PROFESSIONAL RACISM

By Mickey Skidmore, AMHSW, ACSW, MACSW

racism

ˈreɪsɪz(ə)m/

noun

noun: racism

  1. prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.

◦ the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.

 

prejudice

ˈprɛdʒʊdɪs/

noun

noun: prejudice; plural noun: prejudices

1. preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience.

◦ dislike, hostility, or unjust behaviour deriving from preconceived and unfounded opinions.

 

discrimination

dɪˌskrɪmɪˈneɪʃ(ə)n/

noun

noun: discrimination; plural noun: discriminations

  1. the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex.

 

 

Please peruse the following email chain …

Good morning,

 

I am looking for a therapist who can commence family therapy urgently for family law purposes.

Would you please advise of your availability and fees? The matter concerns only one child who is 9 years old.

Many thanks.

____________________________________

Thank you for your enquiry. Our Clinical Social Worker, Mickey Skidmore, can most certainly provide all of this for you.

His fees are found at …

Medico-Legal family therapy and report writing is provided at … He would be able to provide an initial appointment this Saturday.

Please contact the practice to make an appointment.

____________________________________

Thank you for your prompt reply, it is much appreciated.

I am unsure if our opponent would consent to an expert without qualifications in psychology or psychiatry. I am perfectly confident that Mr Skidmore would be able to assist our case, but have concerns about obtaining consent of all involved. 

I will put it to them given the significant advantage of his availability as well as experience, and revert back to you if I am successful.

 

This is a pervasive attitude that I experience on a regular basis in Australia. It is a common view deeply entrenched by both the public and professionals alike. Not withstanding the solicitor’s advocacy for my abilities, this a typical example of professional discrimination.

As someone who has taught Sociology for more than 10 years at several Universities and Colleges, I am well versed in the inter-relationship of the concepts of prejudice; discrimination; and racism. Consider the definitions above with some minor adjustments to reflect professional disciplines rather than race or gender and see if it makes the definitions any less true.

 

noun: racism

  1. prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different professional discipline based on the belief that one’s own professional discipline or qualification(s) is superior.

◦ the belief that all members of professional discipline possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that discipline, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another discipline or qualification.

 

noun: prejudice; plural noun: prejudices

1.  preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience.

◦ dislike, hostility, or unjust behaviour deriving from preconceived and unfounded opinions.

 

noun: discrimination; plural noun: discriminations

  1. the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of professionals, especially on the grounds of not belonging to one or two accepted disciplines.

 

In general, prejudice is manifested in attitude or beliefs. Discrimination is manifested in action and behaviours. Thus, it is possible for someone to be prejudice (bias) towards something, but not necessarily engage in discrimination. Racism however, is the embodiment of both, coupled with varying degrees of antagonism (passive or aggressive) directed against the group or target. I recognise the title of this essay is somewhat provocative. However, in this particular context I believe such a position is warranted. One final thought on the interplay between these concepts would be this: prejudice is an emotional commitment to ignorance.

In Australia, Medicare is one of the few arenas that recognise Accredited Mental Health Social Workers as providers of Focused Psychological Strategy assessment and psychotherapy treatment. Yet, despite providing the same service as Psychologists, and exposed to the same risks, often working side by side in many cases, the reimbursement structure allowed by Medicare is significantly less for Social Workers. At face value, this seems clearly unjustified, and deriving from preconceived and unfounded opinions not based on reason or actual experience.

After a Bachelors and Masters Degree in Social Work; nearly 35 years of experience as a Clinical Social Worker practicing in the mental health field; and having been trained in a wide range of clinical approaches, frameworks and methods; I am troubled that I find myself feeling incredulous and indignant at this insulting and frankly racist mentality when it comes to Social Work in Australia.

Whether or not historical mis-steps from the AASW have contributed to or underscored such deep-rooted attitudes and beliefs — they should be alarmed and deeply concerned about this state of affairs in Australia. And while they advocate with Medicare for reimbursement fees to be on par with Psychologists and for AMHSW representation within private health funds, they would also be wise to launch a well resourced campaign to challenge this degrading, demoralising, devaluing and patently false misconception about the profession of Social Work, if they ever hope to change this view in the hearts and minds of everyday Australians.

The time is long overdue for Social Workers and the AASW to tap in to one of its primary professional values of social justice and rise up to confront and change this ill-informed and misguided attitude and belief about our profession. Ignoring this reality, will only result in the Social Work being subjugated and forever entrenched as a second-class or “less than” profession.