White Trash Blues: Class Privilege v. White Privilege

If you blog about white privilege, you’re probably sick to death of people playing the “white trash” card in your comments. Their argument usually goes something like this:

  • “Being white didn’t give me all these privileges you’re talking about.”
  • “I know plenty of [minority] people who are better off than I am.”
  • And the advanced version, which I’m guilty of using myself: “It’s really more about class than it’s about race.”

I am “poor white trash”. I can relate to all of the statements above. I grew up looking the part of Average White Girl, but middle class white people always pegged me as “different”. This left me vulnerable to losing opportunities and even jobs to white people who “fit in” better. Also, after my family made its great escape from White Trash Hell into Middle Class Purgatory, I learned to my surprise that there were black kids in the world who’d grown up with more money than I ever had. And so on, and so forth.

Here’s where the confusion comes in. Yes, I have a legitimate grievance against the system. Yes, I’ve lost out on things because I didn’t have the $20 to invest or know the magic social password that would have marked me “normal” (read: “middle class, preferably white”). And yes, it hurts when you don’t fit in with your own race because of your class, and you don’t fit in with your class because of your race. It’s hard to see privilege around that stuff, but the examples are out there.

Wealth gets you a ticket, but it doesn’t guarantee you a seat

One of the black kids I went to school with whose family was richer than mine? We discovered we’d given identical answers on a test, and she’d gotten some of them marked wrong while I got 100%. When we examined her other papers, we realized the teacher had been doing this for some time: “giving” the black girl a lesser grade. And one of the Jewish girls I knew whose family was richer than mine? When she was absent for a Jewish holiday and missed a test, one of her teachers decided to teach her a lesson by refusing to let her make up that test anytime but on a Saturday – the Jewish sabbath. The teacher offered truly pathetic excuses why after school, during lunch and during the girl’s study period wouldn’t work. Sunday wouldn’t work because it was the teacher’s Christian sabbath! The girl’s mother had to call the principal and threaten to bring the ACLU into it before she got a proper time slot to retake the test.

I’ve never been pulled over for “looking like you’re out of your neighborhood” (unless you count the time I was lost in a snotty part of Beverly Hills in an American car, gasp!). I’m not nearly as likely to get pulled over for traffic violations as black or Latino people, even if they grew up with more money than I did. Taking things a step further, I’ve never felt pressured to join a gang just to survive. I’ve never worried I’m going to get shot in my own neighborhood (and I’ve lived in some neighborhoods the white middle class considers “bad”).

That white skin would get you a seat, if only you had a ticket

My approach is to look at all the types of privilege that affect an individual. Take me, for example. I have white privilege and heterosexual privilege and able-bodied privilege working for me; I have class privilege and male privilege working against me. In the case of poor whites, the class privilege often takes more from them than the white privilege gives them (i.e., the college admissions board prefer my skin color, but if I can’t somehow pay tuition, I’m not getting in). In my personal experience, white privilege may be a total bust, and I have the right to feel that way: I do not have the right to muddy a discussion of white privilege with all my anti-privileges. But before I learned to separate the types of privilege, I’m afraid I probably did that once or twice. Not in the “minorities have it so easy” tone that marks one type of troll; I just couldn’t figure out which part of this stuff I wasn’t getting.

Not a credit to our race

I will probably write a whole post on this someday, but I’ll leave you with one last point to consider. In my experience, poor whites are one group of people that even PC folks think it’s okay to take potshots at. Make a “dumb blonde” joke, and someone sooner or later will call you on your sexism; make a “you know you’re a redneck when…” joke, and chances are everyone will take it as good clean fun. This is something that makes me generally distrustful of the supposedly “progressive” thinkers out there, and I assume it affects other poor whites simiarly. See, we’re an embarrassment to the white race. We’re proof that whites are not invulnerable to the repressions they’ve visited on other races. So we’re taught to keep quiet. On one level, we know we shouldn’t take that crap. On the other hand, experience has taught us if we take a stand, we’ll stand alone. I don’t know how many times I’ve endured jokes about my homestate when a potential new friend asks me where I’m from. And if you know me, you know I’d never let an insult to my gender go by without comment.

