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.
Alex Gitterman, Carel B. Germain, and Carolyn Knight
Ecological concepts and principles enable social workers to keep a simultaneous focus on people and their environments and their reciprocal relationships, not only in direct practice with individuals, families and groups, but also in influencing organizations and communities and in policy practice. Ecological concepts emphasize the reciprocity of person:environment exchanges, in which each shapes and influences the other over time. Ecological concepts are reviewed.
Ecological social work requires a shift in thinking for social workers because it does not place humans at the center of its concerns. Rather ecological social work puts the interrelationship between humans and nature at its center. This radically de-centered view of humanity aims to bring consideration of the planet and all of its environmental systems into decision making to ensure the sustainability of natural resources for the long term. Ecological principles can guide social work practice, research, and education in ways that promote a transition to sustainable practices in every sphere of life. Widespread ecological consciousness is advocated as an important focus for change by some social work authors promoting this approach. A global consciousness is understood to enable humanity’s capacity to deal with the growing concerns about the survival of planet earth as a suitable habitat for humans, animals, and plants. Humanity’s activities are understood to contribute to the ongoing degradation of fresh water, fertile soils, and pollution of the atmosphere. Drastic changes in the way humans behave and relate to the earth are considered necessary at the global, national, and local levels. Social workers are thus called on to engage with others in taking on significant roles in many areas of practice to facilitate these crucial societal transformations.
Michele Rountree and Courtney McElhaney Peebles
Communities of color are disproportionately burdened by the prevalence of HIV/AIDS. Research has shown that race and ethnicity in the United States are population characteristics that correlate with other fundamental determinants of health outcomes. This entry will chronicle the history of the epidemic, report the disparate impact of the disease affecting communities of color, and acknowledge the social determinants of health that contribute to the vulnerability of risk. A call to address the imbalance of health inequities, with a complement of individual-level interventions and new approaches that address the interpersonal, network, community, and societal influences of disease transmission, is discussed.
Laina Y. Bay-Cheng
This entry defines sexuality and identifies dominant explanatory models. In doing so, the entry outlines the central debate regarding the relative contributions of biology and social context. In addition, it highlights current key issues in the field of sexuality: the connection between sexuality and social inequality, the growing emphasis on the promotion of sexual health and well-being rather than just the prevention of sexual risk, the salience of sexuality across the life course, and the debate regarding sexuality education policy. Finally, it identifies parallels between these trends and social work, including the relation of sexuality to social work roles and practice.
Islamophobia is not a new term but it has become commonly used in the United States following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. This entry provides an overview of the demographics of the Muslim population in the United States. The historical context in which the use of the term first emerged is then identified, followed by a discussion of the two major approaches to defining Islamophobia. The term connotes either outright anti-Muslim bigotry due to religious intolerance or racism and xenophobia toward people from the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia who are Muslim or who have a “Muslim-like” appearance. The history of anti-Muslim bigotry in the United States is traced from before the founding of the nation through present times. Implications are presented for social work with Muslim clients, organizations, and communities who may be impacted by anti-Muslim bigotry.
Rhea Almeida, Diana Melendez, and José Miguel Paez
The process of decolonizing is a precursor to liberatory transformation and the foundation for the creation of liberation-based practices. Decolonizing strategies call for changing the lens and the language and debunking the myth of healing through diagnostic codes; and the rigid compartmentalization of mind-body of individuals, and of individuals with regard to their families, their context, and their healing spaces Decolonizing strategies encompass the multiplicity of personal and public institutional locations that frame identities within historic, colonial, economic, and political life. People in various global localities are unwittingly situated within a range of broad and nuanced descriptors, such as indigenous hosts, nationality, ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, ability, or religious preference or a combination of these. These personal economic, social, and political intersections are largely unacknowledged by early-21st-century Western models of psychological practice in social work and allied disciplines. Postmodernism and poststructuralism as epistemological frameworks still reproduce a particular form of coloniality. Alternatively, liberation-based practice locates the complexities of these frameworks within a societal matrix that shapes relationships in the context of power, privilege, and oppression. Accompanied by tools for identifying and decolonizing lived experiences within culture circles, liberation-based practice builds on the foundations of critical consciousness, empowerment, and accountability.
Eun-Kyoung Othelia Lee and Ruth McRoy
This entry defines the concept of multiculturalism and explains, from a historical and contemporary perspective, its evolution and significance in social work. The relationship between multiculturalism and socioeconomic justice, oppression, populations at risk, health disparities, and discrimination is explained. The importance of preparatory training for social workers to meet the challenges of multiculturalism is highlighted and examples of cross-cultural training models are provided. Implications of multiculturalism for clinical practice and policy development are discussed.
Arlene Bowers Andrews
This article reviews basic skills for conducting and using oral histories, summarizes ethical issues, presents examples relevant to social work, and suggests useful resources. For social workers, oral history can be a way to record the history of social change as well as a means of promoting social change. Oral history can honor, inform, raise consciousness, and motivate action. Oral histories are particularly relevant for historically excluded populations and those with oral traditions. Generating the history requires a thorough awareness of the narrator, the story, and the role of the listener as well as skillful interviewing, use of digital technology, and appropriate archiving.
Selena T. Rodgers
Racism is pervasive, endemic, and historically rooted in systematic assumptions inherent in superiority based on race and requires the critical attention of all social workers. The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) has made strides in tackling racism as demonstrated by the social worker and civil rights activist Whitney Young Jr. (1921–1971), other pioneers, and more recently, the NASW zero-tolerance racism policy. Undergirded in empirical discussion, this article leads with the etymology of race(ism), followed by a discussion of Racial Formation Theory and Critical Race Theory. The article gives a historical sketch of racism, followed by examples of its contemporary indicators—throughout social institutions—in the United States. Racism is pervasive and impinges on micro-level and macro-level systems. It is, therefore, beyond the scope of this article to address how racism impacts each group in America. Social work scholars and other experts have provided extensive empirical documentation about the historical trauma and sufferings of other racial groups (e.g., Native Americans/Native peoples/American Indians, Mexican Americans) discussed elsewhere. Specifically, the racism endured by blacks in America is the emphasis of this article. Themes of “colorism” and historical trauma are provided to contextualize advances in national reform and encourage a broader conversation about the racism that blacks experience globally. In addition, this article highlights strides by the social work profession to eradicate racism. Implications for social work are discussed.