The Cost of Being Black in Social Work Practicum
Keywords:critical race theory, social work practicum, social work education, antiracism
The social work profession is not exempt from fueling institutional racism, which affects the provision of social work practicum education for Black social work students. This article highlights how the historical and current social cost of being Black in the United States presents itself within social work education’s signature pedagogy. Social workers who hold bachelor’s degrees in social work (BSW) are more likely to be Black than those holding master’s degrees in social work (MSW; Salsberg et al., 2017). It takes Black students longer to earn an MSW degree though they are more likely to hold a BSW while also having work experience related to the social work profession; this is indicative of a flawed system. The implications of this are explored by highlighting social work’s historical context and the role privilege holds within a profession charged with working towards social justice. Critical Race Theory (CRT) is utilized to unearth how the current state of social work practicum upholds a culture of white supremacy through covertly racist requirements and practices. Case examples are utilized to demonstrate the challenges Black students face as social work practicum mimics oppressive practices and perpetuates disparities in the social work landscape. Additionally, this article explores oppression’s role in treating vulnerable social work students and how that treatment is reflected in the workforce, ultimately informing service delivery.
Abrams, L. S., & Moio, J. A. (2009). Critical race theory and the cultural competence dilemma in social work education. Journal of social work education, 45(2), 245-261. https://doi.org/10.5175/jswe.2009.200700109
Amir, E., Kumari, S., Olivetta, U., & Mansoor, M. (2018). Burnout and depression among medical students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) hospital system. International Journal of Psychology & Behavior Analysis, 2018. https://doi.org/10.15344/2455-3867/2018/151
Bagdasarian, T. (2020, November 17). After backlash, Stanford takes down diversity training memo that followed Trump order. The Stanford Daily. https://www.stanforddaily.com/2020/11/17/after-backlash-stanford-takes-down-diversity-training-memo-that-followed-trump-order/
Basham K. K., Donner S., & Everett J. E. (2001). ‘A controversial commitment: The anti-racism field assignment’, Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 21(1-2), 157-174. https://doi.org/10.1300/j067v21n01_10
Beadlescomb, T. L. (2019). BSW students of color: Principle factors influencing intent to persist through completion of degree. Journal of Social Work Education, 55(2), 215-223. https://doi.org/10.1080/10437797.2018.1544522
Beck, E. (2019). Naming White supremacy in the social work curriculum. Affilia, 34(3), 393-398. https://doi.org/10.1177/0886109919837918
Bell Jr, D. A. (1980). Brown v. Board of Education and the interest-convergence dilemma. Harvard Law Review, 93(3), 518-533. https://doi.org/10.2307/1340546
Bell, D. A. (1995). Who's afraid of critical race theory. University of Illinois Law Review, 1995, 893-910.
Bonilla-Silva, E. (1997). Rethinking racism: Toward a structural interpretation. American Sociological Review, 62(3), 465-480. https://doi.org/10.2307/2657316
Brown, S. L., Johnson, Z., & Miller, S. E. (2019). Racial microaggressions and Black social work students: A call to social work educators for proactive models informed by social justice. Social Work Education, 38(5), 618-630. https://doi.org/10.1080/02615479.2019.1594754
Buck, P. W., & Sowbel, L. (2016). The logistics of practicum: Implications for field education. Field Educator, 6(1), 1-11. https://www2.simmons.edu/ssw/fe/i/sowbel_fs.pdf
Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2020a). Persons at work in nonagricultural industries by age, sex, race, Hispanic or Latino ethnicity, marital status, and usual full- or part-time status [Table]. https://www.bls.gov/cps/aa2018/cpsaat22.pdf
Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2020b). Employment status of the civilian noninstitutional population by sex, age, and race [Table] https://www.bls.gov/cps/aa2018/cpsaat05.pdf
Campbell, E. (2014). Using critical race theory to measure “racial competency” among social workers. Journal of Sociology and Social Work, 2(2), 73-86. https://doi.org/10.15640/jssw.v2n2a5
Carlton-LaNey, I. (1999). African-American social work pioneers’ response to need. Social Work, 44(4), 311-321. https://doi.org/10.1093/sw/44.4.311
Clance, P. R., & Imes, S. A. (1978). The imposter phenomenon in high achieving women: Dynamics and therapeutic intervention. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research & Practice, 15(3), 241-247. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0086006
Clark, R., Anderson, N. B., Clark, V. R., & Williams, D. R. (1999). Racism as a stressor for African Americans: A biopsychosocial model. American Psychologist, 54(10), 805-816. https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066x.54.10.805
Cokley, K., McClain, S., Enciso, A., & Martinez, M. (2013). An examination of the impact of minority status stress and impostor feelings on the mental health of diverse ethnic minority college students. Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, 41(2), 82-95. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.2161-1912.2013.00029.x
Collins, P. H. (1990). Black feminist thought. Routledge.