And if we have an accent of any sort – many of us do, since by definition it’s the higher classes who get the privilege of their accent being declared “no accent” – we’re supposed to put up with being made fun of and/or being fetishized. Or being expected to change it, if we’re “serious” about getting certain jobs or promotions. We’re vulnerable to class assumptions that we’re ill-educated, lazy, immoral or even criminally perverse (only in redneck jokes is incest somehow a topic for humor!).

While these points still aren’t germaine to a topic about white privilege, I’ve seen them get dismissed in discussions about privilege and bigotry in general, and in those cases they are relevant. Hopefully, something in this post will help someone weed out trolls and/or communicate more effectively with sincere poor whites who mistake a lack of class privilege for a lack of white privilege.

Comments

  1. Jennifer Kesler says

    Ezekiah, thank you. I never thought of the shortened term “illegals” as hurtful, possibly because I’m an anarchist and don’t consider “illegal” to be very invalidating. But then I’ve never been an immigrant of any sort, so I’ll avoid that term from now on. :)

  2. Victor says

    Just a couple points on the “illegal” comments. Firstly think about the white privelge of not having to be detained, interrogated, and deported because you didn’t have something on you called a green card(It’s even happened to people with full U.S. Citizenship).
    Think about the irony of the fact that the more you look like one of the first people of the Americas(think contintentally not what you gringos ignorantly refer to as “America.”) the more your chances of this happening to you increase. The more you look like your ancestors were Vikings, Pilgrims, or whatever, the less likelihood this will happen to you.
    Think about having your parents taken away from you on an ICE Raid one night, and you’ve now been raised on this side of the border(think of it as a child born of rape, meaning the Mexican American War) all your life and could never adapt to where your parents came from.
    While we’re along those lines let’s not be so narrow, and blindly ignorant that we don’t think about the relationship between developed and underdeveloped nations since the Age of Imperialism.
    Think about things like Banana Republic, Raw Export producers while the common people get shafted, and the U.S. has been a big part of this since the 1890s(That’s after they got done dealing with the Indians, and stealing a 3rd of Mexico).
    Don’t stop there look at your cherry on top. Globalization which the coporate media tells everyone that people in the 3rd world benefit from it but it leaves out the fact that it makes bad situations worse in the cities, and it undersells farmers in places like Chiapas Mexico(remember the Zapatista Rebellion?)
    Oops forgot the whipped cream. The media tells us things like all the kids are speaking the languages of the countries of their parents, but the very opposite is true. They’re losing the culture and language of their parents. It’s the writing of English that eludes them, but then that same coporate media doesn’t tell us that poor whites do just as bad if not worse in writing and grammar. And it’s not even standard English that they’re learning. Trash T.V. and their trash T.V. immitating peers are what is teaching them English.
    I agree that the situation of poor whites and Appalachians(“hillbillies” we say) needs to be looked at more objectively however for those of you tooting the horn about “illegal immigrants” please don’t make me break out the banner with the Aztec Warrior pointing the finger and saying “Whose the Illegal Alien Pilgrim!”

  3. Salsassin says

    Victor, to a degree, you are right. But it still isn’t White Privilege that is at play. It is majority privilege. When Northern Europeans overpopulated North America they created an environment where they are the most common features. So even other European features less common in the north can and have been questioned here. Add to that, a specific burden that has been placed on Mexican immigrants (and all that look like them or come from that direction) since that is where most migration comes from, and you do have it harder in many cases for people who are Latino with non Northern European features.

    But let me remind you, that the majority of Latinos here are not majority indigenous. We are Mestizo. Genetically the vast majority have more European than they have Native.

    But two factors play a role. Obviously, having partial ancestry in a country where mestizos are not the majority is a burden. Add to that, the European ancestry we have is not the one most common in the US so the features are different even before adding the indigenous factor. It’s what makes us unique, but it is what makes us a minority in this nation.

    Of course, as African Americans said, “We shall overcome,” we Latinos said “We shall overpopulate.” That is truly why racists and Nativists in this country fear us so much. Because it is not White privilege, it is majority privilege that rules. And with our migration patterns and reproduction patterns, we will become the majority in this country.

