Abstract: Trailblazers for Change: Uncovering the Impact of the 1970s CSWE Multicultural Task Forces in Steering Social Work Towards Anticolonialism, Antiracism, and Abolitionism (Society for Social Work and Research 28th Annual Conference - Recentering & Democratizing Knowledge: The Next 30 Years of Social Work Science)

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Trailblazers for Change: Uncovering the Impact of the 1970s CSWE Multicultural Task Forces in Steering Social Work Towards Anticolonialism, Antiracism, and Abolitionism

Sunday, January 14, 2024
Independence BR C, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Justin Harty, PhD, Assistant Professor, Arizona State University, AZ
Autumn Asher BlackDeer, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Denver, Denver, CO
Maria Ocampo, MSW, PhD Candidate, Washington University in Saint Louis
Claudette L. Grinnell-Davis, PhD, MSW, MS, MTS, Assistant Professor, University of Oklahoma, Tulsa Campus, Tulsa, OK
Background and Purpose: The social work profession has struggled to address racism and colonialism effectively, partly due to insufficient examination of their historical connections and overlooking abolitionism. This study investigates the profession's past efforts, focusing on the collaborative endeavors of five Council on Social Work Education's Multicultural Task Forces (MCTF). By examining primary archival sources, we shed light on how the MCTFs united to tackle racism and colonialism through an abolitionist lens, aiming to better understand and inform the contemporary approaches in social work.

Methods: We performed a historical critical content analysis on five MCTF reports, digitizing and processing them for textual data. Using qualitative analysis software, we employed first-cycle coding with Boolean search terms for racism, colonialism, abolition, and liberation, nesting "liberation" within "abolition." We categorized findings based on these themes and conducted second-cycle coding to generate three sub-codes: (1) general concerns for all BIPOC groups, (2) similar concerns among BIPOC groups, and (3) distinct concerns between BIPOC groups. This coding process allowed us to comprehensively analyze the MCTF reports, providing valuable insights into historical attempts to address racism, colonialism, and abolition within the social work profession.

Results: Our analysis of the five MCTF reports offers valuable insights for addressing colonialism and racism in social work. First, we found that the MCTF's argued that colonialism and racism are closely interwoven, with racial and ethnic minority groups experiencing these oppressive forces in unique ways due to different forms of colonialism. For example, the CSWE's Native American Task Force acknowledged shared problems across BIPOC groups while emphasizing distinct concerns for each group (CSWE 1973a, p. iii). Second, we observed that some MCTF reports highlighted the need for social work to adopt abolitionist ideals and focus on liberation to tackle colonialism and racism effectively. The Asian American Task Force argued for the mobilization of political power to benefit oppressed communities (CSWE 1973b, p. 2), while the Black Task Force called for shifting focus towards abolishing institutional racism to ensure Black liberation (CSWE 1973c, p. 13).

Conclusion and Implications: Grounded in the MCTF analysis, addressing distinct forms of colonization and racism among BIPOC communities requires social work to concurrently target universal abolition causes and divergent goals. This includes abolishing legal racism, oppressive systems, carceral structures, and family separation, while pursuing racial, social, economic, and historical justice. Key abolition goals encompass Indigenous land reclamation, Black liberation, and non-White immigrant citizenship. Eradicating racialized systems oppressing BIPOC populations and dismantling welfare programs and social services that enforce repressive social order are essential. A comprehensive approach necessitates viewing colonialism and racism as interconnected and integrating abolition and liberation principles into practice.