How Social Welfare and Health Professionals Understand “Race,” Racism, and Whiteness:

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Social welfare and health professionals continually practice within communities, either directly as practitioners or indirectly by supervising students and co-workers. The current study investigated how social welfare and health professionals conceptualized race, racism, and whiteness in health disparities discourse. Employing constructivist grounded theory, through a social justice lens, the researchers developed a theoretical model based upon the collective experiences of social workers, nurses, and physicians. The analysis revealed four theoretical categories that characterized facets of how social welfare and health professionals’ understand race, racism, and whiteness: (1) self-defined skin color; (2) (pre)judgments and discrimination; (3) privilege and power; and (4) conceptual conflation and unfamiliarity. The findings suggest more emphasis during training and in workplace settings on concepts such as power, inequities, and structural racism may significantly improve the efficacy and scope of REHD interventions by expanding social welfare and health professionals’ understanding of race, racism, and whiteness beyond interpersonal level interactions.

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