Pores and skin and hair will be integral to a younger black individual’s sense of self. But within the UK, black kids and younger folks face discrimination about their our bodies. It’s not simply colleges sending black kids dwelling as a result of their hair is deemed opposite to uniform codes. The significance of hair and pores and skin to black kids can be neglected in social work.
Social staff play an necessary half within the lives of many kids and younger folks. They want to have the ability to set up respectful and significant relationships with the youngsters and younger folks they work with, relationships that may assist help wholesome, protected and fulfilled childhood experiences. This position requires a deep understanding of youngsters’s identification. Nevertheless, for black kids, that is missing.
My PhD analysis investigates how vital pores and skin color and hair texture are to younger black folks, and examines how social work within the UK understands this.
I spoke to younger black folks and to social work teachers, college students and practitioners. The younger folks raised the importance of hair and pores and skin color to their life experiences, their relationship with themselves and others and their relationships with society and its establishments. It was clear from the social work teachers, college students and practitioners I interviewed, nevertheless, that these experiences and wishes are being ignored.
The social work teachers, college students and practitioners I spoke to recognised that there are particular issues a social employee must find out about these areas of a black individual’s life. Nevertheless, that is missing or uncared for throughout social work. The view amongst all my respondents was that instructing on this matter is tokenistic and dependent upon the flexibility of particular person lecturers to prioritise and supply it.
Partaking with and understanding the significance of pores and skin and hair to black kids and younger folks would possibly imply speaking concerning the relationship between ethnic identification, hair and pores and skin. It could be speaking about protecting hairstyles for black hair, hair kind and hair hygiene, combs, oils and lotions. It is going to undoubtedly embody a significant engagement with privilege and marginalisation in relation to the racialised physique.
Each practitioners and BA and MA college students felt that social work training, coverage and observe shouldn’t be knowledgeable about caring for youngsters and younger people who find themselves black, and that the “casual, all the way down to earth, day-to-day data” that’s required is severely missing.
One social employee talked about how nice it might be if a younger black individual going to a foster placement or kids’s residential placement with out belongings had a social employee and carer with “working data” of tips on how to care for his or her pores and skin and hair.
Social staff and carers ought to know what a black youngster or younger individual would possibly require: the lotions, oils and combs they could want for his or her first night time away from dwelling. It needs to be embedded inside observe quite than an excellent exception.
One other practitioner advised me that for some social staff, getting into into any form of dialogue concerning the pores and skin, hair and ethnic identification of a black youngster or younger individual would “blow their minds”, suggesting it might be “too superior” for some social staff to “tackle board”.
This can be a reflection on the flexibility of social work to navigate and prioritise points immediately regarding the essential care of youngsters and younger people who find themselves black, in addition to the promotion and valuing of their identification as black folks.
Understanding racism and white supremacy
The influence white worry and discomfort has on discussions of racism and ethnicity must be confronted when addressing these questions.
The present scenario is that racism and points about ethnicity will be ignored in social work, maybe in an try to guard the fragility of practitioners and trainers or forestall exposing privilege. This prioritises the safety of white emotions over the wants of black kids and younger folks.
“It’s nearly like they’re afraid to speak about it, in case they offend,” one social work pupil mentioned. This worry was echoed by the social work teachers I spoke to, who expressed that they “wouldn’t really feel comfy” or they wouldn’t understand how far to “enterprise into this”.
Social work observe, college instructing and pre and post-qualifying coaching must immediately have interaction with these issues. A extra nuanced understanding concerning the lived experiences of younger people who find themselves black and the way their our bodies are handled and cared for is required.
Zoe Thomas doesn’t work for, seek the advice of, personal shares in or obtain funding from any firm or group that will profit from this text, and has disclosed no related affiliations past their educational appointment.