Pores and skin and hair might be integral to a younger black particular person’s sense of self. But within the UK, black youngsters and younger folks face discrimination about their our bodies. It’s not simply faculties sending black youngsters dwelling as a result of their hair is deemed opposite to uniform codes. The significance of hair and pores and skin to black youngsters can be neglected in social work.
Social staff play an essential half within the lives of many youngsters and younger folks. They want to have the ability to set up respectful and significant relationships with the kids and younger folks they work with, relationships that may assist assist wholesome, secure and fulfilled childhood experiences. This function requires a deep understanding of kids’s identification. Nevertheless, for black youngsters, 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, nonetheless, 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 learn about these areas of a black particular person’s life. Nevertheless, that is missing or uncared for throughout social work. The view amongst all my respondents was that educating on this subject is tokenistic and dependent upon the flexibility of particular person lecturers to prioritise and supply it.
Participating with and understanding the significance of pores and skin and hair to black youngsters and younger folks would possibly imply speaking in regards to the relationship between ethnic identification, hair and pores and skin. It is perhaps speaking about protecting hairstyles for black hair, hair kind and hair hygiene, combs, oils and lotions. It’ll undoubtedly embrace 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 schooling, coverage and follow is just not 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 information” that’s required is severely missing.
One social employee talked about how nice it might be if a younger black particular person going to a foster placement or youngsters’s residential placement with out belongings had a social employee and carer with “working information” of the best way to care for his or her pores and skin and hair.
Social staff and carers ought to know what a black youngster or younger particular person would possibly require: the lotions, oils and combs they may want for his or her first night time away from dwelling. It must be embedded inside follow fairly than an important exception.
One other practitioner advised me that for some social staff, getting into into any kind of dialogue in regards to the pores and skin, hair and ethnic identification of a black youngster or younger particular person would “blow their minds”, suggesting it might be “too superior” for some social staff to “tackle board”.
It is a reflection on the flexibility of social work to navigate and prioritise points immediately referring to the fundamental care of kids 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 impression white concern 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 might 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 youngsters and younger folks.
“It’s virtually like they’re afraid to speak about it, in case they offend,” one social work pupil mentioned. This concern was echoed by the social work teachers I spoke to, who expressed that they “wouldn’t really feel snug” or they wouldn’t know the way far to “enterprise into this”.
Social work follow, college educating and pre and post-qualifying coaching must immediately have interaction with these issues. A extra nuanced understanding in regards to 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 organisation that may profit from this text, and has disclosed no related affiliations past their tutorial appointment.