The Cost of Being Black in Social Work Practicum


  • Nia Johnson West Chester University, Graduate Social Work, West Chester, PA
  • Paul Archibald College of Staten Island, CUNY, Department of Social Work, Staten Island, NY USA
  • Anthony Estreet Morgan State University, School of Social Work, Baltimore, MD USA
  • Amanda Morgan Howard University, School of Social Work, Washington, DC USA



critical race theory, social work practicum, social work education, antiracism


The social work profession is not exempt from fueling institutional racism, which affects the provision of social work practicum education for Black social work students. This article highlights how the historical and current social cost of being Black in the United States presents itself within social work education’s signature pedagogy. Social workers who hold bachelor’s degrees in social work (BSW) are more likely to be Black than those holding master’s degrees in social work (MSW; Salsberg et al., 2017). It takes Black students longer to earn an MSW degree though they are more likely to hold a BSW while also having work experience related to the social work profession; this is indicative of a flawed system. The implications of this are explored by highlighting social work’s historical context and the role privilege holds within a profession charged with working towards social justice. Critical Race Theory (CRT) is utilized to unearth how the current state of social work practicum upholds a culture of white supremacy through covertly racist requirements and practices. Case examples are utilized to demonstrate the challenges Black students face as social work practicum mimics oppressive practices and perpetuates disparities in the social work landscape. Additionally, this article explores oppression’s role in treating vulnerable social work students and how that treatment is reflected in the workforce, ultimately informing service delivery.


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