Currently, this noble profession of social work has a significant lack of adequate representation of licensed Black male social workers within its ranks. This is especially problematic when taking into account the disproportionate number of Black and Brown males (youth and young adults) who come in contact with, and who are serviced by licensed social workers and other healthcare professionals. According to the 2022 ASWB Exam Pass Rate Analysis, between the testing period 2018-2021, approximately 1,649 Black men passed the Masters licensing exam on their first attempt. These numbers are compared to 12,192 Black women who passed on their first attempt. And for those who identified as White, the numbers are even more profound.
According to the report, 5,409 White men, and 38,618 White women passed the Masters licensing exam on their first attempt.
The report’s data on the intersectionality of race/ethnicity and gender provides the greatest glimpse into the depth of the problem as it relates to Black males and the profession. Where most attention has recently been placed on the performance rates of the report, less attention has been paid to the poor participation rates of Black men as first-time test-takers overall. This is because, from the inception of social work as a profession, social work was never imagined as a profession for men, but especially not one for Black men. In this paper, I offer an alternative explanation of the dismal participation rates of Black males within the profession of social work. I contend that the institution and profession of social work is antagonistic toward Black males, and it incorporates 3 hegemonic mechanisms that deter, exclude, and oppress (deo) Black men from becoming licensed social workers in the 21st Century.
Joseph (Joe) Williams, LCSW, is a formerly incarcerated Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Psychotherapist, and Social-Emotional Strategist. Joe grew up in the Brownsville & East New York sections of Brooklyn. He received his Bachelors from Bard College’s Bard Prison Initiative (BPI) in 2013 while incarcerated, and shortly after release, he received his Masters of Social Work from Columbia University. Joe is currently pursuing his Doctorate of Social Work (DSW ‘25) at NYU, with over a decade of experience providing trauma-informed therapy, counseling, and success mentoring to individuals, families, youth & adolescents from all walks of life.
Joe honed his therapeutic approach & clinical skills working in various settings that includes: Brooklyn Defender Services, Davita & Fresenius dialysis centers, various NYC DOE public high-schools, Mount Sinai Hospital Systems’ mobile crisis team and in Psychiatric Emergency Departments. Joe is contracted with BPI’s reentry program to provide Mental Health Consultant services, and is establishing Joe Williams LCSW, PLLC, a private therapy practice to address the mental-emotional-social healthcare (MESH) needs of those within BIPOC communities impacted by trauma. Joe is also the owner/founder of Lyfe-Chess YNK (pronounced Ink) LLC, a trauma-informed strategy-consulting firm that employs a restorative leadership training model, helping individuals, families, communities, and organizations develop strategic practices for better life outcomes.
Joe is the first formerly incarcerated member on the Board of Trustees at CASES, and in February 2020, he received a Congressional Recognition for community leadership. Joe is a Beyond the Bars Fellow (‘14), and a Tow Foundation Public Health Fellow (‘19). He was the keynote speaker at Columbia University’s Black Caucus graduation (‘15), and has presided over multiple professional Social Work panels and conferences for the N.A.S.W.: BOLD Talk; NAMI; NYCDOC Probation and NYSDOCCS Parole Departments; the New York District Attorney’s office; and various other speaking engagements centered on mental health, the criminal legal system, higher education in prison, community trauma impacts, and social-emotional strategies.