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Posted: September 4th, 2023

In his book “How to Be an Antiracist” (2019)

In his book “How to Be an Antiracist” (2019), Ibram Kendi argues that there is no neutrality in the struggle against racism. He states that individuals are either complicit in allowing racial inequities to persist, making them racists, or actively confronting racial inequities as antiracists. Kendi dismisses the notion of a middle ground of “not racist,” asserting that claiming neutrality is merely a disguise for racism (Kendi, 2019, p. 9). While Kendi’s focus is primarily on racism, it is important to recognize that oppression extends beyond racial lines and permeates various aspects of society. As a social worker, there are several actions that can be taken to intervene in anti-oppression practices and contribute to achieving social change.

Self-Reflection and Awareness: Social workers should engage in continuous self-reflection to examine their own biases, prejudices, and privileges. By becoming aware of their own positions within systems of power and privilege, social workers can better understand the ways in which they may inadvertently contribute to oppression.

Education and Advocacy: Social workers can educate themselves and others about the various forms of oppression and the intersectionality of identities. This includes understanding the experiences of marginalized groups, challenging stereotypes, and promoting inclusive practices. Social workers can advocate for policy changes that address systemic inequalities and promote social justice.

Client-Centered Approaches: Social workers should adopt client-centered approaches that empower individuals and communities facing oppression. This involves recognizing the strengths and resilience of those facing oppression, actively involving them in decision-making processes, and providing culturally sensitive and relevant services.

Collaboration and Coalition Building: Social workers can work collaboratively with other professionals, organizations, and community members to address oppression collectively. Building coalitions and alliances helps amplify voices and mobilize resources for social change.

Critical Analysis of Systems: Social workers should critically analyze the systems and structures that perpetuate oppression. This includes examining policies, practices, and organizational cultures to identify areas of bias and discrimination. By challenging these systems, social workers can advocate for equitable and inclusive changes.

Trauma-Informed Practice: Recognizing the impact of oppression on individuals and communities, social workers should adopt trauma-informed practices. This approach emphasizes creating safe and supportive environments, understanding the impact of trauma, and promoting healing and resilience.

Research and Evaluation: Social workers can contribute to the field through research and evaluation that shed light on the consequences of oppression and the effectiveness of anti-oppression interventions. By generating evidence-based knowledge, social workers can inform practice and policy decisions.

It is important to note that these actions should be implemented within a broader social justice framework that addresses power imbalances and advocates for equity. Social workers should continuously engage in ongoing professional development to enhance their knowledge and skills in anti-oppression practices.


Kendi, I. X. (2019). How to be an antiracist. Random House.

Morgaine, K. (2015). Social work, social justice, and human rights: A structural approach to practice. In Reisch, M. (Ed.), The Routledge International Handbook of Social Work Theory and Practice (pp. 335-344). Routledge.

Rush, F. (2012). The complexities of anti-oppressive practice. In Dominelli, L. (Ed.), Anti-oppressive social work theory and practice (2nd ed., pp. 21-36). Palgrave Macmillan.

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