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What does Tom Wolfe mean by Ethnic Catering Service?



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He is referring to the 1960s anti-poverty programs, specifically CAPs and those similar to it. The point of these programs was to empower those who lived in poor areas to take personal action to better their communities by offering grants to the heads of local groups and organizations. However, since the higher-ups in the "establishment" knew nothing about who were considered to be the "leaders" in ghettoes, they realized that if they just set up offices where people could come to make their case about why they deserved the money, the leaders would just show up on their own. The idea of people of minorities showing up in a parade, therefore figuratively serving themselves up to the bureaucracy, is what Tom Wolfe meant by "Ethnic Catering Service."