Methods: A convenience sample of social work students (N=98) recruited from a major Midwest university completed an online anonymous survey as part of a need assessment to evaluate the social work program’s inclusion, diversity, and equity. The survey covers individual characteristics, social network information, and attitudes toward social phenomena, including racial attitudes. Adopting the Color-Blind Racial Attitudes Scale, the outcomes of interest included overall awareness of racism, White privilege, institutional racism, and blatant racism. Individual level independent variables included demographics (e.g., age and gender identity), alignment of Black Lives Matter (BLM) and All Lives Matter (ALM) with social work core values, rurality, and political identity; network level independent variables included network racial diversity and homophily, subjective network member racial attitudes, and communication with network members on racial issues. Separate linear regression models were conducted to identify individual and social network correlates of the outcomes of interest.
Results: Liberal political view identification (b=-11.23 – b=-2.45) and alignment of BLM movement (b=-8.76 – b=16.26) with social work core values were associated with better awareness of racism across all domains (p<.05); aligning ALM with social work core values was positively associated with unawareness of overall racism (b=11.49, p<.01), institutional racism (b=6.35, p<.001), and blatant racism (b=2.60, p<.01). Finally, discussion on racial issues with network members was associated with better awareness of overall racism (b=-1.63, p<.05), White privilege (b=-0.76, p<.01), and blatant racism (b=-0.59, p<.01).
Conclusions and Implications: Anti-racism has been highlighted as a grand challenge by major social work professional associations, including SSWR. Findings of this study suggest that social work curriculum should involve inter-group consensus building on countering racism and racial discrimination among students across the political spectrum. Social work programs should also actively foster discussions on difficult topics, such as reflection and application of social work core values on prominent, even controversial social phenomena (e.g., BLM and ALM). Finally, social work programs should create a space among student networks to discuss the implications of overt and covert discrimination faced by people of color in an effort to facilitate awareness of institutional racism among students.