Book Review: Race, Power & Politics: Memoirs Of An Acorn Whistleblower
Publication Date: Apr 02, 2012
List Price: $19.99
Format: Paperback, 376 pages
Imprint: American Banner Books
Publisher: American Banner Books
Parent Company: American Banner Books
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Book Reviewed by Kam Williams
“There is a lot to learn from this book. If you are feeling cynical and discouraged that you can’t fight the powerful, read it! If you want to learn the tactics of effective guerilla activism, read it!
If you want to learn the intricacies of how corporate abuses of power can threaten our families’ bodies and health, read this book! If you want to feel the price of hypocrisy, read it!”
—Excerpted from the Foreword (pgs. iii-iv)
The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, aka ACORN, was founded in 1970 with the goal of attaining higher wages, better education and decent housing for the poor. Over the years, the activism-oriented non-profit operated mostly under the radar, gradually growing into a formidable force to be reckoned with by virtue of its half a million members and over a thousand chapters spread all across the country.
Yet, the charity collapsed in just a matter of months in the wake of a damaging video shot with a hidden camera by a couple of conservative bloggers posing as a pimp and a prostitute. Released to the press in the fall of 2009, the deceptively-edited footage appeared to show street-level ACORN employees being tricked into instructing the visitors how to cheat the IRS.
ACORN had only garnered national attention during the previous year’s presidential campaign when candidate Barack Obama’s work as a community organizer came to light. Most people blame the controversial grassroots outfit’s subsequent demise on its being targeted by Republicans because of the critical role it played in getting out the vote for the successful Democratic candidate.
However, according to Race, Power & Politics, there were already plenty of signs that ACORN was on the brink of imploding on its own. A persuasive case is made in this “as told to” memoir dictated to African-American attorney Michael McCray by fellow, former board member Marcel Reid, a whistleblower who ostensibly knew where the proverbial bodies were buried.
Apparently, in spite of its longstanding image as an advocate for the disadvantaged and disenfranchised, ACORN was pretty much riddled with corruption from top to bottom. At the upper echelon, you had flamboyant executive Dale Rathke padding his expense account with pricey flights on the Concorde, $2,000 a night suites at the Waldorf-Astoria, $700 meals at fancy French restaurants, and shopping sprees at luxury boutiques like Gucci and Neiman Marcus. By the time that crook was finally terminated, he had embezzled about a million dollars.
Meanwhile, even some rank-and-file employees treated ACORN like a personal ATM machine, such as the secretary who thought nothing of having her hair extensions done right in the office on company time. A shameful tale of wholesale hypocrisy at the expense of the poor apt to have Saul Alinsky, the godfather of community organizing, spinning in his grave.