has been institutionalised within agency policies, procedures and established ways of doing things; recognise and be sensitive to ethnicity and ways of life of all clients whether black or white; recognise the dominance of white culture and “white ways” of looking at things and value other perspectives including black perspectives.

18 Working Across ‘Race’ I have argued that:
Ideas of there being different ‘races’ of human being has been constructed within racism. Racism constructs different skin colours as signifying membership of distinct racial groups with particular characteristics. Social workers may reject the ideas of racism but they still work within a society in which overt and covert racism still exists. When white and black people have contact with each other, as clients and social workers, it is in the context of a society in which racism exists. It is for this reason that social workers, whatever their colour of skin, need to take into account the potential impact that racism can have on their attempts to communicate with clients of a different skin colour.


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