Constance-Huggins, M., & Davis, A. (2017). Color-blind racial attitudes and their implications for achieving race-related grand challenges. Urban Social Work, 1(2), 104-116. https://doi.org/10.1891/2474-86188.8.131.52
Constance-Huggins, M. (2019). Critical race theory and social work. In S. A. Webb (Ed.), The Routledge handbook of critical social work (chap. 15, pp. 102-110). Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781351264402-15
Council on Social Work Education [CSWE]. (2008). Educational policy and accreditation standards. https://www.cswe.org/getattachment/Accreditation/Standards-and-Policies/2008-EPAS/2008EDUCATIONALPOLICYANDACCREDITATIONSTANDARDS(EPAS)-08-24-2012.pdf.aspx
CSWE. (2015). Educational policy and accreditation standards. https://www.cswe.org/getattachment/Accreditation/Standards-and-Policies/2015-EPAS/2015EPASandGlossary.pdf.aspx
CSWE. (2021). The Road to 1952: AASSW and NASSA. https://www.cswe.org/About-CSWE/CSWE-A-Brief-History/The-Road-to-1952
Crenshaw, K. (1989). Demarginalizing the intersection of race and sex: A black feminist critique of antidiscrimination doctrine, feminist theory and anti-racist politics. University of Chicago Legal Forum, 1989(1), 139-167. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780429500480-5
Crenshaw, K. W. (2010). Twenty years of critical race theory: Looking back to move forward. Connecticut Law Review, 43(5), 1253-1352. https://opencommons.uconn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1116&context=law_review
Cross, T., Bazron, B., Dennis, K., & Isaacs, M. (1989). Towards a culturally competent system of care, Volume 1. CASSP Technical Assistance Center, Center for Child Health and Mental Health Policy, Georgetown University Child Development Center. https://spu.edu/~/media/academics/school-of-education/Cultural%20Diversity/Towards%20a%20Culturally%20Competent%20System%20of%20Care%20Abridged.ashx
Daniel, J. R. (2016). Crisis at the HBCU. Composition Studies, 44(2), 158-161.
Davis, A., & Livingstone, A. (2016). Sharing the stories of racism in doctoral education: The anti-racism project. Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 36(2), 197-215. https://doi.org/10.1080/08841233.2016.1147521
Day, P. J., & Schiele, J. (2012). A new history of social welfare. Pearson Higher Ed.
DeGruy, J. (2005). Post traumatic slave syndrome: America’s legacy of enduring injury and healing. Joy DeGruy Publications Inc.
Delgado, R., & Stefancic, J. (2001). Critical race theory: An introduction. University Press.
