Cultural issues encompass all factors of society that influence people’s opinions, beliefs, and choices like public relations, religion, politics, and media to name but a few (IHE, 2015). It is vital to analyze the role of culture issues in society to fathom factors that affect a community. Every community faces complex problems regarding government, healthcare, education, and socialization structures. The ability to understand cultural facets that influence residents’ decisions is imperative in solving social challenges. Over the years, social workers have tried to understand the particular cultural, social, language, and economic nuances of particular societies (Littlechild, 2012). This paper will focus on culture issues in social work and pay attention to modern policy and execution when dealing with African-American families.
Brief History Cultural Incompetence towards African Americans
In America, 63% of the populace are white Americans while the rest are Native American, Asian, Hispanic, African American, or Pacific Islander. By 2012, 13% of American residents identified themselves as African American (Belgrave & Brevard, 2014). Their history in America dates back to the Seventeenth Century when merchants ferried about 10 million Africans across the Atlantic Ocean as slaves. Apart from harsh working conditions in tobacco or cotton plantations, White masters denied these slaves cultural freedom. Slaves had to forgo their culture, hairstyles, religion, dress, ornament, and language among other cultural practices. In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln passed a bill that granted all slaves freedom and full American citizenship (Metcalf & Spaulding, 2015). However, the legislature would later pass a series of draconic laws synonymous with the Jim Crow Laws (Boyd, 2008). Resultantly, African Americans continued to face diverse of levels of exclusion from active social, political, and economic systems. In the Nineteenth and Twentieth Century, a high number of civil rights movements became vocal about the plight of African American families (National Association of Social Workers, 2015). Undoubtedly, the cultural issues of American African family systems differ from other ethnic units. To some extent, most American policies did not consider African American’s cultural diversity. Over the years, social workers have expressed how the neglect of African American cultural issues leads to discrimination. Currently, there are diverse social work organizations that emphasize on the ethical duty of co-existing harmoniously regardless of people’s cultural differences. These groups include the International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW) and International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) among others.
Social Work and the African American Culture
Social work is the epitome expression of humanity. The first social work organization, the Freedmen’s Bureau, started to offer basic assistance to slaves and refugees in 1865 (Stango, n.d). Since then social workers have focused on restoring social justice in America, with an emphasis on minorities’ rights. Over the years, the African American community in the U.S.A has suffered multiple forms of discriminations in political, social, and economic platforms. The family unit is collapsing; 70% of Black American Infants are born to unwed mothers(Stango, n.d). Crime rates are high in the African American community, and 28% of black males will serve a jail term in their lifetime (Stango, n.d). Additionally, unemployment, illiteracy, poverty, ill health, and drug use affect African community more than any other social group.
African American children are likely to suffer from disruptive behaviour disorder than their counterparts from other races (McNeil, Capage, & Bernnett, 2015).Disruptive behaviour may lead to mental illness or affect other family facets. Notably, ethnicity influences how children present symptoms, deal with anger, depression, fear, and their type of defence. Therefore, social workers and psychologists agree that it is important to understand African American culture before assessment and treatment. These children grow up in an environment where they a minority group, low economic status, and family constellation. These vicissitudes of life are causal factors of aggression.
The African American culture considers individuals who share confidential info or express emotions outsiders as anti-social. From a cultural point of view, personal disclosure is not only embarrassing but also unimaginable. Most African Americans consider it as an expression of weakness to admit that a challenge is so severe to require a psychiatrist. Therefore, social workers must explore other culture-friendly means of assistance, such as family, friends, or religious networks, to assist African Americans.
