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Decolonizing Dominant Discourses

Decolonizing Dominant Discourses

Sample Answer 

Decolonizing Dominant Discourses

Our Own Story: ADDRESSING Framework

Growing up in America has challenged and expanded the conception of my identity as an African American female. Both my racial and gender identity have been important components of my self-image as an African American. In particular, my racial identity has evolved throughout my growth from early childhood to adulthood. While other aspects of my identity, such as my occupation, are key in my self-perception, racial identity has been the most enduring aspect of my identity. Nevertheless, my female gender identity is the most important to me.

As an African American, my racial identity is conceivably the most noticeable part of my identity, mainly because of the conspicuous nature of my black complexion. The historical trauma of the African American community, including historical experiences of slavery, social injustice, and discrimination, shape the way African Americans are viewed. Over the years, this identity has also been studded by ongoing antiblack experiences such as police brutality. As such, my African American racial identity and the experiences it represents are the first things people are likely to notice about me.

In light of the negative socio-cultural experiences of African Americans, I was previously quite uncomfortable with this part of my identity both because I associated it with a victim mentality and because it meant that I was automatically relegated to the lowest socio-economic class in America. My discomfort with my racial identity resulted from the understanding that I came from a minority race that is considered to have the poorest outcomes in America, with the highest unemployment rates and poorest levels of education. This perception of the underprivileged was complicated by a revulsion of other members of my race because of the feeling that they attached too much significance to the negative African American heritage and abhorred practices such as getting an education because it meant “acting white”.

Growing up, I have become increasingly comfortable with my African American racial origin due to the progressive recognition of the contributions of African Americans in America. This transformation has been particularly significant during my college years. Although the legacy of negative experiences is a non-detachable aspect of the African American identity, I am less unsettled by my black identity. Through interactions with students belonging to other ethnic and racial groups and understanding of the nuances in the negative experiences of their ingroups, my blackness has become a more central part of my identity. While I understand that African American community members are the target of overt and covert forms of racial discrimination, my understanding of the engendered nature of racism enables me to interact empathetically with members of ethno-racial outgroups.

Nevertheless, the part of my identity that I am most proud of is my gender identity. This is because my female gender identity represents my strength and resilience as a person. Being an African American female presents a significantly harder glass ceiling compared to being a female from any other race. Overcoming the negative societal realities surrounding the African American female identity, such as societal perceptions based on body images such as hair quality, homemaker-role performance, and low potential educational attainment, has made this identity a crucial part of my self-concept. For example, I was always one of the few African American females in my class throughout my education. My confidence and self-concept as a person are, therefore, grounded in the conquests of my female identity. My female gender identity is, therefore, important to me because it represents the intersection of my racial and personal identity.

Our Profession’s Story

Although social work is meant to address historical patterns of sociocultural dominance and hegemony, the profession has failed to adequately address the social struggles of afflicted communities. Instead, social work models have fed into the current systems of social injustice by propagating negative labels and attitudes towards disadvantaged ethno-racial communities and social groups. Perpetuating hegemonic narratives jeopardizes the effectiveness of social services that target the effects of these narratives on the well-being of affected groups.

One specific area of practice that is complicit in promoting the status quo is family violence case management. Case management interventions for domestic violence invariably encourage negative experiences of families that have been affected by violence by utilizing models that encourage family separation. For example, many interventions are provided in isolation for the family members who are directly involved, while the interests of other family members, such as children, are disregarded (Tiyyagura et al., 2020). Treating other family members as third parties in family problems promotes negative outcomes such as family separation, which have negative psychosocial effects on those family members.

Similarly, child protective services are also encouraging negative dominant narratives. Among communities such as African Americans and Hispanics, bureaucratic practices in child protective services promote the criminalization of juvenile offenders by focusing on the surveillance of offenders to detect any act of re-offending (Woods, 2018). Such children are immediately re-consigned into the system in the event of re-offending. Similarly, communities such as Native American tribes have adverse historical experiences of forced family separation and assimilation. Since the well-being of members of these communities thrives on community psychology, social work interventions that encourage the isolation of family members from the community setting merely serve to re-inflict the historical trauma of domination and oppression (Gone, 2019). Child-protective services, therefore, encourage dominance.

