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White Suprematism in Social Work


Although modern civilization has reached colossal development, in a number of cultural and social aspects, humanity is still facing challenges. Racism, in particular white suprematism, is characteristic of all spheres of life in European and American society. Social services aimed at improving the quality of life of the population, including ethnic minorities, also have racial prejudices, often unintentional. Eliminating discrimination requires the interaction of professionals at the macro, mezzo and micro levels, as well as an open recognition of the existing problem.

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Historical White Suprematism

Racism, as any type of discrimination, is historically conditioned, but has a lasting impact on the modern world. People are used to identifying others by many factors, including skin color and ethnicity. In particular, the privileged position of white people in the western postcolonial world remains a significant problem. Most of Europeans and Americans are convinced that “white people are superior in many ways to people of other races and… should be dominant over other races” (Saad, 2020). The assumption has an impact not only on the individual and social level, but also on the institutional. Whole systems operate on the basis of racist prejudices which are difficult to eradicate in society. Nevertheless, white suprematism in the minds of people is often unmotivated and unconscious, which conditions the search for solutions to the problem.

From a historical point of view, racism has existed throughout the history of mankind, when some peoples oppressed others. However, the appearance of ideas of white supremacy relates to the 15th century and the beginning of the European settlement of the New World (Carten et al., 2016). Thus, the concept became a justification, first for the genocide of the indigenous population of North America, and then for the exploitation of Africans on the continent.

Christianity played a leading role in the process of spreading ideas, which relied on biblical texts to create dichotomies of good and evil, enlightenment and barbarism (Carten et al., 2016). Gradually, religion and civilization began to be associated with white people, while savagery or paganism with representatives of other races. Thus, by the middle of the 18th century, the ideology of white suprematism took shape, suggesting the superiority of Europeans over those of a different skin color (Carten et al., 2016). The prejudices which developed earlier still exist today, having a significant impact on the lives of modern people.

Colonial Britain and later the United States of America are the main supporters of white suprematist ideas. The militaristic and economic superiority which allowed a particular skin color to suppress the rest is the reason for the establishment of a racist order (Tourse, Hamilton-Mason & Wewiorski, 2018). The later emerging vision of the Western world as more developed is associated with the national hegemony of white people, who institutionalized their pre-dominated status. Thus, the development of ideology provided the representatives of the race with a sense of cultural and social excellence, which was deeply rooted in the mind.

The emergence of fascism and nationalism in the 30-40s of the last century, which were based on exceptional racism, made one think about the legitimacy and necessity of such prejudices (Carten, Peneder Greene & Siskind, 2016). Although over time in Europe and the United States, discrimination on the basis of skin color began to be considered wrong and illegal, the system, built in different conditions, remains subconsciously racist.

Modern White Suprematism

In the modern world, it is unacceptable to define a person by their ethnicity and treat them differently. However, many institutions still operate on the basis of ideas of racial discrimination, including social services and health care (Carten, Peneder Greene & Siskind, 2016). The reason for the oppression of ethnic minorities in the United States is the prejudice of the disadvantage and low income of such households compared to white people. Mainly, oppression and discrimination are faced by representatives of such groups as “First Nation Peoples, Africans, Mezicans, and Chinese” (Tourse, et al., 2018, p. 6). Nevertheless, such a situation may just be the result of the fact that it is more difficult for them to receive any type of social assistance in the country.

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Structural inequalities in different institutions worsen the position of representatives of other races, which reinforces the ideas of white suprematism among the population. Ethnic minorities continue to be influenced by a system which “characteristically advantages white Americans while creating detrimental outcomes for people of color” (Corley & Young, 2018, p. 316). Thus, the problem of racism is relevant in particular for social workers, who must ensure the welfare of the population.

Social Work Racism

While social work is primarily meant to spread justice and the elimination of racism, discrimination persists in this area. Representatives of the profession often do not participate in improving the situation, although the system has taken measures to educate workers about cultural awareness (Corley & Young, 2018). Cultural competence is aimed at increasing the sensitivity of social services to problems specific to ethnic minorities and an increased emphasis on respectful interaction with them.

