Abstract: Is Social Work Research Anti-Racist, Anti-Oppressive, or Both: A Content Analysis (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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Is Social Work Research Anti-Racist, Anti-Oppressive, or Both: A Content Analysis

Saturday, January 14, 2023
North Mountain, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Stephanie Rhee, Ph.D., Associate Professor, University Of Wisconson-Green Bay, Green Bay, WI
Andrea Barrick, PhD, Assistant Professor, Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania, Shippensburg, PA
Background and Purpose: Social workers are expected to advance research that examines interventions at all levels of practice to promote the well-being of human beings and the community, with particular attention to those who are vulnerable, oppressed, and living in poverty. Has social work research engaged in anti-racist interventions sensitive to the needs of racially/ethnically minoritized people? Or has it engaged in anti-oppressive interventions to meet every person's needs regardless of their racial/ethnic/social status? This study conducted a content analysis to test the main hypothesis that social work intervention-based studies are more likely to be driven by an anti-oppressive framework than an anti-racist framework.

Methods: This study selected three major social work journals, Social Work, Social Work Research, and Social Service Review, published between 2010 and 2019 based on scope, reputation, and specialization: national in scope, major journals in social work, and no one specialization within social work. Only empirical articles were selected for inclusion if they addressed actual U. S. social work interventions with any racial/ethnic minority groups. Authors independently coded the articles and recorded their responses on an Excel sheet. Articles the authors disagreed with were reread and discussed until agreements were achieved.

Findings: Of 773 articles from the three journals, 85 articles (11%) utilized interventions on racial/ethnic minority groups. Of 85 articles, 21 articles (24.7%) selected racial/ethnic minority groups as their primary sample. Of those 21 articles, nine articles (10.6%) focused on Blacks, five articles (5.9%) on Hispanic Americans, three articles (3.5%) on Asian Americans, three articles (3.5%) on Native Americans, and one article (1.2%) on more than one minority group. Eight (38.10%) of 21 articles on racial/ethnic minority groups examined macro-level interventions operationalized as social planning, advocacy, community organization, finding and developing resources with immigration, colonization, education, poverty, social and public health, and environmental justice. Of 85 intervention-based articles, 64 (75.3%) used the general population, including Caucasians and racial/ethnic minority groups. In half of those 64 articles, 23 (71.9%) articles studied macro-level problem-solving interventions on low-income families in child welfare, homeless people, Head Start children, teens and youths in criminal justice systems with racial/ethnic minority groups outnumbering Caucasians. On the contrary, 21 (65.6%) of 32 articles on general white Caucasian population, studied macro-level evaluations of educational and financial training programs for low-income children, families, and schools.

Conclusion and Implications: The study findings show that intervention-based studies sensitive to the needs of racial/ethnic minorities are few compared to other studies in which racial/ethnic minority groups were part of anti-oppressive interventions emphasizing equal opportunities or in anti-oppressive interventions stereotyping racial/ethnic minorities’ social and behavioral problems. These findings support the hypothesis that social work intervention-based studies are more likely to be driven by an anti-oppressive framework built on a weak anti-racist footing. There is a need for social work researchers to conduct research interconnecting anti-racist interventions sensitive to minoritized populations with anti-oppressive interventions raising political power and social change for minoritized groups.