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The Problem with Methods that Lack the Anti-Oppressive Approach
The problem with social work that lacks the guidance of the anti-oppressive approach is that it allows preconceived notions and biases to cloud the perception of social workers. For example, structural inequality is considered as an inherent bias within social structures which gives advantages to a select group of individuals while at the same time marginalizes the capacity of another group of people to improve their lot in life. This can be seen in the case of the United States and the structural inequality that exists between white Americans and their African American counterparts.
Issues such as police discrimination, income inequality, and obvious bias when it comes to job selections creates an endemic condition that prevents a significant portion of the African-American community as a whole to lift themselves up and be on the same stage as their Caucasian counterparts. While social workers, in general, are considered to be individuals who are in the profession of caring for one’s fellow man, the fact remains that structural inequality can often blind people towards particular circumstances or create an inherent bias that they may not necessarily be aware of but still impacts how they approach their job.
This was noted by Rogers (2012) who examined the service implementation strategies of service workers from various government and non-profit organizations. What Rogers discovered was that they often implemented a “one size fits all” approach when it came to providing services. While this was supposedly done due to the need for expediency, the fact remains that the underlying strategy involved failed to take into account the socio-economic position of particular individuals and how this impacts how effective the strategy would be.
For example, one case explored by Rogers involved a 19-year old African-American teen from a local housing developing project who was recently sent to juvenile court due to his actions involving members of a local gang. The social worker in charge of his case attempted to resolve his case by talking to his parents, trying to establish a rapport with the teen and signing him up for activities (ex: basketball camp) that could act as a potential alternative outlet for his talents and energies. In his after action report to his organization, the social worker stated that this strategy had worked for the Caucasian inner city kids that he had dealt with in the past and had resulted in them being steered away from their socially disruptive actions.
Unfortunately, the social worker neglected to take into account the social environment that the teen was exposed to on a daily basis and its impact on his behavior and actions. The result was the teen eventually being sent back to court and, due to the multiple cases he had previously been arrested for, was sent to juvenile detention. The problem with the strategy of the social worker was that social structural inequality was so embedded in his mind that he did not perceive the potential difference in cultural and social dynamics between an African American teen and one that was Caucasian (Rogers, 2012). [Need an essay writing service? Find help here.]
Even if both were from the same environment, the potential opportunities that they would have available to them would be considerably different. This compromised the strategy the social worker was attempting to implement and shows how social divisions and racism (intentional or not) could potentially cloud how people perceive particular situations and influence how they would act. Instances like these demonstrate the importance of an approach that is tempered using the anti-oppressive approach since it is necessary to examine a situation without preconceived biases and that the same service would work on different people.
Resistance to Assistance and the Anti-Oppressive Approach
Many social workers often encounter situations where there is a significant resistance to their assistance being received by the individual they are attempting to help. Whether it is a troubled teen or a person that has been homeless for years, there are certain situations where people seemingly do all they can to turn away the help that is being given to them. While there are a wide assortment of different reasons behind this behavior, one of which is simply a lack of trust, another of the reasons is oppression.
Oppression, in this case, refers to the series of actions related to social structural inequality that at times pervades a person’s life to such an extent that it has prevented them from being able to change their course due to the presence of significant barriers to improvement. Vanderwoerd (2016) helped to explain this by stating that social workers often observe that those they are supposed to assist are often subjected to an “imbalanced” relationship with society since the usual limitations in place which curtails the influence of one over the other are not present.
What this means is that someone that is poor or of a particular race is so oppressed that the social convention that is usually in place for other races (ex: Caucasians) are not being applied to them which has resulted in a gradual deterioration of the quality of that person’s life (Vanderwoerd, 2016). As a result, they are reduced to what can be defined as a subordinate social role which eventually impacts how they think and perceives the social environment around them. This was seen in the case of an interview on CNN when an African American male who was interviewed after the September 2016 Charlotte North Carolina protests stated his absolute dislike for white people given the unfair social situation involving police shootings to supposedly innocent African American males. [“Write my essay for me?” Get help here.]
This instance shows the impact of a pervasive social condition influencing how certain individuals look at society and how this could affect how they would perceive social assistance. While this may not seem to be a problem on the surface, since social workers are supposed to assist people regardless of how they feel about them, the fact remains that the role of a social worker goes beyond mere assistance.
What people fail to realize is that social workers often employ a variety of psychological tactics to help people. This is to help them trust the social worker, make them more liable to open up to them, and, as a result, be more willing to accept the suggestions being given to them. However, in these situations, those being assisted are more willing to be helped if they feel a form of camaraderie or friendship with the person helping them.
The problem with the power imbalance that was mentioned earlier is that the situation people find themselves in through social structural inequality can impact how organizations would perceive their condition. As shown in the example in the previous section involving the social worker and the 19-year old African American teen, perceptions can become clouded which prevents proper strategies from being implemented. In this case, one of the potential outcomes that could emerge is that people from particular races (ex: African Americans) could be considered as being less likely to result in improved conditions given the lack of perceived improvement (Sewell, 2016).
However, this lack of change could be due to the general environment that many African American youths find themselves which some organizations would be blind to due to the development of preconceived notions regarding the type of people that African Americans are. This is why anti-oppressive practices in social work are so important since it is necessary to create an organizational structure that eschews concepts related to racism, discrimination or favoritism and looks at the facts of a situation based on pertinent data that shows the truth behind the current situation that people are experiencing. [Click Essay Writer to order your essay]
Without this type of egalitarian practice in place, it is likely that organizations could implement polices that are severely lacking in understanding what the social situations of people in particular areas are like and why it is so important to comprehend what can be done to improve their lot in life instead of letting preconceived social ideas influence how they are supposed to look and react to people from particular backgrounds.
However, as stated in the introduction section of this paper, the anti-oppressive approach does not necessarily have a framework that can be used as a means of basing actions on. It acts as more of an arbitrary concept that organizations should hold themselves to so that they can measure their actions and determine whether they are right. By pursuing this line of action, it is likely that the people social workers are assist will be more willing to work with them rather than against them when it comes to improving their life.
Overall, what this paper has shown is that the anti-oppressive approach in social work is critical for achieving success because it defines the best approach for handling the challenges associated with social work. While it does not contain a framework for success, it does provide the needed guidelines that organizations can use to help improve how they approach social work and the methods they utilize with their current strategies.
Rogers, J. (2012). Anti-Oppressive Social Work Research: Reflections on Power in the Creation of Knowledge. Social Work Education, 31(7), 866-879.
Sewell, A. (2016). A theoretical application of epistemological oppression to the psychological assessment of special educational needs; concerns and practical implications for anti- oppressive practice. Educational Psychology In Practice, 32(1), 1-12.
Vanderwoerd, J. R. (2016). The Promise and Perils of Anti-Oppressive Practice For Christians in Social Work Education. Social Work & Christianity, 43(2), 153-188.