Doing Good

Doing Good: Racial Tensions and Workplace Inequalities at a Community Clinic in El Nuevo South

Natalia Deeb-Sossa
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 176
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    Doing Good
    Book Description:

    Throughout the "New South," relationships based on race, class, social status, gender, and citizenship are being upended by the recent influx of Latina/o residents. Doing Good examines these issues as they play out in the microcosm of a community health center in North Carolina that previously had served mostly African American clients but now serves predominantly Latina/o clients. Drawing on eighteen months of experience as a participant- observer in the clinic and in-depth interviews with clinic staff at all levels, Natalia Deeb-Sossa provides an informative and fascinating view of how changing demographics are profoundly affecting the new social order.Deeb-Sossa argues persuasively that "moral identities" have been constructed by clinic staff. The high-status staff-nearly all of whom are white-see themselves as heroic workers. Mid- and lower-status Latina staff feel like they are guardians of people who are especially needy and deserving of protection. In contrast, the moral identity of African American staffers had previously been established in response to serving "their people." Their response to the evolving clientele has been to create a self-image of superiority by characterizing Latina/o clients as "immoral," "lazy," "working the system," having no regard for rules or discipline, and being irresponsible parents.All of the health-care workers want to be seen as "doing good." But they fail to see how, in constructing and maintaining their own moral identity in response to their personal views and stereotypes, they have come to treat each other and their clients in ways that contradict their ideals.

    eISBN: 978-0-8165-9996-7
    Subjects: Sociology
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. 1 Introduction: Meaningful Work and Moral Identity (pp. 1-20)

    In the following analysis of the construction and maintenance of “moral identity” (Kleinman 1996) by health-care providers at a community clinic in North Carolina (pseudonymously referred to as “Care Inc.”), I explore the ways that workers’ race, class, gender, and nationality shape their fashioning of a superior self-image. I examine how workers, like Eva above, construct a moral identity in the context of reconfigured race relations resulting from rapid Latina/o immigration to North Carolina, a new destination for these people. The mobilization of Mexican immigrants and other Latinas/os in sizable numbers to North Carolina altered the white-African American racial proportion...

  6. 2 “El Nuevo South”: The Case of North Carolina and the Community Health Center Program (pp. 21-43)

    Newcomers from Mexico and other Latin American countries have long served as flexible, low-wage agricultural labor in Florida and California. Recently, these newcomers have been incorporated into expanding low-wage industries, like poultry production and other food processing, in rural areas of North Carolina and Georgia (Cravey 1997), as well as into the rapidly increasing service and construction sectors in “Sun Belt” cities like Atlanta and Durham, North Carolina (Johnson, Johnson-Webb, and Farrell 1999). In these areas the arrival of new immigrants complicates binary understandings of racial categories as “black” and “white,” giving rise to complex shifts in cultural understandings of...

  7. 3 Threats to Moral Identity and Disparity in “Moral” Wages (pp. 44-60)

    In this section I describe some structural inequalities present within Care Inc. that made the job more challenging and less fulfilling for some of the staff. These structural inequalities included the training and supervision of Latina staff by the more senior African American staff; the “gatekeeping” positions several of the African American women held that gave them some power over the mostly Latina/o clients (i.e., the African American triage nurse and the African American receptionist had the power to decide who could see a provider); and the attempts by some African American staffers to require that all staff members speak...

  8. 4 Moral Identity and Racial Solidarity: How Lower-Status Workers Fashion a Superior Self (pp. 61-83)

    Feminists of color have made a case for the need to understand how numerous identities—race, ethnicity, gender, class, and nationality—are experienced in daily life, and how these identities intersect and shape each other. Intersectional feminist theorists contend that identities are fashioned by the multiple, interconnected oppressed and privileged groups to which we belong (e.g., Anzaldúa and Moraga 2002). Intersectional theorists “view race, class, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, and age, among others, as mutually constructing systems of power. [And] … these systems permeate all social relations” (Collins 2000, 11).

    Intersectional theory in this study calls for an analysis of how...

  9. 5 “Neediest of the Needy”: How Midlevel-Status Workers View Their Work as “Moral” (pp. 84-106)

    The maternity care coordinators provided family planning and contraceptive counseling for all women who came to Care Inc. for a free pregnancy test. They saw all new prenatal clients before their first visit with a clinician. In this one-hour visit, the maternity care coordinators provided clients with information about Care Inc.’s services, the WIC nutrition program, and North Carolina’s Baby Love program. They also took applications for Pregnant Women’s Medicaid program and Infants’ and Children’s Medicaid program. Medicaid is an assistance program that provides medical and health-related services for low-income families, a jointly funded cooperative venture that began in 1965...

  10. 6 “Working in the Trenches”: How “Doing Good” Helps Higher-Status Staffers Build Their Moral Identity (pp. 107-125)

    At Care Inc., the twelve higher-status staff—all but one of whom were white—collectively interpreted their difficult work conditions as evidence that they were “heroic” workers (Joffe 1978). The difficult conditions of their work only made their moral identity—being health-care providers who helped the neediest of the needy—even more important. Their commitment to serving the underserved of North Carolina became a symbol of their dedication to fight against racism and classism.

    The higher-status staffers saw themselves as promoters of equality and empowerment. They saw their work as helping and empowering those who needed them the most. They...

  11. 7 Moral Identity Construction and New Ethnic Relations (pp. 126-144)

    This book expands upon our understanding of moral identity and how it intersects with race, class, and gender, especially in the workplace. I have illustrated how the health practitioners of Care Inc. construct and maintain a moral identity in concert with how they categorize themselves and others along racial and class lines, in addition to gender and nationality.

    The staffers crafted their moral identity by drawing on the cultural resources (Einwohner, Hollander, and Olson 2000; Williams 1995) available to them. For instance, the lower-status African American staffers constructed a moral identity by defining themselves in opposition to what they perceived...

  12. References (pp. 145-156)
  13. Index (pp. 157-160)
  14. Back Matter (pp. 161-161)


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