Are Poor Whites Trashed?
Mainstream America rejects its 'rejects'
By Bud Johnson
African-American News and Issues
A 1996 UC-Berkeley/Harvard study found that poor whites, motivated by racial pride and hostility toward other ethnic groups, are less likely to take advantage than their minority counterparts. Similarly lack of education has presented with a myriad of problems from unfulfilled special educational needs to long bus rides from coming from poor families with undereducated parents. But, maybe the greatest insult of them all has been the stereotyping of poor whites and southern whites in general as ‘white trash,’ ‘brier hoppers,’ ‘red necks,’ ‘lint heads’ and ‘hillbillies’ with bad genes, bad English, lazy, stupid—not to mention bad teeth.
“The life of poor whites is so powerfully depicted in our culture; you only have to read John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath, or Erskine Caldwell's Tobacco Road, Jacquelyn Jones' The Dispossessed, and even TV reruns of the Beverly Hillbillies.”
Trailer Park Trash notwithstanding, the preceding text is the primary reason poor Made-in-America Europeans harbor such hatred for Made-in-America Africans, according to (Auburn University Professor and Historian,) Dr. J. Wayne Flynt, a long time crusader for poor White Americans. But, that’s not true. Yet, far too many struggling Blacks, indigenous to impoverished, crime and drug infested urban jungles in the land of the free also buy into that over simplification. Truth is, poor Blacks and White America’s rejects have historically been forced to coexist in underserved ‘hoods.
Our premise is validated by Ann Laura Stoler, who notes in her book Race and the Education of Desire, “The ‘race’ of the rising English industrial class pertained not to their color or physiognomy but to their bourgeois class status, mores, and manners. Accordingly, racial superiority, and thus the right to rule, came to be equated with middle-class respectability.
“The poor, by definition, could never belong to this new bourgeois race. With a swelling slave population, the masters faced the prospect of white freedmen, with disappointed hopes, joining forces with slaves of desperate hope to mount ever more virulent rebellions. The elites’ race strategy decreased the probability of such class rebellions. The problem of how to redirect the ‘rabble’ so that they would not bond with slaves was resolved through the sinister design of racialization. The answer to the problem, obvious if unspoken and only gradually recognized, was racism, to separate dangerous free whites from dangerous slave blacks by a screen of racial contempt. Racial contempt would function as a wall between poor whites and blacks, protecting masters and their slave-produced wealthy from both lower-class whites and slaves.”
Stoler based her premise on research of social historian Edmund Morgan, who documented: “Some of the ‘alien,’ bedraggled and penniless Englishmen and women were shipped to Virginia, and when their masters began to place people of another color in the fields beside them, the unfamiliar appearance of the newcomers may well have struck them as only skin deep. There are hints that the two despised groups initially saw each other as sharing the same predicament. It was common, for example, for servants and slaves to run away together, steal hogs together, and get drunk together. It was not uncommon for them to make love together.”
What happen? One only has to understand the power of the media to answer that question. Affirmative action aside, Black America has always shown more drive than poor White Americans.
Early on, White America romanticized their illiterate “Country Kinfolks,” but began to reject their social rejects after the Civil Rights Bill initiated Black’s phenomenon progress and forced a change of strategy. The mainstream media stopped lauding the “First Black” (glorifying the America dream), and focused on our losers instead.
That strategy is still working, according to Ebony’s December 1992 report: “Despite prevailing stereotype, Whites, not Blacks, collect greatest share of public aid dollars. SAY the word ‘welfare’ and immediately the image of the lazy Black welfare queen who breeds for profit surfaces in the minds of those who have come to believe the hideous stereotype. It is a myth that persists despite government figures and authoritative studies showing that Whites overwhelmingly reap the lion's share of the dole.”
Cutting to the chase, believe it or not, more Whites live in poverty than Blacks. The 2000 Census Bureau reported that, “In spite of Whites median net worth being $81,700 (compared to Black’s $10,000), 21,922,000 Whites live in poverty compared to 8,360,000 Blacks.”
History repeats aside, Stoler’s book concluded, “Clearly, the poor white masses, like the black slaves, were also racial victims of the upper class. The two exploited, racialized groups differed, however, in their degree of self-awareness. Virtually all slaves knew they were victims of white racism, while very few whites knew that they were, too.”
Prophetically, that’s exactly what time it is in 2005 America’s “Land of the Free.”