Alternative Title

Perspectives of instructors on White MSW student engagement with race and racism course material

Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis

Study Type



School for Social Work


Racism-Study and teaching (Graduate), Social work education, United States-Race relations, Whites-Attitudes, Anti-racism, Racism, White, Whiteness, Social work, White supremacy, Race and racism, Habits of Whiteness, White anti-racism, Social work students


This qualitative, exploratory thesis explores the perspectives of instructors of courses on race and racism in social work masters programs. It looks at how these instructors are teaching race and racism content and how White students in their classes engage with the content. In doing so, this study addresses a gap in the social work literature on pedagogy for race and racism, which often fails to address the particular dynamics of teaching this material to White students in the United States.

Through qualitative, semi-structured interviewed with eleven instructors, this project describes the many ways White students engage with this material, identifying patterns of White students who are “doing the work” or “not doing the work” of being open to transformation and commitment to lifelong anti-racism practice. Drawing on concepts from the interdisciplinary literature in critical Whiteness studies, this study suggests that White MSW students’ habits of Whiteness cause them to misunderstand, misrepresent, evade, and deceive themselves about the unearned advantages given to them by structures of White supremacy. The findings also show that instructors are deeply committed to this work and use a variety of techniques and skills to engage students with anti-racism, and that both the explicit and the implicit curricula affect White student engagement.

Based on these findings, it is recommended that White MSW students be given supplementary education on race and racism, that social work educators teach anti-racism in ways that directly counter habits of Whiteness, and that social work schools deeply and critically engage with the ways they perpetuate and teach White supremacy.




iii, 200 pages. M.S.W., Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Ma. 2016. Includes bibliographical references (pages 151-164)

Included in

Social Work Commons