One of the strategies being used in current practice to dismantle systems of power is the sociocultural adaptation of practices and interventions. For example, the evaluation of the competency of social workers in offering social services in multicultural settings is now based on culturally sensitive instruments. This ensures that the self-efficacy of social workers, such as counselors, is assessed using instruments that accurately reflect the ability of the practitioner to offer culturally competent care. Such instruments include the Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Working Alliance Self-Efficacy Scales (LGB-WASES) (Monahan, 2019). Such instruments ensure that practitioners are multiculturally competent.

Another strategy for redressing systems of power in current practice is child-centered care. This strategy is being considered in both child-protective services and family-violence interventions. In child-protective services, children who have been in the juvenile delinquency system are reintegrated into their families using strategies that enhance their ability to be socially functional in the family setting. Family members are involved in meetings between case managers and child clients. Parents are also counseled and trained on strategies for encouraging the family involvement of these children (Simons, 2017). In family violence interventions, children are involved in the assessment and planning process to ensure that their experiences in family violence are considered (Noble‐Carr et al., 2020). This protects children from being collateral victims of decisions involving adult family members.


Gone, J. P. (2019). “The thing happened as he wished”: Recovering an American Indian cultural psychology. American journal of community psychology64(1-2), 172-184. Juvenile justice institutions. Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Mental Health.

Monahan, S. (2019). Self-Efficacy of School Psychologists: Developing a Scale for Working with and for LGBTQ Youth.

Noble‐Carr, D., Moore, T., & McArthur, M. (2020). Children’s experiences and needs in relation to domestic and family violence: Findings from a meta‐synthesis. Child & Family Social Work, 182-191.

Simons, I. (2017). A program of family centered care for adolescents in short-term stay groups of

Tiyyagura et al. (2020). Seeing the forest in family violence research: moving to a family- centered approach. Academic pediatrics.

Woods, J. B. (2018). Unaccompanied Youth and Private–Public Order Failures. IOWA LAW REVIEW, 1639-1709.


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Decolonizing Dominant Discourses

Assignment #1


Instruction: In this session, instructor and students treat each other’s intersecting identities as areas of resilience, strength, and vulnerability. Rather than seeing each other – as well as our clients – as solitary individuals, we are pushing each other to go beyond the boundaries of the individual, a static diagnosis, or that we merely adapt to the social pathologies and systems that keep us oppressed. If we are to recognize the marginalized narratives of our clients, we must first recognize the colonization of our own upbringing and education. Using a cultural self-assessment tool by Hays (2008), social work students will consider many aspects of their own converging identity through the ADDRESSING framework.

Each student will write a brief 1-2 page journal reflection (cover page only/APA style not required) using one or two of the categories below as prompts that assists the student in recognizing privilege and oppression through elements of their identity. Using the practice of the healing circle, instructor and student will be listening to each other share, and then resonate. What is resonance? When someone shares courageously, they need to know that you heard them and are supporting them. Often we just need to be listened to with empathy, so we can feel supported. Support questions for resonating include:

  • What did you appreciate about what was shared?
  • What parts moved you?
  • What strengths did you hear?
  • How did it make you feel?
  • What could you relate to?

    Decolonizing Dominant Discourses

    Decolonizing Dominant Discourses


Instruction: In this session, instructor and students begin to decolonize the pedagogy and practice of social work by paying critical attention to the “tensions and contradictions” in our profession, field education experience, supervisory relationship and academic setting. During our tragic history of slavery, two mental disorders were labeled upon black slaves:

  1. Drapetomania: characterized by a single symptom: the uncontrollable urge to escape slavery.
  2. Dysathesia aethiopia: multiple systems including destroying property on the plantation, being disobedient, talk back, fighting with their masters and refusing to work.

Using labels as a means of control is a long story in this country. In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) removed the diagnosis of “homosexuality” from the second edition of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM). For decades prior, the APA associated homosexuality as a pathology.

Each student will write a 1-2 page journal reflection using the questions below as prompts – or add other categories or issues (gender, race, class, etc.) that confronts social works attempt to maintain power over others or has become silent on important issues in our community. Utilizing the practice of the healing circle, instructor and student will reflect and dialogue with each other and then resonate. What is resonance? When someone shares courageously, they need to know that you heard them and are supporting them. Often we just need to be listened to with empathy, so we can feel supported. Support questions for resonating include:

  • What did you appreciate about what was shared?
  • What parts moved you?
  • What strengths did you hear?
  • How did it make you feel?
  • What could you relate to?

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