“The AASWSW document “Introduction and Context for Grand Challenges for Social Work” states “In social work, people are seen in context.” It further states “Regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, age, or sexual orientation, all peoples are seen as imbued [with] the capacity to achieve.”
Both of these aspirations are laudable and have the potential of enhancing our work, social change, and positive outcomes for vulnerable individuals and communities.
And both are undermined by the development and continuation of institutional policies and practices – which are race-neutral on the surface – that negatively impact the success of social worker interventions and that endangers the trust that society – and especially marginalized individuals of color in need of our partnership and support – have in the social work system and those who implement its strategies and practices.
Social work, in its essence, is about changing human behavior and creating and / or re-shaping behavioral dynamics away from individual / group / societal dysfunctions and toward health. In order to more effectively implement this work on a grand scale, we must equip social workers to first recognize, then acknowledge, and finally address, the impacts of systems, policies, and practices that are structurally, institutionally – and often times, unconsciously – racially biased against people of color (and in some instances specifically anti-Black). Our Grand Challenge of creating a mandatory curriculum for recognizing and removing institutional, racialized policies and practices within the social work system does that and would apply whether the focus of social workers was administrative, policy, research, or clinical practice (child, family, or school; community; gerontological; palliative and hospice; psychiatric; medical and health; mental health and substance abuse, or other).
Developing and instituting a nationwide mandatory curriculum would provide a concrete and measurable way for applying a racial equity lens to the field.
Choosing the Grand Challenge of “Creating Healthy Roots: Institutionalizing a Curriculum for Recognizing & Removing Institutional, Racialized Policies & Practices Within Social Work Systems Given Its Negative Impact on People of Color ” will give social workers the greatest tool needed to serve society, the profession, and clients through developing – working cross-sector with racial equity experts — the ability to see through, around, and beyond systems, policies, and practices that are inherently racially biased while seeming “color-blind” by becoming more intentional in our awareness of them and in the strategies we create to eliminate them.