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Notes for the book White Trash


vcczar
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I just finished a book entitled White Trash that was written in 2016. While most books in the 21st century cover inequality/inequity focus on the black experience, this one covers those often called “white trash,” “poor whites,” “hillbillies,” “rednecks,” “mudsills,” “squatters,” etc. 

The book argues that a US class system exists today and has existed since European colonization. It also argues that most people not of this class have no interest in helping this class achieve upward mobility. 

 
This group is defined primarily by these traits:
  • Mostly European ancestry, and predominately Scots-Irish or English descent. In fact, it seems most people in this group descend from indentured servants and laborers in all branches of their family tree since colonial times. That is, 10 or 12 generations of poverty. 
  • This groups is predominately rural, Southern and West of the Appalachians (or in the Appalachians). This group did not (and could not) own slaves during the era of slavery. In fact, some Southern politicians were considering ways to enslave poor whites along with Blacks and Native Americans. 
  • This group does not include immigrant groups from the 1700s on. In fact, immigrants are rarely mentioned in the book, aside from the original migration of Europeans. 
  • This group is traditionally illiterate and unschooled. Lincoln and LBJ both did a lot to bring some literacy to this group. 
  • This group traditionally does not own property and is often transient. The exceptions are squatters and those that happen to live in trailer parks. Some, at best, were tenant farmers and sharecroppers.
  • This group's income is below the poverty line. 
  • This group traditionally does not have up-to-date amenities. Many did not have running water, electricity going into the mid-20th century. Some didn't even have out houses. FDR and LBJ did a lot to alleviate this somewhat. 
  • This group was disenfranchised by the poll tax and property requirements, just as almost all blacks were, predominately in the South. LBJ fixed this.  
  • This group is defined by generations of malnutrition, rare diseases (like hookworm), inbreeding, mental and physical disabilities, stunted growth, tallow skin, etc. LBJ's Great Society did a lot to eliminate or reduce this. 
  • This group has traditionally been relegated to live and work on the worst soil in their respective states. Some irrigation legislation from the Gilded Age through LBJ helped in some locations, but these people are generally pushed aside when their land becomes desirable since they often don't own the land. 
  • This group has no real shot at upward mobility. In fact, probably far less than poor urban blacks who at least, in theory, have potential for employment in the cities. 
  • This group is generally identified as lazy, short tempered, uncouth, and racist. Certainly malnutrition with no hope of bettering their life has much to do with this. 
  • This group is generally at odds with poor blacks and, and when they do move upwards, poor whites. Much of the anger towards blacks is two fold: 1) It's their rival for being the "lowest class" in America, at least in the South. The book briefly discusses the psychology of a group needing to feel superior to another group. 2) Blacks get a lot of rhetorical support and sometimes authentic support, while this groups is often rhetorically ignored and unsupported. In the rare times when members of this group become lower-middle class or higher, they tend to immediately detach from their "White Trash" past and join in with the middle and upper classes that have no interest in bettering the lives or opportunities for "White Trash."
  • This group saw brief periods of upward mobility.
    • Westward expansion opened up new land. While "White Trash" couldn't afford to purchase land grants, squatters rights sometimes allowed the acquiring of land which was then cultivated.
    • Following the Civil War, Reconstruction dismantled the Old South Aristocracy and allowed a brief moment of suffrage, political power, and, for some, upward mobility. Many of the Southern politicians from the Gilded Age and early Progressive Era were of "White Trash" descent--the few that rose socially in this period. They weren't establishment politicians like the old slave power politicians, these politicians were RW Populists, like Ben "Pitchfork" Tillman and James K "White Chief" Vardaman. They were rabidly pro-lynching, pro-segregation, favored the use of para-military troops to enforce policy, nationalistic, and ironically were the leaders in disenfranchising poor whites (along with poor blacks). This is why you'll see the Deep South voting Democrat 90-95% in the PV. 
    • The New Deal (especially all the public works programs) and Great Society improved the lives of this group and may have helped with some upward mobility to the lower middle class for some. 
  • The 1980s and 1990s became a time of national identity for "White Trash," as the group started wearing the label as a badge of honor. Many musicians and, soon, reality shows highlighted this group. 
  • The book was written in 2016. Trump is mentioned much in the book, but it makes note that Trump joins a long line of wealthy nominees that made efforts to identify with this group, which starts with Andrew Jackson. The book notes that the only president to identify with this group and follow through with attempting to help them is LBJ. 
  • Trump is briefly compared to James K "White Chief" Vardaman, although I think the comparison is faulty outside of rhetoric. 
  • The group was not part of the "Silent Majority" of Richard Nixon. That group was suburban whites. 
  • The book doesn't discuss voting patterns or even if this group votes in large numbers at all. I suspect that their voter turnout is typically very low. However, the book seems to suggest that they liked Bill Clinton and were expected to like Donald Trump. I wouldn't be surprised if they played a major role in Trump shocking the pundits in 2016. Many of these people probably aren't captured in polls. I also wouldn't be surprised if they didn't come out and vote in 2020. 
  • While not mentioned in this book, I'm wondering how many from this group join the military. It seems it's their only easy path to upward mobility. It's possible the military doesn't even want this group. 
  • Some interesting notes from the book:
    • The upper and middle classes (including lower middle class) have often ignored this group or even thought of ways to get rid of them. 
    • Benjamin Franklin thought the country should import Germans to work the farms and hoped poor whites might learn by example. Franklin thought Germans, despite being uncouth, were the hardest workers in Europe. 
    • Thomas Jefferson thought the best ways to get rid of the lower classes "White Trash," blacks, or Native Americans was to interbreed. It was believed by many that you could dilute the "inferior" genes out of someone by interbreeding just as was the case with horses. The book argues that Jefferson practiced this with his slave Sally Hemmings. I'm not sure how seriously Jefferson considered forcing "lower classes" to breed with "better" whites, etc. 
    • Jackson was the first president to run as a "White Trash" president but he actually did nothing for them. 
    • Some politicians thought this group, along with Native Americans were destined to extinction and that they should just be allowed to die off. 
    • An odd fascination with eugenics is one of the darker spots in the Progressive Era. This group was often the target for eugenics and the argument for eugenics. Many people from this group were forcibly sterilized. In fact, with Darwin, this group was a major subject in the whole "Survival of the Fittest" argument. 
    • The idea of helping this group doesn't seem to have come about until Hoover and FDR. The movies seems to have shown a picture of this group to people who would never otherwise see how this group lives. 
    • LBJ reportedly stated, “If you can convince the lowest white man he's better than the best colored man, he won't notice you're picking his pocket.” The book mentions this quote a few times, using it to illustrate how this group has often voted against its best interests because they easily fall for the rhetorical appeal to racism. 

