Braver Spaces in Social Work: Exploring Student Learning About Privilege and Micro-Aggressions

  • Sasan Issari York University
  • Dr. Wanda Thomas Bernard Dalhousie University
  • Aimee Power Dalhousie University
Keywords: Braver spaces, Social justice education, Critical social work practice, Intersectionality


This study explores students’ learning about privileges, oppressions, and intersectional forms of microaggressions in a Canadian undergraduate social work course. Microaggressions are “everyday exchanges that send denigrating messages to certain individuals because of their group membership” (Sue, 2010, p. xvi). Four themes emerged, including: (a) Speaking up at the Intersection of Age and Gender in Social Work Education; (b) Challenging the Invisibility of the Intersection of Class and Race in Social Work; (c) Challenging Heterosexism within the Family Unit and Social Work; and (d) Naming the Intersection of Institutional Racism, Sexism, and Ableism within the Workplace. The paper concludes with implications for social work education and practice.  

Author Biographies

Sasan Issari, York University
Sasan Issari, BSW (UBC), MSW (Dalhousie), and PhD, ABD (York University), is a doctoral candidate at the school of social work at York University. He has taught in the areas of social work research, critical social work practice, intersectionality, and social justice, at undergraduate and graduate levels.
Dr. Wanda Thomas Bernard, Dalhousie University
Wanda Thomas Bernard, BA (MSVU)' MSW (Dalhousie) and PhD (Sheffield, England), worked as a professor of social work at Dalhousie University from 1990-2017. She taught in the areas of diversity, anti-oppression, culturally specific social work and social justice, at undergraduate and graduate levels. Dr. Bernard was appointed to the Senate of Canada in November 2016, where she serves, with a particular focus on social justice issues.
Aimee Power, Dalhousie University
Aimee Power, B.Sc. (MUN), MSW (Dalhousie) is a registered social worker practicing in the area of complex Adolescent Mental Health and Addictions in Newfoundland and Labrador. She has acted as a teaching and research assistant in the subjects of anti-oppressive practice, intersectionality, and social work research at the undergraduate (MUN) and graduate levels (Dalhousie).