Anthony Edward Bell
University of Southern California
School of Social Work
Professor Donna Miriam Brown
Southfield a Professional Perspective
Communities’ like their definitions are multifarious. According to Warren (1978), in macro social work practice, community is defined as “the organization of social activities that affords people access to what is necessary for day-to-day living, such as school, grocery store, hospital, house of worship, and other such social units and systems” (p. 132 cited in Netting, Kettner, McMurtry, and Thomas (2012). On the other hand, Fellin (2001) “contends that community occurs when people come together around common physical locations, interest, cultures, and/or other identities”. (p. 133 cited in Netting, Kettner, McMurtry, and Thomas (2012).
Defining culture is central to any discussion focused on community and/or cultural competency. According to Merriam-Webster on Line (2014), culture refers to “the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group, while Olandi (1992) describes culture as “the shared values, norms, traditions, customs, arts, history, folklore, and institutions of a given people” (p. vi). Manning (2006) contends that culture “can be broadly understood as a social group that among many other similarities can share values, beliefs, customs, and worldviews” (p.735). While these definitions may leave the impression that culture is static, James (2003) notes, “changes within a culture are due to global influences, the movement of people from one country and/or region to another and the interaction of various racial, ethnic and social groups” (p.202).
Social workers must be cognizant of the shifting nature of culture. For example, newcomers to America are likely to retain the parts of their culture they regard as important and to embrace certain aspects of American culture, thus forging a new culture that will evolve, develop, and change...