Why is racism not socially acceptable

Social inequality, racism and prejudice in social work

May 18, 2017 Claus Melter

In Germany, half of the population owns 0.9 percent of the money and the other half 99.1 percent of the money (cf. Poverty and Wealth Report of the Federal Government 2017, p. 506). Men have an average higher income than women and people “with a migration background” have a significantly higher risk of poverty. In these framework conditions we are currently once again experiencing that refugees, people categorized as “migrants”, “do not know” or “Muslims” are being devalued and physically attacked. We observe that laws for refugees in the asylum procedure are restricted in a way that violates human rights, e.g. the right to freedom of movement, to health care, the right to family reunification and people are deported to countries where persecution and massive poverty threaten.

Little attention is paid in the media to the perspectives and support as well as the self-organization of the victims of racism and nation-state discrimination. In educational practice, too, studies establish that experiences of discrimination and racism as well as the perspectives of people viewed as “other” are often neglected.

Prejudice and not taking discriminatory experiences seriously have a social function and are consciously or unintentionally used to enforce and maintain distinctions and discrimination and the social inequality associated with them. It is therefore not enough “to start with individual prejudices through upbringing and education. Because as long as discriminatory structures and practices are effective, there is a need for prejudice on the part of the privileged and the disadvantaged find themselves in a situation in which their options for resistance are limited. "(Scherr 2015: 15)

Social work is part of and an actor in these social relationships and, within the scope of its possibilities and alliances with addressees and social movements, has the potential to tend to confirm, tighten or question and change discrimination practices and structures.

Now social work works fundamentally with distinctions, creates differences or starts from existing differences in order to divide people into (not) to be supported, into (not) to be promoted, into (not) authorized or into (not) to be changed persons. Practices in life are divided into necessary, (not) acceptable, (not) illegal, and (not) endangering the best interests of the child.

The question is whether and how distinctions are associated with disadvantages. There is also a legal and social distinction between people with and without a “migration background”. Studies show that, with the same phenomena, people who are assigned a “migration background” are “treated” differently and often in a disadvantageous way by educators compared to people who are regarded as “native” (cf. Melter 2006; Jagusch et al. 2012; Amirpur 2006).

According to the Basic Law, the Social Code and the Code of Ethics for Social Work, social work should, and indeed must, stand up against disadvantage and discrimination as well as for the human rights of all people. However, many educational theories and practices can be connected to ideologies and practices of inequality. In contrast, there are increasingly more political-emancipatory pedagogical approaches of self-empowerment and the discrimination and racism-critical alliances through social work (Eggers 2005; Prasad 2011; Madubuko 2016; Mecheril 2016; Gebrande / Melter / Bliemetsrider 2017).

For students, university lecturers, practitioners and addressees of social work, a fundamental discrimination-critical and power-reflective survey of the content and practices of social work and, if necessary, a reorientation is required. And more practices are needed to test and examine whether and how educational concepts aimed at equal rights for all people are implemented in conditions of social inequality.

Prof. Dr. Claus Melter
Bielefeld University of Applied Sciences
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Amirpur, Donja (2016): Disabled due to migration? Families in the help system an intersectional analysis. Bielefeld: transcript. Review at socialnet.

Eggers, Maisha (2005): Racization and a child's sense of power. Like black and white children, racialized power differences negotiate on the level of identity. Diss. Kiel: University of Kiel Philosophical Faculty.

Gebrande, Julia / Melter, Claus / Bliemetsrieder, Sandro (eds.) (2017): Critically ambitious social work. Intersectional praxeological perspectives. Weinheim / Munich: Beltz / Juventa. Review at socialnet in preparation.

Jagusch, Birgit / Sievers, Britta / Tepe, Ursula (eds.) (2012): Migration-sensitive child protection. Workbook. Frankfurt / M .: IGFH self-published. Review at socialnet.

Madubuko, Nkechi (2016): Empowerment as an educational task. Practical knowledge for dealing with experiences of racism. Münster: Unrast-Verlag. Review at socialnet.

Mecheril, Paul (2016) (Ed. With the collaboration of Veronika Kourabas and Matthias Rangger): Handbuch Migrationspädagogik. Weinheim / Basel: Beltz / Juventa. Review at socialnet in preparation.

Melter, Claus (2006): Experiences of racism in youth welfare. Münster and others: Waxmann. Review at socialnet.

Prasad, Nivedita (2011): Rightly against violence, Opladen / Farmington Hills: Barbara Budrich. Review at socialnet.

Scherr, Albert (2015): Discrimination. How differences and disadvantage are socially created. 2nd Edition. Wiesbaden: VS-Verlag, p. 42.