Words of Wisdom:

"Get your friends close and get your enemies closer" - Hawaii80


  • Date Submitted: 10/31/2010 03:01 PM
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A Social Worker's Reflections on Power, Privilege, and Oppression
Michaels. Spencer

he pursuit of social justice is a core social work value (NASW, 2007). Social workers promote social justice by engaging in activities that promote equality of opportunity, challenge injustice, and advance social change, particularly on behalf of vulnerable and oppressed populations.This is easier said than done. Oppression and systems of power are extremely complex, multifaceted, and saturate our individual psyche and external environment.As social workers committed to social justice, how do we challenge and change these systems of power? How do we fmd a standpoint from which to act? Paulo Freire (1970) stated that a commitment to social justice requires a moral and ethical attitude toward equality and a belief in the capacity of people as agents who can transform their world. Furthermore, he stated that to create social change and to promote social justice, we must begin this process with ourselves—through a self-reflective process that examines the contradictions between our espoused values and our lived experience. We must believe that all people, both fhsm dominant and targeted groups, have a critical role in dismantling oppression and generating a vision for a socially just future. For if only people from oppressed groups take on this responsibility, there is litde hope that we will ever achieve our vision. As a social worker and an academic who identifies strongly with the profession of social work, I take these words of Freire and other scholars of social justice seriously. In 2001,1 had the honor of participating in a presidential plenary panel at the Society for SocialWork and Research Annual Conference.As part of this plenary, I presented an introduction that provided a reflection of who I am and how my social identities are affected by the dynamics of oppression and privilege. The speech was published later that year in Advances in Social Work...


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