Multicultural Social Work Practice
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Multicultural Social Work Practice

A Competency-Based Approach to Diversity and Social Justice

Derald Wing Sue, Mikal N. Rasheed, Janice Matthews Rasheed

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Multicultural Social Work Practice

A Competency-Based Approach to Diversity and Social Justice

Derald Wing Sue, Mikal N. Rasheed, Janice Matthews Rasheed

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About This Book

A thorough exploration of diversity and social justice within the field of social work

Multicultural Social Work Practice: A Competency-Based Approach to Diversity and Social Justice, 2 nd Edition has been aligned with the Council on Social Work Education's 2015 Educational Policy and Standards and incorporates the National Association of Social Workers Standards of Cultural Competence. New chapters focus on theoretical perspectives of critical race theory, microaggressions and changing societal attitudes, and evidence-based practice on research-supported approaches for understanding the influence of cultural differences on the social work practice.

The second edition includes an expanded discussion of religion and spirituality and addresses emerging issues affecting diverse populations, such as women in the military. Additionally, Implications for Multicultural Social Work Practice' at the end of each chapter assist you in applying the information you have learned. Multicultural Social Work Practice, 2 nd Edition provides access to important guidance regarding culturally sensitive social work practice, including the sociopolitical and social justice aspects of effective work in this field. This thoroughly revised edition incorporates new content and pedagogical features, including:

  • Theoretical frameworks for multicultural social work practice
  • Microaggressions in social work practice
  • Evidence-based multicultural social work practice
  • New chapter overviews, learning objectives, and reflection questions

Multicultural Social Work Practice, 2 nd Edition is an integral guide for students and aspiring social workers who want to engage in diversity and difference.

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Part I
Principles and Assumptions of Multicultural Social Work Practice

  1. Chapter 1 Cultural Diversity and Implications for Multicultural Social Work Practice
  2. Chapter 2 Theoretical Foundations for Multicultural Social Work Practice
  3. Chapter 3 Becoming Culturally Competent in Social Work Practice

Cultural Diversity and Implications for Multicultural Social Work Practice


In this chapter we discuss a conceptual and philosophical framework for understanding the meaning of multicultural social work and cultural competence. We present an overview of the changing ethnic and cultural demographics in the United States, providing a foundation for developing culturally competent social work practice. Further, we introduce a tripartite framework for understanding individual uniqueness; individual differences related to race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, and so on; and universal similarities among human beings

Voices of Diversity and Marginalization

African American Male

It gets so tiring, you know. It sucks you dry. People don't trust you. From the moment I wake up, I know stepping out the door, that it will be the same, day after day. The bus can be packed, but no one will sit next to you . . . I guess it may be a good thing because you always get more room, no one crowds you. You get served last . . . when they serve you, they have this phony smile and just want to get rid of you . . . you have to show more ID to cash a check, you turn on the TV and there you always see someone like you, being handcuffed and jailed. They look like you and sometimes you begin to think it is you! You are a plague! You try to hold it in, but sometimes you lose it. Explaining doesn't help. They don't want to hear. Even when they ask, “Why do you have a chip on your shoulder?” Shit . . . I just walk away now. It doesn't do any good explaining. (D. W. Sue, 2010a, p. 87)

Gay American

I became aware of my sexual orientation only in my late teens. When I first experienced a same-sex attraction, I labeled it a “close friendship” and proceeded to deny my true self. My upbringing told me that being gay was wrong, “morally depraved.” As an only son, I was expected to get married and have a son to perpetuate the family name. How could I disappoint my family? How could I allow myself to give in to “moral weakness”? . . . For several years, I struggled to maintain a heterosexual identity. I dated women but could never gain intimacy with them. Deep down, I knew “the unspeakable truth,” that I was a gay man . . . Yet I had a deep-seated fear of how the process of coming out would impact relationships with my family . . . After coming out, my worst fears initially came true. I lost the support of my parents and initially did not have contact with them . . . Ultimately, the relationship settled into an uncomfortable silence about my life as a gay man. “Don't ask, don't tell” was the only way to maintain a connection with them. (O'Brien, 2005, p. 97–98).

Female Worker

Every day, when I come to work, I do my best to show I'm competent and hardworking. I want that promotion as well. But my male co-workers never seem to recognize that I do much more work than they do. Yet, when I wear my hair differently or wear a new dress or sweater . . . I get remarks . . . “Oh, you look different, I like it . . . you really look sexy today, what's the occasion?” Or “that dress really shows off your body well . . .” What gives them the right to comment on my body anyway? Is it so hard to say, “you're doing a fine job . . . that last report was outstanding”? Do they even notice? No, only my body and appearance matter to them . . . What gets me is other women do the same thing, but usually in a negative way. “Boy, that's a terrible outfit she has on. It makes her look frumpy.” (D. W. Sue, 2010a, p. 170)