The book was very interesting. It has some flaws. It offers no solution, preferring to highlight that politicians of both parties, and citizens of all socio-economic classes, do nothing to help this group (aside from FDR and LBJ). While the author seems to want to sympathize or empathize with this group, I can tell she struggles to want to help a group that is often labeled as racist and etc. I think the book could have been more useful if the author used the plight of "White Trash," as a means to combine them with a plight of blacks and Native Americans, and made a general call for domestic and economic improvements for all Americans below the poverty line regardless of race. 

There's a lot more I'd like to type out, but I can't spend any more time typing this today.

 
Sent from my iPhone
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1 hour ago, Patine said:

 

Ah, yes. The oppressed, hard-done, and screwed-over people (for generations), but whom next to no one wants to sympathize with or do much to help, or even call out their plight. Very much like the Romani people in Europe. 😞

There’s some differences. These people have been US citizens since independence. They see themselves as patriotic and as the common person. They don’t think they are outsiders. They blame their struggles on non-whites, foreigners, and city folk. 

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17 hours ago, vcczar said:

I just finished a book entitled White Trash that was written in 2016. While most books in the 21st century cover inequality/inequity focus on the black experience, this one covers those often called “white trash,” “poor whites,” “hillbillies,” “rednecks,” “mudsills,” “squatters,” etc. 

The book argues that a US class system exists today and has existed since European colonization. It also argues that most people not of this class have no interest in helping this class achieve upward mobility. 

