Members of communities of color in the United States often struggle for equity, autonomy, survival, and justice. Community-Based Participatory Research is an edited volume from activist-scholars who present personal testimonies showcasing how community-based participatory research (CBPR) can lead to sustainable change and empowerment. Editor Natalia Deeb-Sossa has chosen contributors whose diverse interdisciplinary projects are grounded in politically engaged research in Chicanx and Latinx communities. The scholars’ advocacy work is a core component of the research design of their studies, challenging the idea that research needs to be neutral or unbiased.
The testimonies tell of projects that stem from community demands for truly collaborative research addressing locally identified issues and promoting community social change. Contributors share their personal experiences in conducting CBPR, focusing on the complexities of implementing this method and how it may create sustainable change and community empowerment. Along with a retrospective analysis of how CBPR has been at the center of the Chicana/o Movement and Chicana/o studies, the book includes a discussion of consejos y advertencias (advice and warnings).
The most knowledgeable people on community issues are the very members of the communities themselves. Recognizing a need to identify the experiences and voices (testimonios) of communities of color, activist-scholars showcase how to incorporate the perspectives of the true experts: the poor, women, farmworkers, students, activists, elders, and immigrants.
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.