Review of “Civil Rights Advocacy on Behalf of the Poor,” by Catherine Paden, 2011. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Paper, 232 pages.
Hurricane Katrina and other challenges we have failed to meet
It happens that Hurricane Katrina is just one reminder of the unfair treatment of many of our fellow Americans. It was—and has been—a very clear sign of how to compare poverty to resources.
This book shows how a variety of organizations have responded to issues related to poverty, starting earlier in the 1900s and up to and including the assistance give to those suffering from the destruction of Hurricane Katrina. The book compares earlier responses to answers to Katrina.
Catherine Paden bases her conclusions on the qualitative study she conducted that focused on document review for several different organizations: the National Urban League, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Congress of Racial Equality, and others. She looks at internal correspondence and management notes in a variety of structures to be able to make the statements she does.
Without giving away all the content of this very informative book, I can talk about how the author builds her discussion and uses examples from the documents to support her case.
The author discusses in the first chapter how persons of different races get different levels of representation. We know that poor persons do not get as much representation in our society, but Paden is able to document this so that in the cases and archives she studies she can prove this is a fact and not an opinion. Paden includes a good deal of information about several presidents who are in the White House when the various organizations are forming, growing, changing, and also reacting to need.
In the second chapter, the author shows civil rights organizations and their changing priorities over time. Paden finds out that if federal dollars are provided, some organizations devote much more attention to advocacy, service, and programs. The third chapter shows the connections of various organizations to the war on poverty. The fourth chapter takes us through the growing organizations in the 1960s. The fifth chapter looks at changing priorities for those organizations in the 1960s and the sixth chapter focuses on changes in priorities in the 1970s.
In the seventh chapter, the author discusses more recent battles and challenges, focusing directly on what the response to Katrina—or lack of it—means to the organizations involved in helping. In the eighth chapter, the author draws conclusions and cites instances of the poor not being served well at all by most of the government and other groups specially meant to help them. While some groups start out to serve certain races, they sometimes migrate to provide more emphasis on anti-poverty programs, again especially if there are federal dollars available.
I would recommend the book for all counselors, social workers, and case managers who want a good global perspective on this kind of advocacy. Advocates out there can profit from looking at the history of the help and service for the poor…
As a reference book, this is a good guide for where things were, where they have been going, and where they could go if we worked hard enough.
There is always more advocacy to be done.
There is always more wealth out there to access. The wealth I am talking about here is the capital in terms of resources, such as food and goals, rent assistance, and vitamins. In short, I am talking about a huge range of goods, services, and commodities out there.
The fact that the poor who were impacted by Katrina (and other such phenomena) got—and are still getting—an unfair share of loss, abuse, disappointment, and trauma is embarrassing to us as a nation. We should have done better—and we still can.
I would recommend the book for all educators and can see especially good uses for teachers in urban areas and in social studies programs. The study of the impact of Katrina and the lack of immediate response to the hurricane is a very telling part of American history. Students need to know that the majority of the poor people most impacted by the hurricane were African American and that the solutions for helping them were a terrible shortcoming on the part of FEMA and other groups. Relating this story now is important to better understand the racism and lack of care given to certain people in this nation.
As a book for social studies programs, it is important to look at racial, cultural, and political ramifications of the lack of response for the victims….
What color were the people who were hit hardest by the financial, health, shelter, safety, and services impacts of Katrina? It is important to look at that question.
It is also important to look at how poverty, natural disasters, and politics combine to form an intricate web of challenges. Teachers of history, physical geography, and political science can make good use of the information presented by Paden in this book.
Not only background reading, the book can be used to design units and lessons on a variety of topics covered here. The book includes a good index with the names of the organizations spelled out for the abbreviations (e.g., CORE) and many excellent references for further reading.
The book shows with the clear information from the archives how people help—or don’t help—others in society. Understanding what is behind social services is very important for students in our classes. The intricacies and hidden agendas of many groups show that human nature is often complex indeed and that government and private organizations take approaches that are often not very humane.
The information could be used for advanced high school courses in social studies subjects. The book would also be helpful for professional development courses for social workers and for school administrators and board members.
It is important to explore these issues to get a better understanding of the challenges of poverty, the realities of racism, and the hope for building a better society.