Research

Publications

Brock-Petroshius, K., Wray-Lake, L. Organizing through Stories: The Role of Emotions in Increasing Support for Decarceration. Journal of Community Practice (2022): 1-21. doi: https://doi.org/10.1080/10705422.2022.2033376

Abrams, A., Garcia Perez, J., Brock-Petroshius, K., Applegarth, M. Racism, Colorblindness, and Social Work Education: An Exploratory Study of California MSW Student Beliefs and Experiences. Journal of the Society for Social Work and Research. (2021) doi: 10.1086/714830

In Press

Brock-Petroshius, K., Garcia Perez, J., Gross, M., Abrams, A. Colorblind Attitudes, Empathy, and Shame: Preparing White Students for Anti-Racist Social Work Practice. Journal of Social Work Education.

What are the cognitive, affective, and behavioral patterns of white Masters of Social Work (MSW) students in response to racial issues? We analyzed 121 white respondents from a cross-sectional survey of California MSW students conducted in May 2018.  Statistical techniques, including Ordinary Least Squares (OLS) regression, were used to analyze the relationships between anti-racist behaviors and racial cognitive and affective responses.  Data indicated that colorblind attitudes and white shame, after controlling for other factors, were significantly correlated with fewer anti-racist behaviors.  Empathy was significantly related to more anti-racist behaviors after accounting for other variables.  These results provide evidence that while cognitive understandings of racism influence anti-racist behaviors, affective responses also impact behaviors.  Even when white students cognitively understand racism as a problem, white shame may serve as a barrier to effective critical race praxis in social work settingsThis study’s results implicate social work education to develop group-differentiated approaches to engaging MSW students about the emotional responses they have to racial issues.  A cognitive-only focus on increasing knowledge about race, racism, and racial equity may be inadequate to prepare white MSW students to engage in social work critical race praxis.

Brock-Petroshius, K., Mikell, D., Washington, Sr., D.M., James, K. From Social Justice to Abolition: Living Up to Social Work’s Grand Challenge of Eliminating Racism. Journal of Ethnic and Cultural Diversity in Social Work.

[How can social work live up to the 13th Grand Challenge of Eliminating Racism? In this article we argue for the replacement of the predominant social justice paradigm with a framework for anti-racist social work praxis informed by abolitionist principles. The primary aim of anti-racist social work praxis needs to be the building of power in Black, Indigenous, or Brown and poor communities. We define additional praxis principles, including engaging with critical theories, advancing macro-approaches, targeting racism at the source, and developing interventions to eliminate and address the effects of racism. We end by sharing concrete anti-racist praxis tools.

Under Review

Carceral Justification Scale: Construction and Initial Validation (with Brian Keum)

[Invited to Resubmit] Recently Black-led social movements have called on government to make sweeping changes to the criminal legal system. There is a need for research that examines the underlying carceral logics people use to bolster support for existing carceral institutions, as a means to assess influences on such attitudes. Applying System Justification Theory and a framework of carceral logics, we developed the Carceral Justification Scale (CJS) using data collected from 1,394 Alameda County, California registered voters. Items were developed via literature review, qualitative analysis of canvasser conversations, and expert review. Exploratory (N = 461) and confirmatory (N = 463) factor analyses suggested an oblique 2-factor structure and produced 6-items with the following factors: (a) System Works, and (b) Lesser Bad. Internal consistency estimates were .71 and above and the scales accounted for 28% and 27% of variance, respectively. Initial construct validity was established as CJS scores were associated with racial resentment, system justification, political ideology, and anti-Black bias awareness in ways consistent with theory. Implications for research and practice are discussed.

Manuscripts In-Preparation

Dangerous, Deserving, or Harmed: Understanding the Formation of Carceral Reform Attitudes among Urban, Liberal Voters

Why do many voters in diverse, urban areas express racially egalitarian values but oppose anti-carceral policies that would weaken structural racism? How does this manifest particularly among people whose racial groups and neighborhoods are not saturated by police, surveillance, jail, and prison contact––voters in majority white neighborhoods? Based on 34 canvassing interviews conducted in 2019 in Los Angeles County, this study shows that non-Republican voters typically use one of three ideological schemas to make sense of their opinions on a proposed jail decarceration policy: viewing all criminalized people as dangerous, some criminalized people as deserving of treatment or alternatives to incarceration, or most criminalized people as harmed by an unjust or ineffective system. These schemas consist of the following predispositions voters expressed during the opinion formation process: 1) conceptions of criminalized people, 2) beliefs about the purpose and effects of the criminal legal system, 3) the weight given to structural racism as a problem, and 4) the activation of racialized emotions. Several predispositions were associated with less support for a jail decarceration policy: imagining most criminalized people as dangerous, perceiving the purpose of the criminal legal system as rehabilitation, not giving much weight to structural racism as a problem, and expressing fear of criminalized people. These predispositions are in part formed by a lack of accurate political information in the domain of carceral politics, demonstrating one way that whiteness and its associated absence of geographically racialized group targeting play a large role in creating the attitudes responsible for carceral reproduction.

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