Monday, October 28, 2019

Webinar: CSWE's Macro Social Work Practice Curricular Guide

The Council for Social Work Education (CSWE) presented a webinar on its publication, Specialized Practice Curricular Guide for Macro Social Work Practice (2015). The 300-page guide book categories macro social work under three primary focus areas: organizational administration; community organizing, and policy practice. It provides a comprehensive analysis of the nine professional competencies for macro social work practice.Each competency contains vignettes, case studies, classroom exercises, and additional resources for social work professors. The final section presents guidelines and frameworks for macro practice field education. The nine professional competencies for macro social work practice include the following:

  1. Demonstrate Ethical and Professional Behavior
  2. Engage Diversity and Difference in Practice
  3. Advance Human Rights and Social, Economic, and Environmental Justice
  4. Engage in Practice-Informed Research and Research-Informed Practice
  5. Engage in Policy Practice
  6. Engagement with Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and Communities
  7. Assess Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and Communities
  8. Intervene with Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and Communities
  9. Evaluate Practice with Individuals, Families, Groups, Organizations, and Communities
This guide book is part of CSWE's Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards (EPAS). Printed copies are available for purchase at info [at] The webinar recording (September 4, 2019) can be viewed here.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

The Atlantic: The Disciplines Where No Black People Earn Ph.D.s

The Atlantic published a piece about the obstacles in enrolling in doctoral programs in the U.S. The more prestigious Ph.D. programs have more funding, resources, and greater likelihood placing graduates into tenure-track faculty positions. But black doctoral students are few in number. The reason why students from underrepresented backgrounds--black applicants in particular--face obstacles in Ph.D. admission has to do with having the right research topic to having the right social connections.
Before experience becomes a material issue, though, a student must first get into a doctoral program, which can be a chore all its own. It is typically up to departmental faculty to decide who does and who does not get into a Ph.D. program, and “there can be a lot of politics in play that keep black students from being admitted,” Commodore told me. There could be a lack of enthusiasm about an applicant’s topic or research interest, or some students might not come with the same social capital—recommendations from noted or well-connected faculty in the field—that others might.
Once they are admitted into a Ph.D. program, black students are more likely to borrow to finance their graduate education:
Then, after they are admitted, there is the question of cost. Black college students borrow at higher rates than any other racial group, and they are more likely to default on those student loans. “Imagine coming out of school with a bachelor’s degree, with such a debt burden,” Lorelle Espinosa, vice president for research at the American Council on Education (ACE), told me. “Students are thinking, I don’t have a safety net for this debt. Am I really up for going for an advanced degree where I’ll find myself in even more debt?”
In 2017, there were more than a dozen fields in which not a single doctoral degree was awarded to a black person anywhere in the United States. If Ph.D. programs are not admitting black applicants and those who are lucky to attend must borrow to survive, this trend could have repercussions for the future of black faculty in higher education. When minority students are demanding higher education institutions to hire more faculty who share similar cultural experiences, Ph.D. programs are not admitting enough black applicants. This is a lost opportunity for research on issues that could inform and improve the well-being of black communities.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Review: Toxic Inequality (2017)

Toxic Inequality: How America’s Wealth Gap Destroys Mobility, Deepens the Racial Divide, and Threatens Our Future (2017), by Thomas Shapiro, is a professor at the Heller School for Social Policy and the Director of the Institute on Assets and Social Policy Brandeis University. He is the leading figure on racial inequality and public policy.

From the book cover:
Since the Great Recession, most Americans' standard of living has stagnated or declined. Economic inequality is at historic highs. But inequality's impact differs by race; African Americans' net wealth is just a tenth that of white Americans, and over recent decades, white families have accumulated wealth at three times the rate of black families. In our increasingly diverse nation, sociologist Thomas M. Shapiro argues, wealth disparities must be understood in tandem with racial inequities--a dangerous combination he terms "toxic inequality."

In Toxic Inequality, Shapiro reveals how these forces combine to trap families in place. Following nearly two hundred families of different races and income levels over a period of twelve years, Shapiro's research vividly documents the recession's toll on parents and children, the ways families use assets to manage crises and create opportunities, and the real reasons some families build wealth while others struggle in poverty. The structure of our neighborhoods, workplaces, and tax code-much more than individual choices-push some forward and hold others back. A lack of assets, far more common in families of color, can often ruin parents' careful plans for themselves and their children.

i an a fan of Shapiro's work, which has generated much discussion on the widening racial wealth gap and economic inequality in the U.S. He uses a sociological lens to examine how years of homeownership, household income, and unemployment created racial disparities in wealth between white families and black families. Although the Fair Housing Act of 1968 prohibited housing discrimination on the basis of race, it has not stopped the practice of redlining. Black neighborhoods tend to have lower home equities than white neighborhoods which has huge implications on intergenerational wealth. Black families also tend to live in neighborhoods with higher proportion of blacks (or adjacent to working-class neighborhoods) than white families. For the past fifty years, black families have been playing catch-up to white families but neoliberal policies and the Great Recession eliminated much of black wealth. Overall, I highly recommend the book because it is easy to understand for the general audience to see that black families are NOT on an equal playing field with white families when it comes to wealth accumulation.