    What we still have to overcome is the education gaps. If not we risk being a majority in the lower classes but a minority in the middle classes. And then you have the burden of class based stereotypes come into place. If one class has a majority from one group, or one group tends to have their majority in one class, that group tends to be stereotyped as belonging to that class.

    That is the biggest problem in Latin America, where class based looks privilege is enforced by the upper classes.

    You can see this marked difference in our media, where White faces are openly overrepresented. And Indigenous or Afrodescent faces are mostly present in stereotyped lower class roles (if that, because many times even the maids look like Goldilocks). The only reason why it still isn’t true White privilege is that Middle Easterners and Asians are not placed in these subservient roles as well.

    This does not happen in the US. Our facial variety is shown a lot more throughout Media. And I would say Afrodescent faces are more than equally represented in the media. 12% of the population, but more than that in the media.

    But the US still does place a larger burden on the Indigenous faces. At best, you will see mestizo faces, but it is rare to see full blood looks (or mestizos that favor the indigenous side a lot more) in general media, and when they are showed it tends to be with some of the same class based stereotypes that permeate Latin America.

  4. grumpy says

    ‘Shouldn’t everyone have to complete the same standards wether they are white, black, hispanic or asian.’ (Courtni)
    The kids are supposed to be learning; any system that just passes them while leaving them nearly illiterate is not doing them any favours. An upper-class idiot may have contacts that can put him in the White House. A poor black kid, not so much, so he is a victim, not a beneficiary.
    ‘no matter how poor a white woman is, all she has to do is take a bath, maybe change her name, read-up on a subject or two, put on a suit and cut and dye her hair’ (Black girl)
    Not really. The class system is complex. You don’t sound right, you don’t know the right things, you don’t have the right interests, you don’t know the right people and they don’t know you. Or if they do, they treat you as one of the help.

  5. jeff says

    Yea I grew up poor in more of a rural community for most of my life. the area that I lived in there practically everyone was poor. If there has been an image that has been created by television or movies generally about how most people in america live they havent really seen all there is to know. And man it doesnt matter what color you are. There isnt really such a thing as white privlage where I grew up or anything like that. There probley is a heirarchy of upper middle class individuals, some of which, not all though, will do anything to ensure there is a low class of poorer type famlies for their own personal gain. This isnt to chacterize anyone in particular, but no doubt it exsists. In my case I grew up moving in and out of different homes within a general area of both villiages and farm country. Most of the homes we lived in lacked alot of things people take for granted everyday. Adequate and avaiable heat. Reliable utilities like running water. You know if you grew up then in rural areas we didnt have our own washer and dryer so clothes were washed out by hand and hung up to dry. Also in rural areas the avaiability of will say charitable organizations which provide a safety net I guess for some aren’t always readily avaiable, especially if the individuals who require assistance do not have easy or reliable transportation. In my case clothes were handed down by my cousin. However he wore a Husky Size Jeans. As long as they fit around my waiste i was wearing them so it wasnt unusual for me to wear jeans too short for me, that was common. School clothes some years ment getting a package of plain white tee shirts. The same problems that exist in the many inner city communities do exist in rural areas without some of the crime, however the underlying problems still are there. the only thing to do usually when your alittle older is to drink and smoke pot, little ealse to do besides that and fish and maybe hunt. thats just what alot of folks have to learn to accept the way life is.

  6. Jennifer Kesler says

    There isnt really such a thing as white privlage where I grew up or anything like that.

    The whole point of my article was that white privilege always exists. There are times when it gets canceled out by all the privileges working against you, to the point that it might as well not exist for you, but if your situation changes and you look at things honestly, you will see yourself occasionally catching breaks for no reason other than your race and the race of the others involved.

  7. Salsassin says

    I wouldn’t say it always exists, nor that it gets canceled out. More like it exists in some places. In others, there are specific burdens placed on some ethnic groups, and in some places there are burdens placed on Whites.

  8. says

    I love you! Do you have a Twitter?

