when i say “white trash”—i mean something very specific. to me, white trash is defined by two things:
1. generational poverty of a particular white community,
2. and that particular community’s geographical location to poor black and poor mexican (or latino, but in my experience in my location, it’s almost always mexican) communities. this geographical location is *extremely* close, if not intertwined with poor black/poor mexican.
i’ve seen “white trash” used in all sorts of ways, most often used by liberal white reformists to describe what i would call “red necks”—or what the republicans call “joe six pack” or “angry white guys” or “NASCAR dads.” red necks are defined for me by:
1. making it out of the the generational poverty cycle, usually through decent factory jobs or nursing jobs.
2. clearly defined segregation efforts from poor black/poor mexican (or latino) communities.
to be clear, i don’t use these words most generally (white trash, redneck) unless i’m talking with people like rgr, or in an organizing capacity. white trash in particular. but i do make a strong effort to understand how the people in my community use these words, and the ways that those words and the people who use them interact with people of color.
i have found that red necks are nearly impossible for me to work politically with. i actually rarely RARELY interact with them on any level unless i’m forced to (i.e. family). the one thing i do enjoy about that community is their straight up honesty. i can handle the red neck fucker with the “US OUT OF THE UN” signs all over his car much more easily than i can the liberal white reformist.
white trash, on the other hand, while often intersecting with red necks—are in a much different position politically, and i’ve had amazing success working with this community, in particular, the youth and women. are things perfect? not by any fucking stretch of the imagination. but any woman that can show me the way to skin catfish while she’s talking to me about the latest organizing meeting starts ten miles ahead any other white woman.
others may have had a different experience, particularly in the south—while so many of the poor white in my community have roots in the south, i have no idea at all what customs, beliefs, habits, etc they’ve brought up from the south.
but white trash women and young people are not who the GOP is trying to appeal to. and they SURE aren’t who the democrat liberal reformist macho fucking dick faces like tim wise are working to understand and politically align with.
remember who is important in discussions about “the poor white vote.”—joe the plumber, angry white guy, and NASCAR dads.
remember again how angela davis says “gender is race is gender.”
and think about what that means when largely white male upper class organizations like the RNC attempt to organize and reach out to “the poor white vote.” that it’s not just white supremacy that is being used to appeal to poor white men—that it’s *also* gender supremacy. think about why a poor white woman might find somebody like sarah palin fucking astonishing and everything she had hoped for.
think about why male liberal white reformists preach with the fervor of MLK over white supremacy and white privilege, but never seem to give much of a shit about gender.
then ask why tim wise never seems to get to gender.
and if it makes sense that he keeps taking up so much space “because other white people will listen to me.”
This is so, so, so important. I’ve been writing some similar things for my #hometowns zine. In particular, I wanted to think about how “poor white trash” was a southern term and was really resonant in Michigan because of migration. “White trash” to Flint people is Burton, which is colloquially called “Burtucky” because of these migrants, even though most of them were actually from Arkansas. This was a ~~personal research journey for me because my mother is the child of Pontiac Alabama BAREFOOT POOR AS FUCK migrants. This raises a lot more questions for me about the parts of her family that were more, by this measure, rednecks. My reality was Flint/Burton and Pontiac, but now I have so many questions about the people I know in Durand and all those little “white trash” towns between Flint and Lansing, which are VERY white. (Although there are histories of Latin@ migrant labor in those areas but it’s way more geographically “invisible” to the white communities.) I totally see a lot of the political stuff you mention in these areas—like, no poor white people aren’t racist, per se, but those towns are where you get some serious confederate flag bullshit.
My mom hadeverycomplex about “white trash” as a shame but also as something that was very particularly racialized—she didn’t want to be White Trash growing up but White Trash was better than Ghetto. She grew up and “came to terms” with how fucked up this was (she’s white therefore not not racist/she lives in a black community and ~understands false consciousness now/”discovered christ”/is very receptive to me being like HEY MOM DID YOU KNOW ABOUT THIS RACIST HISTORICAL THING, now that she can be proud that she sent me to college lol/hates cops on principle/idk.)
I haven’t been to Pontiac in a while, but my mom’s childhood best friend’s daughter graduated from Pontiac Central the year before it closed, and I’vegrown up watching her racial understandings in Pontiac public schools and they’re really, really weird and complicated and impacted by the fact that Pontiac also became home to a lot of immigrants in the past twenty years.
I had a lot of experiences this summer with weird not-“poor” city friends using “white trash” without this baggage, and I found myself using itso muchto refer to myself in reaction to their weird appropriation. How could they make jokes about trailers like that, a) without understanding how “trailer trash” or “white trash” is SO RACIALIZED and if you are gonna glorify that or joke about it without thinking, you are soooooo racist and b) also kinda hurtful? YOU HAVEN’T EARNED IT, BUTTHEADS c) I grew up in a trailer park that was mostly white (this matters) (also “a trailer park that was mostly white” = meth, LET’S TALK ABOUT METH, CAN WE TALK ABOUT METH)
I would reflect more on the white trash men in my family, but every one of them drank themselves to death lol
Hahaah I hit reblog before I saw that you mentioned me.
The other day, after Andrew Jackson Jihad-gate, I started seriously writing and thinking about representations of white poverty in folk punk bands (hint: DUMB, largely) with Stephanie. I got really ambitious about it and then I tried to listen to a Mischief Brew album for research and I got so existentially tired that I gave up. Might post drafts though.
tl;dr: All the women in my family know how to can and jar and kill and prepare a possum, if they needed to. They all live in a city.
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