Abolishing Whiteness

Preparing MSW Social Work Students for Anti-Racist Practice


  • Michele D. Hanna University of Denver GSSW
  • Heather Arnold-Renicker University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work
  • Barbara Garza University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work




Anti-racist practice, Critical Race Theory, whiteness, critical white studies, social work education


The power, privilege, and oppression paradigm that most schools of social work currently espouse to are often taught through an experiential approach to whiteness, privileging the majority of white students with the opportunity to explore their white identity at the expense of the learning of the Black/Brown, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) students in the classroom. Many BIPOC students experience these courses as a hostile environment, finding themselves and their racial group identified in contrast to whiteness – oppressed, marginalized, silenced, and powerless. This paper presents an innovative course outline using Critical Race Theory and Critical White Studies as theoretical frameworks to decenter whiteness and attend to the learning needs of BIPOC students. Using these two theoretical frameworks, students will learn the history of the racial hierarchy of humans; the social construction of whiteness, the evolution of anti-black racism and the extension to other people of color; and the relationship between white supremacy and racism.

Author Biographies

Heather Arnold-Renicker, University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work

Clinical Assistant Professor

Graduate School of Social Work

Barbara Garza, University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work

MSW Graduate '05

Graduate School of Social Work


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