More than fifty people lost their lives in the three-day frenzy of violence. The main cause of furor was the belief that the police violence was racially-motivated and the ferocity of the attack would not have happened if Rodney King were white. Media branded it as yet another example of racial profiling, and indeed it was. It was more than racial profiling in fact: it was brazen discrimination, it was violence of the most deplorable kind as it was perpetrated against a member of a race historically known to be marginalized.
This kind of discrimination is indeed brazen and dramatic. The danger in that is that it is all too easy to forget that there are other forms of discrimination that exist, and some fields are more vulnerable than others. One particular field where discrimination should be especially guarded against is the field of social work, wherein social workers are there precisely to assist those individuals who are, in some way, marginalized and in need of assistance due to a particular infirmity. Often already disempowered and vulnerable as they are, they are most susceptible to discrimination by the society they find themselves in. Hence, social workers must take extra care in ensuring that discrimination does not permeate their practice and that they are equipped with the necessary tools to combat discrimination, whenever and wherever it exists within their realm of accountability.
Social workers must understand and believe in the fundamental premise of social work.
Primarily, one very important piece of knowledge that social workers must have in order to combat discrimination is a deep understanding of the premise of social work. More specifically, social workers must be aware that social work is an extension of justice and not of charity. What is the distinction between the two terms, and why should justice take precedence over charity It is best to understand the ideological moorings of social work.
Scott (1985) provokes the thoughtful reader and states:
But it is not sufficient merely to understand the obviously self-interested basis of these social relations of production. What is critical for my purpose - that is, the analysis of ideological conflict - is to grasp the nature of the normative filter through which these self-interested actions must pass and how and why they are socially transformed by this passage. Why, in other words, is economic power "euphemized" in this fashion and what are the consequences of its euphemization From one perspective, what the wealthy did was to transmute a portion of their disproportionate economic means into forms of status, prestige and social control by means of acts they passed off as voluntary acts of generosity or charity. This social control was, of course, again convertible into labor services - and hence, again into material wealth.
James Scott uses a very defined space to illustrate his thesis on
charity as a mechanism to reinforce existing hierarchical relations. He gives the example of a tenant who, understanding that his employer is in a position to provide him with work and benefits, couches his