Karen Tapp


Revisioning Social Work: Strategies For Abolishing Anti-Black Racism in the Curriculum


Slavery, white supremacy, and anti-Black racism provide the historical context within social work’s legacy of participation in anti-Black racist initiatives such as eugenics, segregation, and discrimination. Most of the academic books and research in social work have been penned by white authors. Black authors and voices are noticeably lacking. A systematic review addressing anti-Black racism in the social work curriculum reveals that anti-Black racism continues in the academy through the absence of frameworks to teach about internalized racial oppression; deficits found in management of student interactions on topics of race in the classroom; instructors’ limited knowledge on the topic; instructor restraint and discomfort teaching anti-racism; and, a lack of social work research on the topic. Conceptually, Critical Race Theory (CRT), Intersectionality, and Radical Love Theory can be used to provide a more potent student learning experience and dismantling of anti-Black racism in the social work curriculum. CRT provides the intellectual understanding of the systemic nature of anti-Black racism that is a permanent feature of our culture; Intersectionality identifies a person’s oppression and privileges; and, Radical Love provides the heart and the will to action. Radical Love helps to create liberatory spaces for discussions centering Black voices and experiences, and creates a student-centered approach. Instructors are advised to start with Radical Love, sharing that mistakes will be made and welcoming feedback. An example of this conceptual model supporting “use of self” through language, critical inquiry, and positive disruption of mainstream practice will be provided.


Karen Tapp, BSW, MSSW, JD, (DSW candidate) is currently associate professor at the School of Social Work at Northern Kentucky University. She is a licensed attorney in Kentucky, has taught at Chase Law School (CLS), was director of the Children’s Law Clinic at CLS, and past managing attorney at the Children’s Law Center (CLC) representing children in complex custody cases and those experiencing neglect and abuse. Research interests are dismantling anti-Black racism in the social work curriculum, BSW field education, “duty to protect”, service-learning, information literacy and children’s rights. Past India Study Abroad faculty. Served to coordinate, develop, and facilitate Think Tanks at NKU, seminars with CLC, and legal training for guardians ad litem in Kentucky.

Karen has led or participated in 16 national juried presentations. She has received numerous recognitions by students as having the greatest positive impact on their senior experience of academic and personal development. She was a recipient of SAGE/CSWE (2013) award for innovative teaching with Photovoice, and an invited member of the NASW Regional Chapter Ethics Committee. She is first or solo author of ten peer-reviewed publications including publications appearing in Field Educator (2012), Assessing outcomes in field education; Journal of Practice Teaching and Learning (2011), A competency-based contract in field education; Journal of Baccalaureate Social Work (2011), Competency based capstone projects in service-learning; Journal of Social Work Values and Ethics (2011), Guidelines for discharging the duty to protect; and, Journal of Creativity in Mental Health (2010), Using the Enneagram for client insight and transformation.