The Obligation of White Women

Dismantling White Supremacy Culture in Social Work Education




white supremacy, social work education, white women, racism, dominant culture


On Memorial Day 2020, a white woman, Amy Cooper, was walking her unleashed dog in New York City. After being apprised of the leash law in that state by a man bird watching, Ms. Cooper proceeded to call the police stating an “African American man” was “threatening her life and that of her dog” (Ransom, 2020). While this event may seem unconnected to the field of social work, it is a modern example of the way white women, including those in social work, use emotionality, bureaucracy, and the law to control Black bodies. Social work has been and continues to be, responsible for policies and practices that maintain white supremacy culture and criminalize Black people.

Author Biographies

Jandel Crutchfield, The University of Texas at Arlington

Dr. Jandel Crutchfield is an assistant professor in the School of Social Work at the University of Texas at Arlington. Prior to her academic career, Dr. Crutchfield worked as a licensed clinical social worker in Mississippi and Louisiana schools. In addition she has served as a counselor in community mental health, in-home counseling, and residential treatment settings. Dr. Crutchfield earned her B.A. in Psychology from Washington University in St. Louis. She earned her Master of Social Work from the Florida State University College of Social Work. Dr. Crutchfield earned her PhD in social work from Louisiana State University. Her research focus is designed to understand the stagnation in disparities for vulnerable people of color by not only examining cases describing the lived experiences of people of color, but also through examining institutional, societal, and individual level bias that contributes to disparities, and finally, the need for better training in cultural engagement for those professionals working in any system with people of color. UT Arlington’s strategic focus on health and the human condition encapsulates my research focus as the goal is to better the lived experiences of people of color.

Desiree Stepteau-Watson, University of Mississippi

Dr. Desiree Stepteau-Watson, LCSW, as an Associate Professor and the  MSW Program Director of the Department of Social Work in theSchool of Applied Sciences at the University of Mississippi. 


Aguilera, J. (2020). White woman who called police on a Black man at Central Park apologizes, says ‘I’m not a racist’. retrieved from

Batterham, A. (2020, January 7). Do gooding white lady saviour complex [Blog]. Medium.

Biewen, J. (Producer). (2017). Seeing white (Nos. S2 E1-S2 E14) [Audio podcast]. In Scene on the Radio.

Billings, D. (2016). Deep denial: The persistence of white supremacy in United States history and life. Crandall, Dostie, & Douglass Books, Incorporated.

Carlton-LaNey, I., & Carlton Alexander, S. (2001). Early African American social welfare pioneer women: Working to empower the race and the community. Journal of Ethnic and Cultural Diversity in Social Work 10(2), 67-84.

Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2016). Issue briefs: Racial disproportionality and disparity in child welfare. /

Council on Social Work Education [CSWE]. (2015). 2015 Educational policy and accreditation standards.

CSWE. (2018). 2017 Statistics on social work education in the United States.

DiAngelo, R. (2018). White fragility: Why it's so hard for white people to talk about racism. Beacon Press.

Dominelli, L. (1989). An uncaring profession? An examination of racism in social work. Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 15(3), 391-403.

Dunbar-Ortiz, R. (2014). An Indigenous peoples’ history of the United States. Beacon Press.

Freire, P. (2000). Pedagogy of the oppressed. Continuum.

Glymph, T. (2008). Out of the house of bondage: The transformation of the plantation household. Cambridge University Press.

Holloway, K. (2020, September 8). The whitelash next time. The Nation.

Hughey, M. W. (2011). The white savior film and reviewers’ reception. Symbolic Interaction 33(3), 475-496.

Iglehart, A. P., & Beccera, R. M. (1995). Social services and the ethnic community. Waveland Press Inc.

Jaffe, S. (2018). Why did a majority of white women vote for Trump? New Labor Forum 27(1), 18-26.

Jones, K., & Okum, T. (2001). Dismantling racism: A workbook for social change groups.

Jones-Rogers, S. E. (2019). They were her property: White women as slave owners in the American south. Yale University Press.

Kendall, M. (2020). Hood feminism: Notes from the women that a movement forgot. Viking.

Kendi, I. X. (2016). Stamped from the beginning: The definitive history of racist ideas in America. Nation Books.

Kendi, I. X. (2019). How to be an antiracist. One World.

Kennedy, A. C. (2008). Eugenics, “Degenerate Girls,” and social workers during the progressive era. Affilia: Journal of Women and Social Work, 23(1), 22-37.

Martin, E. P., & Martin, J. M. (1995). Social work and the black experience. NASW Press.

Maylea, C. (2020). The end of social work. The British Journal of Social Work, bcaa203, 1-18.

McRae, E. (2018). Mothers of massive resistance: White women and the politics of white supremacy. Oxford University Press.

Murphy, P. P. (2017). White nationalists use tiki torches to light up Charlottesville march. CNN.

National Association of Social Workers. (2008). Code of ethics.

National Conference of State Legislatures. (2020, September 28). Disproportionality and disparity in child welfare.

Nogueira, S. G. (2013). Ideology of white racial supremacy: Colonization and de-colonization processes. Psicologia & Sociedade, 25, 23-32.

Perez-Peña, R. (2017, January 27). Woman tinked to 1955 Emmett Till murder tells historian her claims were false. New York Times.

Pew Research Center. (2018, August 9). An examination of the 2016 electorate, based on validated voters.

Ransom, J. (2020, July 6). Amy Cooper faces charges after calling police on Black bird-watcher. New York Times.

Salzburg, Quigley, L., Mehfoud, N., Acquaviva, K., Wyche, K., & Sliva, S. (2017). Profile of the social work workforce.

Singer, J. (2020, June 11). Don’t watch the help....or these other white savior movies. Glamour.

SWCAREs (facilitator). (2020, June 30). Social work so white with Rachel Cargle [Webinar]. SWCAREs Webinar.

Sue, D. W. (2006). The invisible whiteness of being: Whiteness, White supremacy, White privilege, and racism. In M. G. Constantine & D. W. Sue (Eds.), Addressing racism: Facilitating cultural competence in mental health and educational settings (p. 15-30). John Wiley & Sons Inc.