Description: This book describes how the Jewish Board of Family and Children's Services (JBFCS), a social service agency in New York City, dealt with racial and cultural issues. Their goal was to go beyond cultural competence and to expose subtle racist policies in their own organization. They realized that as these important policy changes were made, they would be able to more effectively meet the needs of the diverse population they serve.
Purpose: In the Preface, the editors explain their purpose: "We came together because we share a common concern that racism is taking a horrific toll on the clients we serve, the community and nation we live in, and us as citizens and professional helpers."
Audience: Social service agency administrators and clinicians would benefit greatly from this book.
Features: This book does not hold anything back as the authors discuss how slavery and racism has affected the very core of our society and institutional policies. It is a thoughtful discussion, though painful to hear, especially for European-Americans, who have enjoyed "white privilege" for centuries. The book is easy to read and includes good case illustrations. The chapter on battered women is enlightening in the way it details how difficult it is for a woman of color who is being battered, having so few options and insufficient emotional support. The final chapter, "Owning Whiteness: The Reinvention of Self and Practice," challenges European-American therapists to acknowledge "white privilege" and confront racist practices in America. This frank discussion reveals long held secrets.
Assessment: The social service organization described here was willing to accept responsibility and change racist practices which they were not aware of. These ideas are so embedded in American culture and values that we barely know they exist, especially if we are part of the majority culture. However, minorities have suffered for years and this book reveals the oppression quite clearly. The authors speak with one voice and readers will not be disappointed. They should be ready to examine their hearts and admit things that few are willing to, especially if they have benefited from racist practices and policies.