Addressing Racial Disproportionality and Disparities in Human Services, edited by Rowena Fong, Alan Dettlaff, Joyce James, and Carolyne Rodriguez, Columbia University Press, New York, ISBN: 9780231160810, 2015, 385 pages, $31.50 paperback.
In 2008, the United States elected the country’s first black president, Barack Obama (also reelected in 2012). This historic event gave credence to the thought that the U.S. had entered a post-racial era. However, even in 2015, there are racial issues of divide and inequalities within U.S. communities and systems.
One of the guiding forces of the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) Center for Diversity and Social and Economic Justice (CSWE, n.d.) is the Council on Racial, Ethnic, and Cultural Diversity (CRECD). CRECD recommended changing the term “minority” to “historically underrepresented,” which would best reflect the range of those who have been oppressed, discriminated against, and experienced power and privilege inequalities. This would include women, LGBTQ, African Americans, Alaskan Natives, Asian Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, and Pacific Islanders. This is in alignment with the continuous issues of racial disproportionality in human service and other systems (http://www.cswe.org/CentersInitiatives/Diversity.aspx).
The book Addressing Racial Disproportionality and Disparities in Human Services furnishes thought-provoking interpretations of the needs of the historically underrepresented, and provides approaches that have worked along with models for replication (according to the population and geographical location). The book contains thirteen chapters with four divisions (introduction, ethnic minority populations, cross systems, and future directions).
Chapters 1 and 2 provide an introduction to racial disproportionality and disparities utilizing a cross-systems approach with systems related theories. Such theoretical frameworks give the perspective of individuals, families, groups, communities, and organizations. This allows the reader to better understand and address disproportionality and disparities issues, knowledge, and new innovations about culturally competent services across various systems.
To eradicate and understand the issues of disproportionality and disparities, one needs to have the knowledge of the historically underrepresented provided in Chapters 3 through 6. Chapters 7 through 11 are devoted to viewing ethnically diverse populations across various systems (child welfare, juvenile justice, education, mental health, and health care) with an emphasis on collaboration among systems.
Case studies are included in Chapter 12, which offers a view of innovative models for replication, along with reflection of CSWE mandated competencies. Chapter 13 concludes with future directions toward eliminating racial disproportionality and disparities with a systematic holistic approach toward evidence-based culturally competent service delivery. Also presented is the need to collect, analyze, and evaluate data to communicate policy and practice decisions through evidence-based practice.
Addressing Racial Disproportionality and Disparities in Human Services provides a practical guide for generalist and advanced level practitioners and various systems. It provides consciousness-raising to eventually eliminate disproportionality and disparities and the need to research, advocate, practice, and collaborate across systems. The book is a reminder of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) standards of cultural competence as “the process by which individuals and systems respond respectfully and effectively to people of all cultures, languages, classes, races, ethnic backgrounds, religions, and other diversity factors in a manner that recognizes, affirms, and values the worth of individuals, families, and communities and protects and preserves the dignity of each” (NASW, 2007).
Council on Social Work Education. (n.d.). CSWE center for diversity and social and economic justice. Retrieved from http://www.cswe.org/CentersInitiatives/Diversity.aspx.
National Association of Social Workers. (2007). Indicators for the achievement of the NASW standards for cultural competence in social work practice. Washington, DC: Author.
Reviewed by Carmelita L. Dotson, B.S., MSSW, LAPSW, Lecturer, Department of Social Work, Middle Tennessee State University.