Lynn VanderWielen, PhD, MPH
It's not us, it's you
Multiracial families walk through the world interacting with SO many systems and professions. Think about the past week or so - you have likely interacted with your kids’ school, made doctor and dentist appointments, maybe scheduled them to participate in sports at your local rec center, or walked through the airport on your next travel adventure.
Just as we are trying to navigate these systems, these systems are navigating us. Many professions, like public health*, social work, and educators are working hard to do better by our families and attend to cultural competence, which is-
“the process that individuals respond respectfully and effectively to people of all cultures that recognizes, affirms, and values the worth of individuals, families, and communities”.1
This article describes how the field of social work needs to be more thoughtful and intentionally aware of the complexity of multiracial families.
Some research, which is cited by the authors, has suggested that a multiracial identity is a “risk factor” for substance misuse, engaging in violent behavior, and mental health challenges. This article highlights that multiracial heritage DOES NOT CAUSE these risk factors, but rather that living in a race-conscious society that sees racial identity in terms of single, mutually exclusive groups creates conditions that doesn’t support our health - physical, mental, and otherwise. The authors want readers in the social work field to know that they have control over how they support multiracial families to recognize, affirm, and value the worth of multiracial individuals, families, and communities.
While this article does not offer new findings based on a study, they seek to challenge the narrative for the social work field to be more thoughtful and intentional about supporting multiracial families. As a system of care, they have the ownership, responsibility, and control of how our families are welcomed, treated, and belong.
What does this mean to me?
As parents, we fill so many roles. When we can (I know our schedules are tightly packed and some days feel like a marathon!), and when we are feeling up to it, we can have a role in educating others about the importance of supporting multiracial kids. A few things you can do-
Show up to the conversations in your kid’s school and hold leaders accountable.
Challenge the narrative when people say that a multiracial identity is a risk factor for negative life experiences! It is the environment and systems that struggle with multiracial identities, there is nothing inherently wrong with our families!
Push back on racism and discrimination when you see it at work, in the line at the grocery store, or anytime it rears its ugly head.
Support Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) leaders and organizations.
Join our Samahra Community to continue to advance your understanding and guidance for your kid.
Check out the book Do the Work, by W. Kamau Bell and Kate Schatz! (We have no affiliation, just love this book!!)
Should I trust this information?
This is not a traditional research paper but more of a thought piece that challenges to advance the field. I appreciate the thoughtfulness and comprehensive understanding displayed by the authors and hope that other systems continue to follow suit.
It’s not us, it's you.
Citation: Jackson, K. F., & Samuels, G. M. (2011). Multiracial competence in social work: Recommendations for culturally attuned work with multiracial people. Social work, 56(3), 235-245.
*I admit I am totally biased here as my background is in public health and while I know there are many efforts to improve diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, I also know we can do SO MUCH BETTER!).
1 National Association of Social Workers. (2001). NASW standards for cultural competence in social work practice. Washington, DC.