Implications for Providers

What, then, are the implications of institutional racism for human service providers? First and foremost, the vast majority of providers work in agencies and organizations that may suffer in varying degrees from institutional racism, to the extent that the general structure, practices, and climate of an agency make it impossible for clients of color to receive culturally competent services, the efforts of individual providers, no matter how skilled, are drastically compromised.

It is just not possible to divorce what happens between a provider and clients from the larger context of the agency. Culturally diverse clients may avoid seeking services from a discriminatory agency once they are familiar with its practices. (Such information travels very quickly within a community.) If they must go there, their willingness to trust and enter a working relationship with the individual provider to whom they are assigned is seriously diminished.

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Again, their work with individual staff members is affected by how clients perceive and experience the agency as a whole. In their eyes, the provider is always a part of the agency and perceived as responsible for what it does. Finally, the ability to do what is necessary to meet the needs of a culturally diverse clientele may be limited by the rules and atmosphere of the workplace. Are there support, resources, and knowledgeable supervision for working with culturally diverse clients? Is the provider afforded enough flexibility to adapt services to the cultural demands of clients from various cultural groups? If the answer to either of these questions is no, then the provider must be willing to try to initiate changes in how the organization functions—its structure, practices, climate—so it can be supportive of efforts to provide more culturally competent services.

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