Dinnerson, Q. (2019). Factors African American men identify as hindering completion of a graduate (MSW) degree. Urban Social Work, 3(2), 231-250. https://doi.org/10.1891/2474-86184.108.40.206
Donner S. E., & Miller J. (2006) ‘The road to becoming an anti-racism organization’. In A. Lightburn & P. Sessions (Eds.), Handbook of community-based clinical practice (pp. 122-134). Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195159226.003.0010
Dziegielewski, S. F., Roest‐Marti, S., & Turnage, B. (2004). Addressing stress with social work students: A controlled evaluation. Journal of Social Work Education, 40(1), 105-119. https://doi.org/10.1080/10437797.2004.10778482
Fairtlough, A., Bernard, C., Fletcher, J., & Ahmet, A. (2014). Black social work students’ experiences of practice learning: Understanding differential progression rates. Journal of Social Work, 14(6), 605-624. https://doi.org/10.1177/1468017313500416
Florida Department of State (2021). Required Instruction Planning and Reporting, Publ. L. No. 1003.42. http://www.flrules.org/gateway/ruleno.asp?id=6A-1.094124&Section=0
Franklin, J. D. (2019). Coping with racial battle fatigue: Differences and similarities for African American and Mexican American college students. Race Ethnicity and Education, 22(5), 589-609. https://doi.org/10.1080/13613324.2019.1579178
Gary, R. B., & Gary, L. E. (1994). The history of social work education for Black people 1900-1930. The Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare, 21(1), 67-81. https://scholarworks.wmich.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2109&context=jssw
Gasman, M., & Commodore, F. (2014). The state of research on historically Black colleges and universities. Journal for Multicultural Education, 8(2), 89-111. https://doi.org/10.1108/jme-01-2014-0004
Graham, M., & Schiele, J. H. (2010). Equality-of-oppressions and anti-discriminatory models in social work: Reflections from the USA and UK. European Journal of Social Work, 13(2), 231-244. https://doi.org/10.1080/13691451003690882
Harmon, M. (2017, October 26). MSW students cite unpaid field positions as contributor to financial instability. The Michigan Daily. https://www.michigandaily.com/academics/msw-students-cite-unpaid-field-positions-contributor-financial-instability/
Hemy, M., Boddy, J., Chee, P., & Sauvage, D. (2016). Social work students juggling field placement. Social Work Education, 35(2), 215-228. https://doi.org/10.1080/02615479.2015.1125878
Henry, F., & Tator, C. (Eds.). (2009). Racism in the Canadian University: Demanding social justice, Inclusion, and Equity. University of Toronto Press. https://doi.org/10.3138/9781442688926-009
Hollander, S. (2008). The economics of Karl Marx: Analysis and application. Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/cbo9780511510663
hooks, b. (1992). Representations of whiteness in the black imagination. In L. Grossberg, P. Treichler, & C. Nelson. (Eds.), Cultural studies (pp. 338-346). Routledge.
Hudson, D. L., Neighbors, H. W., Geronimus, A. T., & Jackson, J. S. (2016). Racial discrimination, John Henryism, and depression among African Americans. The Journal of Black Psychology, 42(3), 221-243. https://doi.org/10.1177/0095798414567757
James, S. A., Hartnett, S., & Kalsbeek, W. (1983). John Henryism and blood pressure differences among Black men. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 6, 259-278. https://doi.org/10.1007/bf01315113
Jaschik, S. (2019, February 15). When a student says it’s easier not to have a Black people in class. Inside Higher Ed. https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2019/02/15/nyu-social-work-school-admits-institutional-racism-wake-student-email
Kirp, D. L. (2019). The college dropout scandal. Oxford University Press.
Kolivoski, K. M., Weaver, A., & Constance-Huggins, M. (2014). Critical Race Theory: Opportunities for application in social work practice and policy. Families in Society, 95(4), 269-276. https://doi.org/10.1606/1044-3894.2014.95.36
Kramer, N. M., Johnson, N. L., & Johnson, D. M. (2015). Is John Henryism a resilience factor in women experiencing intimate partner violence? Anxiety, Stress, & Coping, 28, 601-616.