    The rich are manipulating us to keep us down. They did this back in slavery, giving the poor whites a few “privileges” so that they would stop rebelling with the slaves…..and stop the threat of an over-throw of the rich plantation owners.

    Bad mistake for the poor whites to turn their backs on the slaves because this was the start of the “pitting against” each other…..by two groups that did, and still do need each other.

    Now, they are manipulating us again by making a poor black higher on the social class then a poor white, and giving them a few “privileges”, hoping we’ll continue to fight amongst ourselves and they will continue to rule and continue to gain all the wealth

    The rich have figured out (very brilliantly) how to manipulate us & have us fighting with each other over stupid reasons such as race , class, religion, or just to get basic rights! We need to get smarter then the rich…realize what they are doing and then do something about it! There are way more of us then them!

    Great article, but can we start another word for poor whites besides “trash”?

  9. Jennifer Kesler says

    Jeannine, nice points you make here about the “divide and conquer” strategy. I forget to use my Twitter, but it’s here:

    http://twitter.com/JenniferKesler

    And yeah, we certainly need a word other than trash – I used it with quotes in an attempt to emphasize just how harshly other white people speak of my class.

  10. says

    Jennifer, I agree…it’s one thing for one of us to refer to the way our class is treated by using the word “trash” in quotes, but there’s a totally different meaning conveyed by the privileged when they refer to us disparagingly by calling us “trash.”

    And I want to make this perfectly clear: Whenever our class is referred to as “trash” and punished for our conditions of poverty, it is not only poor rural whites that are being abused, it’s poor urban whites too.

    Having rown up in a Philadelphia ghetto of poor whites, I have found a stronger sense of belonging, a greater shared understanding with my poor brothers and sisters in the heart of Appalachia, and in the “podunk” towns of the Midwest than I feel around middle/upper class people of any race.

    That said, I think it is incumbent upon us to call people out on their class bigotry whenever and wherever it rears its ugly head — as it did on the January 30, 2009 episode of the “reality TV” show, “Wife Swap”, featuring Stephen Fowler, a wealthy British immigrant who easily gained US citizenship by virtue of his wealth and marriage to a wealthy American ‘trophy’ wife. I called him on his class prejudice for his abuse of a poor Midwestern woman who was his temporary wife on the show. If anyone wants to read my letter to Stephen Fowler, I have it posted on this Google page:
    http://jacqueline.homan.author.googlepages.com/home

  11. Kristofski says

    Really good article here, though I’m dissapointed that many of the comments seem to be intent on trying to say that class or race are worse oppresions. It is much more complex than this, and saying that class or race are more important than the other does noone any favours. While racism (and sexism) are rife in our culture, there are many situations where an eloquent, well educated black woman will be taken more seriously than a poor white man.

    One thing that I do get a bit riled about though is when people talk about issues that are fundimentally about class and economic standing as if they are soley about race. I have seen a campaign against a university putting up it’s fees where it was talked about how this was racist as it would reduce the number of people of colour being able to attend. I don’t know if there were other campaigns running alongside this that talked about class issues, but it did seem like the people running this campaign had forgotten that the reason people are exculded in this example is how much money they have, not the colour of their skin, and poor white folks seem to be being ignored.

    It’s important to remember that it’s much easier to be aware of one’s oppressions than one’s privilages, so someone might see their oppression as a person of colour as more important than another person’s oppression as being considered “trash”, but forget their own privilage as a middle class person with an education, in the same way that a poor white person may see class as the most important issue but not notice their privilage as a white person.

  12. Isabel says

    “I called him on his class prejudice for his abuse of a poor Midwestern woman who was his temporary wife on the show. If anyone wants to read my letter to Stephen Fowler, I have it posted on this Google page:”

    Good for you! I have also decided it’s time to start speaking up more. I wrote to a radio station recently for referring to a woman who was describing her brother’s experiences with meth as “a piece of trailer trash” and I’ve been thinking of complaining about the Jay Leno show. He uses the term “white trash” frequently as well as using poor whites for humor constantly.