Though the African American community considers the family unit critical, social workers focused on a deficit-problem-based approach (Rockymore, 2008). The model is contrary to the appropriate strengths-centred- approach. In other words, people concentrate more on the weaknesses rather than strengths of African American families. Despite being less than a fifth of America’s population, Black American children make up 50 percent of foster care populace (Rochymore, 2008). Notably, they are five times more likely to be in out-of-home care than youngsters from other culture groups. Analysts add that black families face numerous challenges, such as domestic violence, drug abuse, and are more likely to enrol in society programs. Family strengths satisfy individual needs while coping with the demands of external systems. Some of the African American family strengths include strong kinship bonds, flexible family roles, strong religion orientation, and strong work, and achievement orientation. Social workers should use all these strengths, in different combination or sequence, to ensure that African American individuals make sound life decisions.
For many years, a high percentage of America’s population consider African Americans as ‘hard to reach. According to them, the black community is uninterested in education, political, economic, and other opportunities. By contrast, African Americans acknowledge that education is the most successful exit from poverty. Due to post-slavery discrimination, most people are hesitant to attend a meeting in a venue that they might not be welcome on some other occasion, for some other day.
Unlike most social workers, African American clients are crisis-oriented and non-introspective. In other words, the African American culture values environment change more than personal change. They opine that it is hard for individuals to change while the wider community is discriminative and oppressive.
Importance of Cultural Issues
Culture issues are pertinent to promoting national unity. In America, numerous minority groups alert the government of their identity and long histories of discriminations. African Americans, Hispanics, Latinos, Asians and other racial groups have their unique cultural issues (Hawkins, 2015). Undoubtedly, culturally-competent social work can enhance national coherence.
Social workers have the mandate to promote social justice in society. Respect to communities’ cultural issues translates to challenging racial discrimination. Undoubtedly, African American families face widespread discrimination; they deal with oppressive political regimes, unfair administrative structures, and breaches of human rights. Understanding cultural issues helps social workers shun discrimination by race, religion, gender, skin colour, as well as social and economic factors.
Consideration of cultural issues is critical for a social worker’s success. Failure to fathom a client’s diverse culture and family dynamics could hinder or affect the therapeutic process. A social worker may regard a customer’s behaviour as resistant simply due to failure to recognize a clients’ world perspective. By contrast, adequate comprehension of clients’ culture issues may offer an alternative, appropriate approach to solving challenges.
Recommendation to Social Workers
The African American community is one of the many minority groups in America. However, this group has faced numerous cultural discriminations in the past. It is logical to opine that the society has a long way to go to achieve cultural competence. Luckily, social workers have made numerous achievements when it comes to understanding communities’ cultural differences and the effects of social injustices on individuals’ well-being.
The National Association of Social Workers’ (NASW) (2015) code of ethics gives recommendations to social workers on cultural competence. Firstly, they must appreciate the culture and its influence on an individual and society. Secondly, given that all cultures have particular strengths, social workers must recognize and maximize on these strengths. For instance, African-American cultures have strong kinship bonds (Hawkins, 2015). Therefore, issues like child care are communal responsibilities.
Thirdly, social workers must have adequate knowledge of critical issues in their clients’ cultures. Fourthly, they must be competent as they execute policies and offer services that are sensitive to the community’s culture.
Given the critical role of kinship ties in African American society, social workers must focus on family strengths as a channel of helping clients. Overall, nuclear and extended family members assist each other with finances, childcare, housing, emotion support, and more. In some cases, the family system extends to neighbours, friends, church members, and baby sisters. Unlike in past practices, social workers need to affirm the presence and role of the father figure in the family system. Undoubtedly, therapists do not often include the father, especially in child welfare planning process.
According to NASW Code of Ethics, Sec 1.06c social workers must refrain from developing personal relationships with clients (Hawkins, 2015). The regulation acknowledges that transferring personal feelings between social worker and the client may influence the therapeutic process. The primary assumption is that regardless of culture, religion, or race people respond uniformly to interaction. For this reason, cultural bias should not arise between social workers and clients.
To sum up, in becoming culturally-relevant, social workers should acquire advanced education and try to apprehend the nature of social diversity (Hall & Lindsey, 2015). What is more, they must analyze past oppressions by race, religion, ethnicity, skin colour, disability, or gender. By examining past social injustices, a social worker is less likely to commit similar atrocities.