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Doing Good

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

Natalia Deeb-Sossa

Publication Year: 2013

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.
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.

Published by: University of Arizona Press

Cover

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p. c-c

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xiv

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1. Introduction: Meaningful Work and Moral Identity

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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...

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2. “El Nuevo South”: The Case of North Carolina and the Community Health Center Program

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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...

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3. Threats to Moral Identity and Disparity in “Moral” Wages

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pp. 44-60

In this section I describe some structural inequalities present within Care Inc. that made the job more challenging and less fulfill-ing 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 ...

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4. Moral Identity and Racial Solidarity: How Lower-Status Workers Fashion a Superior Self

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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...

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5. “Neediest of the Needy”: How Midlevel-Status Workers View Their Work as “Moral”

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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...

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6. “Working in the Trenches”: How “Doing Good” Helps Higher-Status Staffers Build Their Moral Identity

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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...

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7. Moral Identity Construction and New Ethnic Relations

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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 ...

References

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pp. 145-156

Index

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pp. 157-161


E-ISBN-13: 9780816599967
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816521326

Page Count: 176
Illustrations: 2 illust.
Publication Year: 2013

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Social status -- Health aspects -- North Carolina.
  • Equality -- Health aspects -- North Carolina.
  • Community health services -- North Carolina -- Employees.
  • Discrimination in employment.
  • Hispanic Americans -- North Carolina.
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