Session: Integrating a Racial Justice Approach to Social Work to End Systemic Racial Violence (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

252 Integrating a Racial Justice Approach to Social Work to End Systemic Racial Violence

Saturday, January 19, 2019: 4:00 PM-5:30 PM
Union Square 21 Tower 3, 4th Floor (Hilton San Francisco)
Cluster: Race and Ethnicity (R&E)
Abril N. Harris, MSW, Boston College, Melissa Bartholomew, JD, MSW, Boston College, Manuel Cano, MSW, Boston College, Smitha Rao, MSW, MSc, Boston College and Bongki Woo, PhD, University of South Carolina
In a time of heightened race-based violence, it is imperative that Social Work remains at the forefront of the efforts to eradicate systemic racism. Some of the fundamental concepts that have been embraced by the field of social work over time are the anti-oppressive (AOP) and anti-racist frameworks. In building off of these frameworks, we deem that a racial justice approach is appropriate in challenging structural racism that continues to create and sustain disparities. As put forth by the Applied Research Center (ARC) in Oakland, CA, racial justice is defined as the "proactive reinforcement of policies, practices, attitudes, and actions that produce equitable power, opportunities, treatment, impacts, and outcomes for all" (Quiroz-Martínez, HoSang, & Villarosa, 2004, p. 14). The discussants in this roundtable aim to promote and create dialogues through a racial justice approach in the social work profession that envisions research, practice, and policy alternatives to eradicate racism at its root.

The first discussant will examine the implications of systems of oppression on identity formation among youth of color. Specifically, how implicit and explicit messages present in society impact how youth of color perceive themselves. Racial justice serves as the foundation in illuminating how race is a mechanism in upholding white supremacy and marginalizing people of color.

The second discussant will explore the etiology of mental health concerns of African Americans through the assessment of the cumulative impact of race and racism-related stress on depressive symptoms, trauma, and cognitive development. This will be achieved through the examination of the role of historical and contemporary racial injustice, including slavery and the current manifestations of structural racism, such as mass incarceration.

The third discussant will examine images, as well as data from the news database Factiva, to explore the connotations of the terms "illegal," "undocumented," and "unauthorized" in the context of immigration. For more than three decades, public discourse has framed unauthorized immigration in a context of "illegality;" when media content portrays unauthorized immigrants as a lawbreaking group with which the typical American shares practically no commonalities, overt social exclusion finds a place in society.

The fourth discussant will analyze the links between poverty, environmental degradation, and threats to human wellbeing. Studies show that minorities and communities of color are often more exposed to environmental hazards. By adopting a racial justice lens, environmental social work can be used to unpack the differential impacts of racial inequality and inform more robust environmental policy. Specific state and federal level environmental policies will be assessed to see how they can be bolstered by a racial justice optic.

The fifth discussant will discuss social and spatial contexts that potentially mitigate the mental burden of racial discrimination among racial and ethnic minorities. A cumulative body of evidence documents that racial discrimination is a noxious social stressor that leads to negative mental health status among the targeted individuals. Understanding the complex contexts through which racial discrimination influences mental health can inform the potential ways of mitigating the persisting health disparities and achieving social justice.

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