    “though I’m dissapointed that many of the comments seem to be intent on trying to say that class or race are worse oppresions.”

    Who has done this? This accusation always seems to come up. I’ve tried a number of times to bring up the issue of class on feminist and academic and science blogs in cases where I think it’s being ignored, and I am always accused of denying other privileges or claiming class privilege is the most important when I have not even said anything close. I also get called a “loon” and have had “trailer” jokes made about me in response. It’s ridiculous to deny class privilege. That is the point being made. And scapegoating is not progressive! “Progressives” who mock lower-class white people lose all credibility (and we shouldn’t let them get away with it).

  13. Jennifer Kesler says

    I too was frustrated that some of the commenters on this article wanted to make out that one (lack of) privilege is better/worse than another. I let a few of them through moderation because I thought the conversation was good to have, but I did not post several that I felt would only hurt feelings.

    Yes, the entire point of the post is that ALL anti-privileges are bad, and it doesn’t matter who’s got it the worst, and that having one privilege doesn’t cancel out the fact you’ve got several anti-privileges working against it. I agree that when “progressives” mock poor whites or any other group (white feminists of means have often left out women of color, women who aren’t heterosexual and disabled women in addition to poor white able-bodied heterosexual women) they are not living up to the label of progressive and must have it pointed out to them. Some of them will learn from it and we’ll all be better off. Others will refuse to learn, but in showing up their hypocrisy, we’ll reduce the hurt they would have caused.

  14. Isabel says

    “While these points still aren’t germaine to a topic about white privilege”

    I also have to disagree with this to some extent. Sometimes the references to white privilege do imply class privilege, and this needs to be pointed out.

    Also white upper-middle class bloggers and other progressives will do this, or make seemingly self-deprecating remarks about white people in general, and in this way diffuse a lot of the blame for the oppression of others onto a whole race. And by making these statements they get to seem superior to the inferior whites who think they’re better than other people (redneck racists, whatever). A neat trick!

    This was a great thread, there are a lot of good ideas here.

  15. DragonLord says

    I apologise for some of the generalisations that appear in this post, but I can’t think of a way to express what I mean without using them, at no point do I mean to imply that people in these groups actually actively think in these ways.

    I’ve read a few of these blogs now and I’m starting to get the impression that there is really only one (maybe 2 if you include super normative) set of privileges that really needs to be discussed and that is the privileges of the norm (or normative privileges depending on what sounds better).

    Basically put, the closer you are to societies expectation of normal the easier it is for you to get by (it gets even easier if you exceed the norm), e.g. for a white collar worker it might be able-bodied white middle class cis-male that’s not too excitable (in the UK anyway). For child care it might be white middle class married woman (try being a stay at home mum as a man, and needing to change a nappie at the shops…).

    Any deviation from the norm will be met with a backlash (removal of privileges) from those that consider themselves more normal than you (“ooh look at her, leaving her children at home while she goes off to work, no wonder they’re such devils”) while still not gaining all the privileges of those that you are breaking away too. While those that society considers super normal will gain more privileges. Thus if a person tries to break out of the small box that is considered normal for them and reach for the more general normal of the society they’re living in they will get ridiculed, put down, beaten up, discriminated against, and worse just for “daring to think they are above their station”. Those lucky few that manage to brave the journey and find their place closer to the norm (or super norm as the case maybe) tend to look back and see that their journey wasn’t so hard so why can’t they do it, while at the same time still resenting the privileges that they haven’t yet gained.

    IMO the main reason that those that are poor are more stigmatised that those that are in another group (and so meaning that the difference between a poor black person and a poor white person is negligible in terms of the privilege that they have available to them while their poor) is that the privilege of wealth is something that is easier to lose than, say, gender, colour, etc. and so those that have that privilege are a little frightened of the reminder of what losing that privilege would actually mean (by perception rather than actuality), and so have to tell those little lies like, they obviously don’t work hard enough, or they didn’t have the right opportunities, or or or…

    Conversely those people that are in the super normative group tend to think of themselves as better in some way than those lower down, whether it because they’re exceptionally lucky, better at bargaining, more beautiful, have more responsibility, or just plain worked harder, and so they are due the additional privileges that come with their station/money/position.

