With the start of the Fall 2020 semester, the Stony Brook University School of Social Welfare began offering an elective course for its undergraduate and graduate students, “Understanding White Fragility and Black Rage.” While not a required course, it has been widely embraced and has quickly reached maximum enrollment.
The design of this course and its implementation are being led by Warren K. Graham, assistant dean of field education, and Stephen Rabeno, professor, who are scholars and thought leaders in the School. The course helps social work students to understand the complex nature of the dynamics of social oppression, racism and anti-racist practice. According to Professors Graham and Rabeno, the course explores how elements of social constructionism frame an anti-blackness perspective supported by systems of oppression and privilege.
Students explore their personal values, beliefs and behaviors that may limit their ability to practice effective social work with people of diverse backgrounds, in particular, disadvantaged and oppressed persons. Additionally, students acquire the tools needed for social work practice using an anti-oppressive and anti-racist lens framed by an understanding of systemic racism. They also learn how to have difficult conversations around race, white fragility and black rage.
“This course has been critical in deepening my understanding of racism in America and how as a cis-gendered white woman, I benefit from systemic injustice. The professors have been incredible at facilitating open, heartfelt conversations around race and its intersections with gender, and have encouraged accountability through vulnerability for our complacency under white supremacy culture. The course has highlighted the importance of holding these conversations in an academic setting,” said MSW student Dena Spanos.
The course will be offered in Spring 2020 for undergraduate and graduate students in the School of Social Welfare and will be offered to all SBU students in the future.