Ladhani, S., & Sitter, K. C. (2020). The revival of anti-racism. Critical Social Work, 21(1), 54-65. https://doi.org/10.22329/csw.v21i1.6227
Lenes, E., Swank, J. M., Hart, K. A., Machado, M. M., Darilus, S., Ardelt, M., Smith-Adcock, S., Lane, M. R., & Puig, A. (2020). Color-Conscious Multicultural Mindfulness Training in the counseling field. Journal of Counseling & Development, 98(2), 147-158. https://doi.org/10.1002/jcad.12309
Masocha, S. (2015). Reframing black social work students' experiences of teaching and learning. Social Work Education, 34(6), 636-649. https://doi.org/10.1080/02615479.2015.1046429
McCutcheon, K. P. D. (2019). Willie Gertrude Brown and the unsettling of Black settlements: Lessons for community-engaged practice and social work education. Urban Social Work, 3(1), 110-128. https://doi.org/10.1891/2474-86220.127.116.11
McDermott, R. C., Berry, A. T., Borgogna, N. C., Cheng, H.-L., Wong, Y. J., Browning, B., & Carr, N. (2020). Revisiting the paradox of hope: The role of discrimination among first-year Black college students. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 67(5), 637-644. https://doi.org/10.1037/cou0000422
Miehls, D. (2001). The interface of racial identity development with identity complexity in clinical social work student practitioners. Clinical Social Work Journal, 29(3), 229-244. https://doi.org/10.1023/a:1010455611776
Milner IV, H. R. (2010). Start where you are, but don’t stay there: Understanding diversity, opportunity gaps, and teaching in today’s classrooms. Harvard Education Press.
National Association of Social Workers [NASW]. (2006). Racism. In Social work speaks: National Association of Social Workers policy statements 2006-2009 (7th ed., pp. 305-315). NASW Press.
NASW. (2007). Institutional racism and the social work profession: A call to action. NASW. https://www.socialworkers.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=SWK1aR53FAk%3D&portalid=0
Nebeker, K. C. (1998). Critical race theory: A white graduate student's struggle with this growing area of scholarship. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 11(1), 25-41. https://doi.org/10.1080/095183998236872
Olcoń, K., Gilbert, D. J., & Pulliam, R. M. (2020). Teaching about racial and ethnic diversity in social work education: A systematic review. Journal of Social Work Education, 56(2), 215-237. https://doi.org/10.1080/10437797.2019.1656578
Ostrom, T. M. (1969). The relationship between the affective, behavioral, and cognitive components of attitude. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 5(1), 12-30. https://doi.org/10.1016/0022-1031(69)90003-1
Owens, D., Lacey, K., Rawls, G., Holbert-Quince, J. (2010). First-generation African American male college students: Implications for career counselors. The Career Development Quarterly, 58(4), 291-300. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.2161-0045.2010.tb00179.x
Paradies, Y., Ben, J., Denson, N., Elias, A., Priest, N., Pieterse, A., Gupta, A., Kelaher, M., & Gee, G. (2015). Racism as a determinant of health: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PloS One, 10(9), e0138511. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0138511
Quillian, L., Pager, D., Hexel, O., & Midtbøen, A. H. (2017). Meta-analysis of field experiments shows no change in racial discrimination in hiring over time. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 114(41), 10870-10875. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1706255114
Rajan-Rankin, S. (2014). Self-identity, embodiment and the development of emotional resilience. The British Journal of Social Work, 44(8), 2426-2442. https://doi.org/10.1093/bjsw/bct083
Raskin, M. S., Wayne, J., & Bogo, M. (2008). Revisiting field education standards. Journal of Social Work Education, 44(2), 173-188. https://doi.org/10.5175/jswe.2008.200600142
Razack, N. (2001). Diversity and difference in the field education encounter: Racial minority students in the practicum. Social Work Education, 20(2), 219-232. https://doi.org/10.1080/02615470120044310
Richards, D. A. R., & Awokoya, J. T. (2012). Understanding HBCU retention and completion. UNCF Frederick D. Patterson Research Institute. https://cdn.uncf.org/wp-content/uploads/PDFs/Understanding_HBCU_Retention_and_Completion.pdf
Rosenthal G, C., & Baum, N. (2010). Social work students’ pre-placement anxiety: An international comparison. Social Work Education, 29, 427-440. https://doi.org/10.1080/02615470903009007
Salsberg, E., Quigley, L., Mehfoud, N., Acquaviva, K. D., Wyche, K., & Silwa, S. (2017). Profile of the social work workforce. https://hsrc.himmelfarb.gwu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1015&context=sphhs_policy_workforce_facpubs
