Awareness of Racism Among Social Work Students in a Challenging Era

An Application of Social Ecological Model


  • Hsun-Ta Hsu University of Missouri School of Social Work
  • Ashley Givens University of Missouri School of Social Work
  • Rachel Bailey University of Missouri School of Social Work
  • Che Wilson University of Missouri School of Social Work
  • Ryan Rattliff University of Missouri School of Social Work
  • Virginia Ramseyer Winter University of Missouri School of Social Work



Social Work Student, awareness of racism, social network, social work education, color-blind racial attitudes


This study focused on understanding individual (e.g., political identity and alignment of social work core values with the Black Lives Matter movement and the All Lives Matter argument) and social environmental correlates (e.g., social network composition) of awareness of racism among social work students. A convenience sample of social work students (n=98) recruited from a major Midwest land grant university completed an online anonymous survey with questions covering individual characteristics, social network information, and attitudes toward social phenomena. The Color-Blind Racial Attitudes Scale was used to assess overall awareness of racism, White privilege, institutional racism, and blatant racism. Regression models were conducted to identify correlates of these domains of racial attitudes separately. Liberal political view identification and alignment of Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement with social work core values were associated with better awareness of racism across all domains; aligning All Lives Matter with social work core values was associated with unawareness of overall racism, institutional racism, and blatant racism. Finally, discussion on racial issues with network members was associated with better awareness of overall racism, White privilege, and blatant racism. Social work programs should facilitate inter-group dialogues to build consensus on countering racism. Discussions on the mission and the context of BLM and its opposition efforts should also be incorporated in the curriculum. Finally, more emphasis on the impact of institutional racism should be included into course activities to further discussion on such topics within students’ network.

Author Biographies

Che Wilson, University of Missouri School of Social Work

Ms. Wilson is a MSW student at the University of Missouri School of Social Work.

Ryan Rattliff, University of Missouri School of Social Work

Ms. Rattliff is a MSW student at the University of Missouri School of Social Work.


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