News & Politics

CUNY Prof Argues Social Workers Should Preach About 'Oppression'

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City University of New York Professor Alexis Jemal thinks she knows exactly what social workers need to do in order to combat the real problems in America. You see, she believes that social workers — the people who do the most work with the poor —should be focused on things like “privilege” and “oppression” of these people by…well, whoever is oppressing whoever these days.

From Campus Reform’s Toni Airaksinen:

In order to avoid contributing to the “problem of social injustice,” Jemal suggests that those in her field must participate in “radical social work” training to examine “their own social privilege, explore personal biases and beliefs and the resulting oppression, and develop their capacity for action to challenge unjust conditions.”

Such trainings, Jemal argues, are crucial for social workers who have a duty to fight social injustice since it “is silencing, makes people unsafe and uncomfortable, [and] denies inalienable human rights.”

“Radical social work bridges individual and community practice by acknowledging that macro forces have micro consequences; micro practices are reflective of macro socio-political processes; and, by opposing the socio-structural forces underlying individual problems,” she adds.

Additionally, Jemal recommends that her colleagues utilize a social-justice approach when dealing with clients, saying this can help “reduce” oppressive situations, and assist clients in navigating “systemic oppression.”

Jemal also believes that traditional social work is wrong for straying away from talk of oppression, basically arguing you don’t have to be a full-fledged neo-Nazi or a member of the Klan to be a part of the problem.

In other words, Jemal wants social workers to tell people who are downtrodden and distraught about their situations that the reason they’re in that situation is because of racism, oppression, and privilege. Sure. Why not?

After all, it’s not like a minority person who is mentally ill and being told that oppression is the reason for their lot in life would internalize that and decide to hurt people. Not in a million years, right?

What about whites receiving services from social workers? I know that while struggling financially, the thing I most love to hear is all about my privilege. I can only imagine it would be even more fun for someone struggling with far more problems than I have. Can you imagine, you’re sitting there speaking with someone who can supposedly help you, and then they go on about privilege and oppression, only for you to realize they’re talking like you have all this privilege?

The truth of the matter is that there is no systemic oppression of minorities except for what George W. Bush called “the soft bigotry of low expectations” that the American left has distilled throughout the federal bureaucracy. Where are Jemal’s concerns about that, though?