Larry E. Davis, John M. Wallace Jr., and Trina R. Williams Shanks
African Americans have been a part of the nation's history for nearly four hundred years. Although their history includes the forced imposition of chattel slavery, the strict enforcement of legal segregation, and a tenuous acceptance as equal citizens, African Americans have been, and continue to be, major contributors, creators, investors, and builders of America. In this article we summarize briefly the history of African Americans, we examine racial disparities in key indicators of social, mental, and physical well-being, and we highlight persistent strengths that can be built upon and areas that provide hope for the future. The challenge for social work is to simultaneously celebrate the historical successes and ongoing contributions of African Americans to this country while also recognizing the vestiges of structural racism and fighting for greater civil rights and social and economic justice.
Fariyal Ross-Sheriff and Tamarah Moss-Knight
The number and percentage of immigrants and refugees from Africa to the United States have increased substantially since the mid-1990s. Though still a relatively small percentage of the immigrant population, immigrants from Africa encounter many challenges that are important for social work professionals to address. This entry examines two groups of immigrants from Africa: legal migrants (immigrants) and refugees. It provides information on distinctive characteristics of recent African immigrants, reasons for emigration from Africa, challenges they face in the United States, and their settlement (geographical distribution) patterns. While black Africans are the focus of this entry, the research literature does not provide clear distinctions within the group of African immigrants. The emphasis is on black African immigrants to the United States as their experience is unique in terms of their race in America and the types of stigma and discrimination they face as a result. Critical issues for social work practice are examined through a case example of Somali refugees, followed by implications for social work practice and research.
Sharon E. Moore
African Americans number about 35 million or 12% of the U.S. population. Their life expectancy is lower than that of White Americans, and despite the educational gains made since mid-1980s, the unemployment gap between African Americans and Whites has increased. Similarly, although the number of African Americans working in white-collar occupations has increased, the disparity in wage earnings between African American and White workers continues. Regardless of social class African Americans are made to be cognizant of their race at all times. Today they are still at risk for social issues such as substance abuse, teen pregnancy, incarceration, poverty, high rates of female headed households, infant mortality that is twice as high as Whites, residential segregation, racism, and discrimination. As daunting as these problems are, the strengths of the African American community have allowed it to thrive even amid arduous circumstances.
This article discusses the African American social welfare system that began to develop during the early 20th century. This social welfare system, designed by African Americans to serve African Americans, addressed needs that were not being met by any other formal social services while the nascent social work profession was emerging. The myriad programs included settlement houses, boys and girls programs, training schools, and day nurseries. The women’s club movement played a critical role in the development of this social welfare system and provided much of the impetus for change and inclusion. Through formal organizations, including the National Urban League (NUL) and the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), and an array of clubs and social groups, social services were extended to urban and rural communities throughout the United States.
Daniel S. Gardner and Caroline Rosenthal Gelman
Minority and immigrant elders constitute a greater proportion of the population than ever before and are the fastest growing segment of the older population. Within these racial and ethnic groups there is considerable variation with regard to age, gender, country of origin, language, religion, education, income, duration of U.S. residency, immigration status, living arrangements, social capital, and access to resources. The authors summarize research on older adults regarding racial and ethnic disparities, barriers to health and social service utilization, and dynamics of family caregiving. Implications are offered for social-work practice, policy, and research.
Sarah (Hicks) Kastelic
Alaska Natives represent less than 1% of the U.S. population but reside in more than 229 Native villages and account for 40% of federally recognized tribes. Most Alaska Native communities shared common Euro-American contact experiences: exposure to western religions, education, and disease. Historical trauma contributes to many of the social welfare problems Natives experience today: low educational attainment, unemployment, inadequate health care, substance abuse, and violence. Service delivery mechanisms, lack of cultural appropriateness, and isolation compound these pressing issues. Locally delivered social welfare services that take into account traditional Native worldviews, values, languages, and intergenerational relationships are effective in addressing many of these issues.
Kristine J. Ajrouch
This entry defines the term Arab American, followed by a discussion of the two waves of immigration: before 1924 and post-1965. A demographic overview is presented next, drawing from data available through analysis of the ancestry question on the long form of the United States Census. Previously invisible in the scholarly and practice literatures, key concerns related to stereotypes emanating through recent world events, assumptions about gender relations, and struggles concerning family relations are highlighted. Finally, practice implications are considered, with an emphasis on cultural sensitivity and social justice.
The term Arab American is relatively new, signifying a pan-ethnic term meant to capture a diverse group of people who differ with respect to national origins, religion, and historical experiences of migration to the United States. Arab American refers to those individuals whose ancestors arrived from Arab-speaking countries, including 22 nations in North Africa and West Asia. Religious faiths include both Christian and Muslim; Lebanon is the number one country of origin for Arab immigrants to the United States, followed by Syria and Egypt. Defined objectively, any individual with ancestral ties to an Arabic-speaking country may be considered an Arab American. This characterization, however, rests upon a language-based definition, obscuring the cultural and structural variations that differentiate those who fall within this pan-ethnic category (Ajrouch & Jamal, 2007).
This entry briefly profiles the dynamic fusion, fluidity, and future of South Asians in America. While Diaspora India is emblematic of immigrant culture as a whole, South Asian duality still remains uniquely enigmatic. People from South Asia represent a confluence of diversity and complexity that calls for understanding and acceptance as a model to deconstruct a tolerant and successful pluralist society.
Paula T. Morelli, Alma Trinidad, and Richard Alboroto
Filipinos are the second largest group of Asians in the United States; more than 3.4 million Filipino Americans live primarily within the largest U.S. continental cities (including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, New York) and Hawaii. Annexation of the Philippines, following the Philippine-American War (1899–1902), granted Filipinos unrestricted immigration to the United States as “American nationals” without right to U.S. citizenship. Throughout this more than one-hundred-year relationship, Filipinos in the United States endured discrimination, race-based violence, and a series of restrictive federal legislation impacting civil rights and immigration. Filipinos may present with a distinctly Western orientation in areas such as values and contemporary ideas; however, their traditional social and cultural characteristics contrast considerably with mainstream American culture. This entry provides a brief historic, geopolitical and cultural context to facilitate the work of social work practitioners.
Marcia Bayne-Smith and Annette M. Mahoney
The diverse group of people referred to as Caribbean Americans come from the Circum-Caribbean region, which includes the island nations of the Caribbean Sea and the nations of Central America from Belize to Panama—35 nations in all. The heterogeneity of the Caribbean population is due to the colonization and geopolitical division of the region among English, Dutch, Spanish, and French colonizers, which resulted in many different cultures, ethnic groups, languages, educational systems, religious beliefs, and practices. However, the majority of the Caribbean populations share an African ancestry.