Abstract: Understanding Individual and Social Network Correlates of Students' Awareness of Racism: A Pilot Study (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

All in-person and virtual presentations are in Mountain Standard Time Zone (MST).

SSWR 2023 Poster Gallery: as a registered in-person and virtual attendee, you have access to the virtual Poster Gallery which includes only the posters that elected to present virtually. The rest of the posters are presented in-person in the Poster/Exhibit Hall located in Phoenix A/B, 3rd floor. The access to the Poster Gallery will be available via the virtual conference platform the week of January 9. You will receive an email with instructions how to access the virtual conference platform.

Understanding Individual and Social Network Correlates of Students' Awareness of Racism: A Pilot Study

Friday, January 13, 2023
Hospitality 1 - Room 443, 4th Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Ashley Givens, PHD, Assistant Professor, University of Missouri-Columbia, MO
Hsun-Ta Hsu, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Missouri-Columbia, Columbia, MO
Virginia L. Ramseyer Winter, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Missouri-Columbia, Columbia, MO
Rachel Bailey, Assistant Clinical Professor, University of Missouri, MO
Che Wilson, Graduate Student, Unviersity of Missouri, MO
Ryan Ratliff, MSW, Grant Writer, Scribe, LLC, AZ
Background and Purpose: Recent social unrest across the U.S. surrounding racial injustice highlights racism as a critical crisis that needs to be addressed. As a profession centered on social justice, social work education needs to enhance students’ competency to engage in all levels of practice from an anti-racist lens. To foster students’ capacity in countering racism, social work educators need to have awareness about malleable factors associated with students’ racial attitudes to develop curriculum and design courses accordingly. However, studies focusing on racial attitudes targeting social work students remain understudied. Adopting the socio-ecological framework, this study focused on understanding individual and social network correlates of racial attitudes among social work students.

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.