 
This group is defined primarily by these traits:
  • Mostly European ancestry, and predominately Scots-Irish or English descent. In fact, it seems most people in this group descend from indentured servants and laborers in all branches of their family tree since colonial times. That is, 10 or 12 generations of poverty. 
  • This groups is predominately rural, Southern and West of the Appalachians (or in the Appalachians). This group did not (and could not) own slaves during the era of slavery. In fact, some Southern politicians were considering ways to enslave poor whites along with Blacks and Native Americans. 
  • This group does not include immigrant groups from the 1700s on. In fact, immigrants are rarely mentioned in the book, aside from the original migration of Europeans. 
  • This group is traditionally illiterate and unschooled. Lincoln and LBJ both did a lot to bring some literacy to this group. 
  • This group traditionally does not own property and is often transient. The exceptions are squatters and those that happen to live in trailer parks. Some, at best, were tenant farmers and sharecroppers.
  • This group's income is below the poverty line. 
  • This group traditionally does not have up-to-date amenities. Many did not have running water, electricity going into the mid-20th century. Some didn't even have out houses. FDR and LBJ did a lot to alleviate this somewhat. 
  • This group was disenfranchised by the poll tax and property requirements, just as almost all blacks were, predominately in the South. LBJ fixed this.  
  • This group is defined by generations of malnutrition, rare diseases (like hookworm), inbreeding, mental and physical disabilities, stunted growth, tallow skin, etc. LBJ's Great Society did a lot to eliminate or reduce this. 
  • This group has traditionally been relegated to live and work on the worst soil in their respective states. Some irrigation legislation from the Gilded Age through LBJ helped in some locations, but these people are generally pushed aside when their land becomes desirable since they often don't own the land. 
  • This group has no real shot at upward mobility. In fact, probably far less than poor urban blacks who at least, in theory, have potential for employment in the cities. 
  • This group is generally identified as lazy, short tempered, uncouth, and racist. Certainly malnutrition with no hope of bettering their life has much to do with this. 
  • This group is generally at odds with poor blacks and, and when they do move upwards, poor whites. Much of the anger towards blacks is two fold: 1) It's their rival for being the "lowest class" in America, at least in the South. The book briefly discusses the psychology of a group needing to feel superior to another group. 2) Blacks get a lot of rhetorical support and sometimes authentic support, while this groups is often rhetorically ignored and unsupported. In the rare times when members of this group become lower-middle class or higher, they tend to immediately detach from their "White Trash" past and join in with the middle and upper classes that have no interest in bettering the lives or opportunities for "White Trash."
  • This group saw brief periods of upward mobility.
    • Westward expansion opened up new land. While "White Trash" couldn't afford to purchase land grants, squatters rights sometimes allowed the acquiring of land which was then cultivated.
    • Following the Civil War, Reconstruction dismantled the Old South Aristocracy and allowed a brief moment of suffrage, political power, and, for some, upward mobility. Many of the Southern politicians from the Gilded Age and early Progressive Era were of "White Trash" descent--the few that rose socially in this period. They weren't establishment politicians like the old slave power politicians, these politicians were RW Populists, like Ben "Pitchfork" Tillman and James K "White Chief" Vardaman. They were rabidly pro-lynching, pro-segregation, favored the use of para-military troops to enforce policy, nationalistic, and ironically were the leaders in disenfranchising poor whites (along with poor blacks). This is why you'll see the Deep South voting Democrat 90-95% in the PV. 
    • The New Deal (especially all the public works programs) and Great Society improved the lives of this group and may have helped with some upward mobility to the lower middle class for some. 
  • The 1980s and 1990s became a time of national identity for "White Trash," as the group started wearing the label as a badge of honor. Many musicians and, soon, reality shows highlighted this group. 
  • The book was written in 2016. Trump is mentioned much in the book, but it makes note that Trump joins a long line of wealthy nominees that made efforts to identify with this group, which starts with Andrew Jackson. The book notes that the only president to identify with this group and follow through with attempting to help them is LBJ. 
  • Trump is briefly compared to James K "White Chief" Vardaman, although I think the comparison is faulty outside of rhetoric. 
  • The group was not part of the "Silent Majority" of Richard Nixon. That group was suburban whites. 
  • The book doesn't discuss voting patterns or even if this group votes in large numbers at all. I suspect that their voter turnout is typically very low. However, the book seems to suggest that they liked Bill Clinton and were expected to like Donald Trump. I wouldn't be surprised if they played a major role in Trump shocking the pundits in 2016. Many of these people probably aren't captured in polls. I also wouldn't be surprised if they didn't come out and vote in 2020. 
  • While not mentioned in this book, I'm wondering how many from this group join the military. It seems it's their only easy path to upward mobility. It's possible the military doesn't even want this group. 
  • Some interesting notes from the book:
    • The upper and middle classes (including lower middle class) have often ignored this group or even thought of ways to get rid of them. 
    • Benjamin Franklin thought the country should import Germans to work the farms and hoped poor whites might learn by example. Franklin thought Germans, despite being uncouth, were the hardest workers in Europe. 
    • Thomas Jefferson thought the best ways to get rid of the lower classes "White Trash," blacks, or Native Americans was to interbreed. It was believed by many that you could dilute the "inferior" genes out of someone by interbreeding just as was the case with horses. The book argues that Jefferson practiced this with his slave Sally Hemmings. I'm not sure how seriously Jefferson considered forcing "lower classes" to breed with "better" whites, etc. 
    • Jackson was the first president to run as a "White Trash" president but he actually did nothing for them. 
    • Some politicians thought this group, along with Native Americans were destined to extinction and that they should just be allowed to die off. 
    • An odd fascination with eugenics is one of the darker spots in the Progressive Era. This group was often the target for eugenics and the argument for eugenics. Many people from this group were forcibly sterilized. In fact, with Darwin, this group was a major subject in the whole "Survival of the Fittest" argument. 
    • The idea of helping this group doesn't seem to have come about until Hoover and FDR. The movies seems to have shown a picture of this group to people who would never otherwise see how this group lives. 
    • LBJ reportedly stated, “If you can convince the lowest white man he's better than the best colored man, he won't notice you're picking his pocket.” The book mentions this quote a few times, using it to illustrate how this group has often voted against its best interests because they easily fall for the rhetorical appeal to racism. 

The book was very interesting. It has some flaws. It offers no solution, preferring to highlight that politicians of both parties, and citizens of all socio-economic classes, do nothing to help this group (aside from FDR and LBJ). While the author seems to want to sympathize or empathize with this group, I can tell she struggles to want to help a group that is often labeled as racist and etc. I think the book could have been more useful if the author used the plight of "White Trash," as a means to combine them with a plight of blacks and Native Americans, and made a general call for domestic and economic improvements for all Americans below the poverty line regardless of race. 

There's a lot more I'd like to type out, but I can't spend any more time typing this today.

 
Sent from my iPhone

Interesting. Thanks for sharing.

Edited by Timur
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