Abstract: Resilience and African Americans- Micro and Macro Perspectives (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

Resilience and African Americans- Micro and Macro Perspectives

Friday, January 17, 2020
Congress, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Sandra Edmonds Crewe, PhD, Dean and Professor, Howard University, Washington, DC

Social work considers resilience to be a major strength of African Americans.  Resilience Theory is strengths-based and considered an effective method for practice with marginalized or at-risk populations served by the social work profession (Powell, 2014).  African Americans often point to resilience as a point of pride in their ability to thrive despite race-based obstacles that they have currently or historically faced. The researcher delved deeper into how resilience is treated in the literature and examines it from micro and macro lens.


This symposium addresses resilience in the African American community through a systematic review of literature.  The review plan included articles that were published between 2000-2019 (two decades).  The articles that were reviewed were identified by a database search based upon two terms: African Americans and Resilience.  The articles that emerged used both qualitative and quantitative research methods.  The review question was “what recommendations were made for practice (micro and macro levels) based upon the research?” Additionally, the author reviewed the various definitions for resilience and how they uniquely relate to African Americans.  Additionally, the author examined how resilience was measured and if the scales were normed on African Americans.


While sources varied, definitions of resilience primarily addressed the individual response(s) to negative environments and its function as a protective factor.  Primarily, resilience was addressed through a developmental perspective and threats to adaptation in childhood.  Additionally, for adults, resilience was addressed as a positive response to addressing traumatic events – psychological resilience. While the studies specifically addressed African Americans and resilience, most did not have concrete recommendations to address the racism that led to the need for resilience to succeed.


There is growing attention on the importance of macro social work practice.  Macro matters is a campaign that focuses on ensuring the profession of social work understands how addressing structural inequities is core to the well-being of individuals and society. As Michael Reisch (2013, p. 6)  pointed out  “Macro practice explicitly embodies social work’s commitment to social justice and social change by promoting structural solutions to systemic inequalities and various forms of oppression that go beyond individual adaptation and resilience.”

Similarly, the author concludes, based upon the systematic review that there is inadequate attention to social injustice that causes us to rely on resilience as the solution.