Date of Paper


Type of Paper

Clinical research paper

Degree Name

Master of Social Work (M.S.W.)


Social Work

First Advisor

Lisa Kiesel


Social Work


Peggy McIntosh likens white privilege within American culture to an “invisible package of unearned assets that [one] can count on cashing in each day” (McIntosh, 2008, p 1). Majorities of people entering the social work profession are white and hold advanced degrees, while many of their clients come from minority, marginalized populations with a high percentage of people of color (Whitaker, Weismiller, & Clark, 2006). Without a healthy amount of awareness on the part of a social worker regarding his or her privilege, clients with disadvantage may become further alienated and marginalized by unwittingly discriminatory actions and decisions. Due to this danger, it is imperative for social workers to have an awareness and understanding of other cultural identities. The National Association of Social Workers’ code of ethics states, “social workers should obtain education about and seek to understand the nature of social diversity and oppression.” (Workers N.A., 2017). This article puts forth a conceptual model for gaining awareness of one’s privilege entitled PrivLineage. PrivLineage is a way of exploring one’s personal legacy in terms of unearned advantages that benefited predecessors at the expense of other historically marginalized groups. To better inform this model, the researcher conducted a synthesis of literature exploring the connections between privilege, cultural competency, and self-awareness within social work education and professional development. The author presents a personal case study of PrivLineage based upon a framework informed by the research findings. The case study demonstrates how exploring one’s PrivLineage has the potential to assist a social work student or practitioner to better understand the personal effects of privilege and to gain a more meaningful orientation to the larger issues of privilege that persist today.

Included in

Social Work Commons