Confronting Whiteness: White U.S. Social Work Students’ Experiences Studying Abroad in West Africa
© 2020 Taylor & Francis. Inadequate attention to race, racism, and Whiteness in social work education ineffectively prepares White students to work with historically excluded racial and ethnic groups, and undermines the profession’s fundamental commitment to social justice. This article presents experiences of eight White social work students confronting race, racism and Whiteness during a study abroad program in West Africa. The students’ learning experiences included exposure to historical White dominance and exploitation through visiting former slave trade sites, connecting with modern African culture, and interactions and dialogue with their African American and African peers. This case study uncovers a continuum of students’ reactions and outcomes, including avoidance, defensiveness, White humility, and a pull toward anti-racism advocacy. As a co-creator in this work, the White researcher exposes her experiences relating to the students. Findings suggest that engagement with critical Whiteness pedagogy and skilled management of students’ emotional responses are crucial teaching strategies for social work educators.