I would even further argue that this data supports why affirmative action is still necessary in elite college admissions. With fewer assets, black families are less likely to afford test preparation programs that can boost their child's scores on the SAT (which is poor predictor of college success) and must rely on student loans to finance their children's college educations. As the recent college admissions cheating scandal revealed, these racial inequities create an unfair advantage to already privileged students who do not have to financially struggle to gain admission into elite colleges and universities.

If you have not read Thomas Shapiro's previous books, I highly recommend his other phenomenal books, Black Wealth/White Wealth (2006) and The Hidden Cost of Being African Americans (2005).

Monday, April 29, 2019

Review: The Gilded Years (2016)

The Gilded Years (2016), by Karin Tanabe, is a historical fiction novel. It is based on the true story of Anita Florence Hemmings, the first African American woman to attend Vassar College, a prestigious women's college, in the 1890s. As the descendants of slaves, Hemmings passed as white so that she could enter Vassar and finds herself in the elite world of aristocrats and capitalists. She is treated as an wealthy, highly-educated white woman until she got attached to the wrong person--who could unravel everything she risked to accomplish for a better life. Passing meets House of Mirth in this best-selling historical novel on how race, gender and class intersected to influence social mobility and access to higher education during America's Gilded Age.

From the book cover:
Since childhood, Anita Hemmings has longed to attend the country’s most exclusive school for women, Vassar College. Now, a bright, beautiful senior in the class of 1897, she is hiding a secret that would have banned her from admission: Anita is the only African-American student ever to attend Vassar. With her olive complexion and dark hair, this daughter of a janitor and descendant of slaves has successfully passed as white, but now finds herself rooming with Louise “Lottie” Taylor, the scion of one of New York’s most prominent families.

Though Anita has kept herself at a distance from her classmates, Lottie’s sphere of influence is inescapable, her energy irresistible, and the two become fast friends. Pulled into her elite world, Anita learns what it’s like to be treated as a wealthy, educated white woman—the person everyone believes her to be—and even finds herself in a heady romance with a moneyed Harvard student. It’s only when Lottie becomes infatuated with Anita’s brother, Frederick, whose skin is almost as light as his sister’s, that the situation becomes particularly perilous. And as Anita’s college graduation looms, those closest to her will be the ones to dangerously threaten her secret.

I read this historical novel for a graduate-level course on the history of higher education. I had no idea that this novel would bring back memories of my own undergraduate courses on African American Literature. The early 20th century was considered the "nadir era" where both legal segregation (Jim Crow laws) and increasing racial violence were common occurrences against African Americans. For example, Harlem Renaissance writers such as Nella Larsen ("Passing", "Quicksand") and James Weldon Johnson ("The Autobiography of the Ex-Colored Man") knew about the dangers of passing for American Americans of mixed-race ancestry. Some made this choice to achieve upward social mobility and to escape the racial terror that limited educational and employment opportunities for African Americans. Those who did pass successfully had to completely detach themselves from their former lives, including their relatives and acquaintances who might expose their hidden secrets. Tanabe adds to this literary tradition to portray the danger and loss that occurs when one decides to pass and never look back.

I was so thrilled to read Gilded Years because I could apply my background on race and educational inequality in a historical novel that intrigued me. Tanabe, who is also a Vassar alumna, does an excellent job of creating the setting for the Gilded Age. Anita's story takes her from her working-class neighborhood of Roxbury, Boston to the wealthy parts of Boston and New York City. The Gilded Age was a period of industrialization, the rise of modern capitalism, and imperialism abroad. It was also a dark, racist period in American history where African Americans were largely excluded from attending elite colleges. It is remarkable then that the real Anita Florence Hemmings (Class of 1897) (see picture on the right) represented one of the very few black women who was able to pursue an elite college education. Although she was a descendant of slaves, her light complexion was often mistaken for a Mediterranean look. Had she marked down "colored" on her application, her admittance surely would have been rejected. Despite this physical advantage, as the book reveals, her college peers start to question her ancestry weeks before graduation and her true racial identity is discovered in a tragic way. The real lesson then is, despite her academic accomplishments, not even Anita could escape America's obsession with race and the toll it would have on her family.

I highly recommend this novel. Meanwhile, I heard great news that Tanabe's novel may soon hit the big screens. Sony’s TriStar Pictures has won the worldwide rights to the psychological thriller “A White Lie,” produced by Reese Witherspoon and staring Zendaya as the first African-American woman to graduate from Vassar College. Stay tuned for further updates!