Date of Award

Spring 5-1-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Social Work (DSW)


Social Work

First Advisor

Dr. Juliana Svistova

Second Advisor

Dr. David Johnson

Third Advisor

Dr. Barth Yeboah, Dr. Jose V. Pimienta-Bey


This exploratory study starts from the proposition that the use of the racialized names “negro,” “colored,” “black,” and “white” represent vestiges of slavery that were socially and legally constructed, maintained, and perpetuated to validate a superior position for descendants of Europe in the United States, while assigning an inferior status to descendants of Africa in the United States. I further suggest that the use of these racialized names appear to resemble what Noonan (1976) described as a legal mask: a legal construct that veils the humanity of participants in the legal process. Informed by Critical Race Theory (CRT) and Post-Colonialist Theory, this exploratory study aimed to explore the role of law and legal discourse in creating and sustaining racial differences between 1705-1857 and 1986-2017, and explore counter-hegemonic narratives in historic and contemporary legal texts as tools for dismantling vestiges of slavery. Utilizing the techniques of Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA), this exploratory study explores and compares the legal discourse for the use of racial names and ways of constructing race and racial differences. I discovered in the historic legal texts that legal actors often used hostile, “white supremacist” hegemonic legal discourse to create and maintain racial differences. Although the legal discourse today is much less overt and more nuanced, I found that many contemporary legal actors use their platform to disrupt racial hegemony as they attempt to remedy the mistakes of the past. This exploratory study breaks new ground by demonstrating that social workers can engage in sophisticated transdisciplinary research and enter a more active role in deconstructing and eliminating barriers of structural racism. My research has implications for social work research, leadership, and education.

Included in

Social Work Commons


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