Race, Ethnicity, and Power

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Race, Ethnicity, and Power

Elaine Pinderhughes’s concept of power offers a great understanding explaining the multilevel, bidirectional, and recursive operation of power, its impacts, and the thinking necessary for effective intervention. In her writing, Pinderhughes emphasizes the role of power in the dynamic of cross-cultural communication and scrutinizes how power and lack of power, which happen to be essential in the roles of clients and clinicians and their cultural group statuses, can impact the clinical processes and aftermath. Her concept provides an opportunity to create a meta-view from which to address how power functions when it is impartial and discover its capability for healing and helping individuals discover, find, reclaim, and enhance their own power. Having an understanding of the concept of Race, Ethnicity, and power increases cross-cultural conspicuousness by examining the impact of racial and ethnic identity upon the social and psychological dynamics of interaction among people from different backgrounds (Pinderhughes, 1989). Pinderhughes provides help to individual practitioners to elucidate the denotation and principles understood in their own feelings, behaviors, and attitudes and demonstrates how to integrate these understandings in everyday clinical practice to improved control, and even transform, their prejudices. She does this through examples drawn from her clinical practice and the many cultural sensitivity training workshops.

According to my personal concept of power and helping relationships, with specific stress on the personal, social, and cultural impacts which have helped shape my ideas, current contexts, such as anti-oppressive doings, might be insufficient in being capable to recognize the complexity and range of power relationships that might be passed within a social situation. Power entails the capacity of a person to influence the beliefs, actions, or behavior of other individuals. It is the likelihood that one player within a social relation will be in a position to carry out his will notwithstanding resistance irrespective of the foundation on which this probability rests. We are committed to a culturally affirming stance, identified together from the nuanced cultural understandings and frameworks we exemplify as a heterogeneous group and the power dynamics that arise among us due to our particular multiple, intersecting social locations (Tervalon & Murray-Garcia, 1998). From my understanding, I think that understanding Race, Ethnicity, and Power is an essential resource for all practitioners and learners pursuing to deepen cultural sensitivity in clinical practice and a lasting donation to a better understanding of our pluralistic society. Understandings associated with cultural differences can result in persons developing undesirable, undecided, or negative beliefs, perceptions, and attitudes about others and themselves.

According to my personal experiences, I have been at some times in situations of power and other times in situations of powerlessness as I had in relations with other individuals in my life. During my time as a student, I have been able to be chosen as a student representative in class, whereby I used to exercise my possession of power. Back then, when I was in high school, other students had chosen me to their school captain. In these two instances where I was in power, I was able to develop the way to interact with others to the extent that also assisted me to mature into a better person. The position that I had in power helped me grow into a better thinker and consider what others have to say. I have also experienced a lot being in a powerless position. From companies to public health facilities and law enforcement agencies, I have severally been powerless. I realized in my position being powerless that people who are strong never give in to abusive powers. Not all individuals know how to exercise their power. Some can use their position to take advantage of others. I learned to give respect to people who are in power but not abusive.

My experiences being in power and the experience of not being in power inform me how I should develop relationships as a professional social worker. It helps me establish rapport or a harmonious relationship in which there is mutual understanding and connection with individuals. I realized that in someone being in a social worker position, one way to establish rapport is through empathy or the ability to grasp entirely, experience, and share in another person’s emotional state. These personal experiences are essential in upholding key boundaries to protect myself in the social worker profession, the clients, and the organization I will work for. Social services have to promote and safeguard the welfare of vulnerable adults and children and also to offer a wide range of services to children and their parents.

My concept of power and helping has many similarities with those described with Pinderhughes. Both my concept of power and that of Pinderhughes support the fact that the quality of the relationship between the worker and the client has been axiomatically accepted as the cornerstone of effective practice. However, her concept emphasizes the role of power in the dynamics of cross-cultural communication primarily and examines how power and lack of power can affect clinical processes and outcomes. Both or concepts of power highlight that power is common to mostly helping professions for the empowerment of the clients and ourselves.

The NASW Code of Ethics sets forth the standards, principles, and values that offer guidance to the conduct of the social worker profession. It gives a summary of the wide-ranging ethical values that reflect social worker’s core standards and creates a set of precise moral values that ought to be used to guide social work practice. The six core values of social work are advantageous in generating helpful relations in which clients are empowered, and power is not abused.


Pinderhughes, E. (1989). Understanding race, ethnicity, and power: The key to efficacy in clinical practice. Simon and Schuster.

Tervalon, M., & Murray-Garcia, J. (1998). Cultural humility versus cultural competence: A critical distinction in defining physician training outcomes in multicultural education. Journal of health care for the poor and underserved, 9(2), 117-125.