The Politics of Resistance From Within

Dismantling White Supremacy in Social Work Classrooms


  • Patrina Duhaney University of Calgary
  • Yahya El-Lahib University of Calgary



social work education, white supremacy, whiteness, neoliberalism, racism, racialization


Everyday racism embedded in all facets of society, coupled with ongoing injustices against racialized people globally, have reignited an urgent action to turn the gaze within social work education. There is a need to challenge and resist white supremacy that continues to institutionalize systemic racism and justify state control of social and political processes. These current realities are in direct contradiction to the neoliberal push for state withdrawal from social programming and essential services. Yet the interconnectedness between neoliberalism, white supremacy and fascist ideologies has gone undetected in social work circles resulting in a political and ideological vacuum in the profession. Within the social work curricula, there is a lack of attention and involvement to effectively dismantle white supremacy and racism that are perpetuated within and through the profession. The social work classroom has been a natural place to incubate a new wave of resistance that has the potential of changing the face of the profession. Considering the deleterious effects white supremacy has for racialized bodies within academic spaces, we assert the embodiments of resistance with a call to action for social work scholars, students, administrators and practitioners. These key actors must reject the legacy of white supremacy in our profession that acts as social control agents serving the state's interests and perpetuating its hegemony. We explore some of the ways in which we confront and disrupt white supremacy, which includes interrogating and dismantling dominant discourses, systemic and institutional academic racism (teaching, research and service), social work curriculum and priorities, and racist classroom dynamics that have been shaped by whiteness that continues to impact the interactions between racialized and white students and professors. We conclude with a call to infuse social work with practices and approaches that equip students with knowledge and tangible tools to enact change beyond academic spaces.



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