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3.14 Challenging racism

Section 2.3 explored strategies for ‘working with difference’ in care services, based on an approach that acknowledges diversity in communication needs. You saw that there are dangers in strategies that adopt too rigid a notion of ethnicity, such as the danger of homogenising diverse groups of people. There is also a danger that such strategies might result in a reinforcement of discriminatory practice.

Although the approach to inter-ethnic or cross-cultural communication described by Lena Robinson acknowledges the role played by racism in black people's experience, it suggests challenging racism indirectly, by providing appropriate services that meet the diverse cultural needs of the population. Other approaches have argued for a more direct challenge to the structures and practices of racism. In social work, in particular, there has been an attempt to develop ‘anti-oppressive’ and anti-discriminatory practice, which aims to address class, gender, ‘race’, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability and age, and to develop an understanding of the interconnections between different oppressions. In social work, anti-oppressive practice was developed in the 1990s, building on feminist, anti-racist and radical social practice. Dominelli (2002, p. 4) argues that ‘anti-oppressive practice, with its value commitment to the realisation of social justice, is one variant of a range of emancipatory approaches to social work.’

The next activity is a useful introduction to some of the key principles of anti-oppressive practice.

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