Critical and Radical Social Work
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From rhetoric to action: confronting whiteness in social work and transforming practices

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  • 1 University of Sydney, , Australia
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Is being ‘culturally competent’ a sufficient response by social work to racialised oppressions and injustices, particularly in the context of Black Lives Matter? The social work profession has acknowledged the problem of racism within Australian society. Nevertheless, decades of scholarship has demonstrated social work’s ongoing involvement in policy and practice frameworks that reinforce and contribute to racialised oppressions. This article critically engages with this concerning disconnect between rhetoric and practice. In order to move beyond an acknowledgement of racial injustices and towards transformed practices, we argue that whiteness within the social work profession must be more thoroughly examined, including problematising notions of social work’s ‘professional innocence’ in relation to racism and white supremacy. We demonstrate the benefits of moving beyond rhetorical commitments and performative allyship, highlighting opportunities for new directions in social work education and policy, in addition to the importance of engaging with anti-racist grass-roots activism.

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