Salsberg, E., Quigley, L., Richwine, C., Sliwa, S., Acquaviva, K., & Wyche, K. (2019). From social work education to social work practice: Results of the survey of 2018 social work graduates. https://www.socialworkers.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=eLsquD1s2qI%3D&portalid=0
Salsberg, E., Quigley, L., Richwine, C., Sliwa, S., Acquaviva, K., & Wyche, K. (2020). The social work profession: Findings from three years of surveys of new social workers. https://www.socialworkers.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=1_j2EXVNspY%3D&portalid=0
Saunders, K. M., Williams, K. L., & Smith, C. L. (2016). Fewer resources more debt: Loan debt burdens students at historically Black colleges & universities. UNCF Frederick D. Patterson Research Institute. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED573646.pdf
Schiele, J. H. (2007). Implications of the equality- of- oppressions paradigm for curriculum content on people of color. Journal of Social Work Education, 43, 83-100. https://doi.org/10.5175/jswe.2007.200400478
Shepherd, S. M., Willis-Esqueda, C., Newton, D., Sivasubramaniam, D., & Paradies, Y. (2019). The challenge of cultural competence in the workplace: Perspectives of healthcare providers. BMC Health Services Research, 19(135), 1-11. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12913-019-3959-7
Shulman, L. S. (2005). Signature pedagogies in the profession. Daedalus, 134(3), 52-59. https://doi.org/10.1162/0011526054622015
Singh, S. (2019) What do we know the experiences and outcomes of anti-racist social work education? An empirical case study evidencing contested engagement and transformative learning, Social Work Education, 38(5), 631-653. https://doi.org/10.1080/02615479.2019.1592148
Smith, W. A., Allen, W. R., & Danley, L. L. (2007). “Assume the position . . . You fit the Description": Psychosocial experiences and Racial Battle Fatigue among African American male college students. American Behavioral Scientist, 51(4), 551- 578. https://doi.org/10.1177/0002764207307742
Solórzano, D., & Villalpando, 0. (1998). Critical race theory, marginality, and the experience of minority students in higher education. In C. Torres & T. Mitchell (Eds.), Emerging issues in the sociology of education: Comparative perspectives (pp. 211-224). State University of New York Press.
Sulé, V. T. (2020). Critical race theory. Encyclopedia of social work. https://doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780199975839.013.1329
Tisman, A., & Clarendon, D. (2018). Racism and social work: A model syllabus for graduate-level teaching. Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 38(2), 11-136. https://doi.org/10.1080/08841233.2018.1442384
Toldson, I. A. (2016). The funding gap between Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Traditionally White Institutions needs to be addressed* (Editor’s Commentary). The Journal of Negro Education, 85(2), 97-100. https://doi.org/10.7709/jnegroeducation.85.2.0097
Unrau, Y. A., Sherwood, D. A., & Postema, C. L. (2020). Financial and educational hardships experienced by BSW and MSW students during their programs of study. Journal of Social Work Education, 56(3), 456-473. https://doi.org/10.1080/10437797.2019.1656687
Weng, S. S., & Gray, L. A. (2017). Advancement in social work education: Fostering a supportive environment for students of non-dominant racial and ethnic backgrounds. Social Work Education, 36(6), 662-677. https://doi.org/10.1080/02615479.2017.1335700
White House. (2020, September 22). Executive Order on Combating Race and Sex Stereotyping. https://trumpwhitehouse.archives.gov/presidential-actions/executive-order-combating-race-sex-stereotyping/
White House. (2021, January 20). Executive Order on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government. https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2021/01/20/executive-order-advancing-racial-equity-and-support-for-underserved-communities-through-the-federal-government/
Williams, K. L., & Davis, B. L. (2019). Public and private investments and divestments in Historically Black Colleges and Universities. American Council on Education. www.acenet.edu/Documents/Public-and-Private-Investments-and-Divestments-in-HBCUs.pdf
Williams, M. T., Metzger, I. W., Leins, C., & DeLapp, C. (2018). Assessing racial trauma within a DSM-5 framework: The UConn Racial/Ethnic Stress & Trauma Survey. Practice Innovations, 3(4), 242-260. https://doi.org/10.1037/pri0000076
Young, I. M. (1990). Justice and the politics of difference. Princeton University Press.
Copyright to works published in Advances in Social Work is retained by the author(s).