However, structural inequalities which have developed over the years minimize the positive impact of such initiatives C. However, Corley and Young (2018) report that over the past 35 years, researchers or racism have focused primarily on the need for personal change in employee perceptions rather than system responses. Thus, discrimination against ethnic minorities is viewed as a problem of interaction between social workers and community representatives, while social and political disadvantages are rejected.

Social workers are needed to improve well-being of the country’s population. However, at the moment, ethnic minorities are still more likely to “experience poverty, chronic health issues, poor academic outcomes, unemployment, and higher rates of incarceration” (Corley & Young, 2018, p. 324). Racism and discrimination have a significant impact on the persistence of current situation. People of color often do not seek help for fear of unfairness or disrespect from social workers.

The problem is compounded by the fact that most of such professionals in the United States are white. For example, according to the data, about 70% of students obtaining social worker education are from the dominant ethnic group, while only 25% are from minorities (Alfarano, n. d.). Since the system is represented mainly by whites, the ideas of suprematism are unintentionally preserved. Thus, to solve the existing problem, it is necessary to take actions not only at the micro, but also at the mezzo and macro levels.

Macro Social Work

The most important for structural change in social work is operating at the macro level. It includes various legislative initiatives, non-profit organizations, research and development projects, and educational standards (“Macro, mezzo and micro social work,” n. d.).

It is crucial for the state, first of all, to eradicate racism and discrimination within the institutional framework. First of all, it is worth recognizing the problem and not avoiding discussing it, which happens everywhere when talking about racism is considered as a conflict. A more detailed study and analysis of the social needs of ethnic minorities and their outcomes from interaction with social services is also necessary. Based on the data, it is important to train social workers to consider exactly the aspects which are important to people of color. The main problem at the macro level is the lack of understanding of the ethnic majority of the problems of minorities. White people judge them based on their own ideas, while them need to acknowledge what kind of help a particular ethnic group needs.

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Mezzo Social Work

Mezzo level is no less significant, as it is related to the professionals working with both individuals and groups. It includes workers in school staff, prisons, hospitals and social centers (“Macro, mezzo and micro social work,” n. d.). At this level, it is important to interact with individuals and analyze their problems, openly discuss discrimination and help in specific cases. To address the current situation, it is necessary to collect information on the prevalence of racism in institutions in order to then take appropriate action at the macro level.

Micro Social Work

The micro level involves the direct assistance of workers to individuals. Professionals protect the most vulnerable people in various aspects of their lives, ensuring their most comfortable existence (“Macro, mezzo and micro social work,” n. d.). For this level, the cultural education of workers is important, their attentive attitude to the needs of representatives of racial minorities. Awareness and access to appropriate training should be provided for each worker.


The problem of racism, in particular white suprematism, is characteristic of modern social services. To eliminate discrimination and provide more effective assistance, action must be taken at the macro, mezzo and micro levels. Each level is interconnected, therefore, further changes in the social and political situation in relation to ethnic minorities depend on working with specific individuals. Population well-being is based on cultural sensitivity and a genuine desire for equality.


Alfarano, B. (n. d.). Confronting the white elephant: White privilege in social services. Social Work Today. Web.

Carten, A. J., Pender Greene, M., & Siskind, A. (2016). Strategies for deconstructing racism in the health and human services. Oxford University Press.

Corley, N. A., & Young, S. M. (2018). Is social work still racist? A content analysis of recent literature. Social Work, 63(1), 317-326. Web.

Macro, mezzo and micro social work. (n. d.). Social Work License Map. Web.

Saad, L. (2020). Me and white supremacy: How to recognise your privilege, combat racism and change the world. Hachette UK.

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Tourse, R., Hamilton-Mason, J., & Wewiorski, N. J. (2018). Systemic racism in the United States: Scaffolding as social construction. Springer.

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