Person with a Disability

In 1988, I became obviously disabled. I walk with crutches and a stiff leg. Since that time, I no longer fulfill our cultural standard of physical attractiveness. But worse, there are times when people who know me don't acknowledge me. When I call their name and say, “Hello,” they often reply, “Oh, I didn't see you.” I have also been mistaken for people who do not resemble me. For example, I was recently asked, “Are you a leader in the disability movement?” While I hope to be that someday, I asked her, “Who do you believe I am?” She had mistaken me for a taller person with a different hair color, who limps but does not use a walking aid. The only common element was our disability. My disability had become my persona. This person saw it and failed to see me. (Buckman, 1998, p. 19)

Person in Poverty

Over and over, I came face to face with people's prejudice against me because my family was poor. My best friend all through school told me in the third grade that she couldn't come home and spend the night with me because her daddy said that I was “white trash.” I was incredibly hurt and confused by this, though I didn't know what it was about. That's when I first started feeling bad about myself, feeling I had done something wrong. (Stout, 1996, p. 19)

Individual from an Undocumented Immigrant Family

I can remember having to hide when I was a kid. . . I would come home and my parents would be maybe 20 or 30 minutes late, and I would cry until they got home because I was afraid they had been deported. (Modie, 2001, p. A6)
* * *
These voices of diversity and marginalization tell stories of the many hurts, humiliations, lost opportunities, and experiences of social invisibility; of the need for change; and of the herculean efforts that socially devalued groups have had to undertake in their struggles against an unwelcoming, invalidating, and even hostile social environment. These brief quotes tell stories of isolation and loneliness, and reveal experiences of prejudice and discrimination. It does not matter whether the slights and indignities visited upon these individuals were intentional or unintentional, because they were painful and became a part of each person's lived reality. In many ways, these quotes strongly suggest that obstacles to equal access and opportunity are firmly embedded in individual, institutional, and cultural assumptions and biases.
  • For the African American male, his voice speaks of the pain and humiliation of being treated as a lesser being, a plague to be avoided, and a criminal. But more important, it is about the pervasiveness of racial prejudice, discrimination, and stereotyping in our society and how these factors ultimately affect the psychological and physical well-being of African Americans. It is also about the inequities they encounter in education, employment, and health care.
  • For the gay American, his voice speaks of heterosexism and homophobia; the resulting feelings of shame and the perceived sinfulness of one's true self; the need to hide one's identity; and the need to engage in a conspiracy of silence (don't ask, don't tell). It is about a life of loneliness and isolation—one in which one's internal struggles are difficult to share with family and close friends.
  • For the female worker, her voice addresses having one's accomplishments ignored and/or invisible, and men or coworkers evaluate her worth based on physical appearance and attributes. Women often report encountering remarks about their appearance, garnering unwanted sexual attention, and experiencing sexual harassment. Not only can sexual objectification lead to lowered self-esteem and lowered subjective well-being, but also it may lead to self-objectification.
  • For the person with a disability, his or her voice may speak to several concerns: becoming submerged in and defined as “the disabled” (the persona) and losing recognition as a person with attributes beyond the disability; being perceived as unattractive, and as possessing an ugliness that leads to social avoidance; and that others operate under the assumption that a limitation in one functional area leads to limitations in other functional areas as well. In this case, the potential impact of the disability may be dramatically inflated and extended to every sphere of the person's life (social, intellectual, emotional, and physical functioning).
  • For people who live in poverty, their voice speaks to the experience of exclusion, separation, devaluation, and designation as the “other.” Poor people are seen as lesser beings to be avoided, and arguably are excluded from participation in the political, cultural, and social mainstream of society. But apart from the psychological toll on the poor, poverty has an effect on one's standard of living in terms of inadequate food, shelter, medical care, transportation, and safety. In a nation that historically has purported to be classless, classism and poverty as a form of oppression continues unabated.
  • For undocumented immigrants, it may mean the constant fear of deportation, immigration raids, and living in the shadows of society. Although the vast majority of undocumented workers pay taxes and only minimally use health care and social services, many states and communities have passed or are passing laws that deny benefits to this population, attempt to criminalize them, and subject them to racial profiling. These laws and actions are likely to continue to provoke fear and unease within the immigrant population, and they decrease the likelihood that immigrants will report crimes or abuse perpetrated against them.
These voices echo the life experiences and worldviews of members of marginalized groups in society. The voices provide clues that, despite representing only a tiny part of lived realities, provide us with some powerful lessons of life. The social work profession and particularly social workers must pay attention to the voices of those most oppressed ...

Table of contents

Citation styles for Multicultural Social Work Practice
APA 6 Citation
Sue, D. W., Rasheed, M., & Rasheed, J. M. (2015). Multicultural Social Work Practice (2nd ed.). Wiley. Retrieved from (Original work published 2015)
Chicago Citation
Sue, Derald Wing, Mikal Rasheed, and Janice Matthews Rasheed. (2015) 2015. Multicultural Social Work Practice. 2nd ed. Wiley.
Harvard Citation
Sue, D. W., Rasheed, M. and Rasheed, J. M. (2015) Multicultural Social Work Practice. 2nd edn. Wiley. Available at: (Accessed: 14 October 2022).
MLA 7 Citation
Sue, Derald Wing, Mikal Rasheed, and Janice Matthews Rasheed. Multicultural Social Work Practice. 2nd ed. Wiley, 2015. Web. 14 Oct. 2022.