Last updated January 4, 2016
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Our Diverse Society

Race and Ethnicity—Implications for 21st Century American Society

This new Diverse Society is the same kind of critical contribution to social work that its predecessor was in 1976. In that era the social work profession had a paucity of policy or practice texts that viewed diversity in any meaningful or substantive manner. I was a new Chicana social work educator that relied on that seminal contribution to diversity and social justice perspectives to develop a concentration on Poverty and Minorities at a California school of Social Work.

Since that period there has been a slow but cumulative development of books/texts that address the issues of social work competence with culturally diverse clients and communities. However, the present day context in which diversity must be addressed is complicated by numerous factors as Greely’s chapter on immigration notes: war, terrorism, and renewed fears and antipathy towards both documented and undocumented immigrants.

At this critical juncture in our nation’s political split on values and policies that drive resource distribution, this text elucidates how our historical struggles with nativism and racism have resulted in a new height of oppression and disenfranchisement for diverse communities. This book presents painful insights on those policies resulting in oppression; especially, amongst others, those well researched chapters on education, health care and prisons.

This text demands that social workers and policy makers respond to this diversity with the “analytic sophistication” that stops the stereotyping that too often characterized other texts on diversity. It challenges the reader in it’s chapter on schools to decipher and translate cultural wealth into social capital, very much a strengths perspective. It’s presentation of this new era of oppression seeds the chapter on practice which details how social justice and dignity principles must be the bedrock on which social workers base their practice. Like the 1976 book, this is again a seminal work for the profession of social work, for policy makers, and other human service professions. To teach from this book would be exciting!

Dr. Maria Zuniga

Professor Emeritus, San Diego State University, School of Social Work