    Ideally all of these privileges would actually be based on merit where it’s something that needs to be earned (ability to go to the pictures without worrying about which meal(s) you’re going to have to skip), given to everyone where it’s something that’s needed (education), or abolished all together where it’s just an unfair divide (higher wages for white men).

  16. says

    Make a “dumb blonde” joke, and someone sooner or later will call you on your sexism; make a “you know you’re a redneck when…” joke, and chances are everyone will take it as good clean fun.

    You’re right. I never even thought how classist that was. Thanks for pointing that out. I know I’ve made comments like that before, and laughed with people who made them. I won’t again.

    This was an excellent article. Well, all the articles here are fantastic, but I really appreciate this article for showing that privilege isn’t a “which is worse” or “who has it worse” game, nor is it cut and dry but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

  17. Megan says

    Oh lord in heaven… I know it’s been a while since you posted this, but a recent FB discussion had me searching for this so that I could post it as a refutation. I made the horrible, horrible mistake of calling someone on his “hur hur rednecks!” bullshit. The conversation thus follows (please note the original thread was discussing breast self-exams):

    Anthony G: We’re talkin’ deep south. Missing teeth, possum and Colonel Sanders… who I might add also preferred to do breast exams, then batter and deep fry them.

    Megan: Why is it that the only demographic group it’s still socially acceptable to make fun of is poor southern whites?

    Anthony G: Well, it’s socially acceptable to make fun of/discriminate against poor southern blacks if you’re poor southern white. Let’s not cry out persecution just yet.

    Megan: Aaaaaaaand we’re done here.

    Anthony G: I should say so. People getting butthurt over silly things like stereotypes (which I might add are true for the majority. The 99 even) need to unclench and relax a little.

    So I posted the link to this article and then blocked him on FB, because I have no interest whatsoever in repeating this conversation every time one of us comments on the status of our mutual friend. It’s not fair to her, and I have better things to do with my time than argue with a butthead.

  18. jeff says

    Yep slot of the commments sound famillier. I grew up poor white trash also. I mean all the time I was a kid even up through my middle school years and older most would consider me dirt poor. I was the kind poor that ment only wearing plain white tee shirts everyday for years. I can remember wondering if I was going to get new undershirts for the school year sometimes. Everything ealse we had in what few clothes I had was a hand me down. So many years I was the kid who sat in class everyday wearing a pair of jeans too short for me because thats all I had. I didn’t realize untill I was older that when most kids talked about shoping for school clothes it ment more than buying a package of tee shirts. Where i grew up there were alot of poor folks. Mostly white but some black famlies also. We worked on farms in more rural areas. Mostly I lived in the country but sometimes smaller towns. But where I grew up there wasn’t much difference between being black and poor and being poor white like I was. Im sure to alot of folks who lived around the area we were all considered trash. But no doubt it shoed sometimes in school the way teachers approached you or some of the cthings that were said. I would say that I didn’t care that I grew up the way that I did. If somewone made comments about my clothes or why I wore a wifebeater tee shirt to school , it really didnt bother me.

  19. John says

    As a solidly middle class married heterosexual white male, I know exactly how many privileges I have due to class and race, and it bothers me when others in a similar situation refuse to recognize how much their “uniform of the skin” has benefited them. Just by a happy accident of birth I’m more likely to get hired, more likely to be paid more, less likely to be pulled over, less likely to go to jail, on and on. I fight for these things for others, trying to wake everybody up to class and race awareness, because others shouldn’t be prevented from having the nice things I have.

    White males especially try to hallucinate this persecution complex where the whole world, all women, all minorities, are trying to tear white men down, when really they’re just trying to climb up to equal status. Why are so many whites ignorant of the benefits of their “uniform of the skin”, trying to pretend instead that race privilege does not exist, and therefore they don’t need to do anything about it? I think it’s just a too hard of a truth to face. People always want to think they’re the plucky underdog. But it’s dishonest, anybody capable of looking at statistics with an honest and unflinching eye can see that, and can see that for no good reason white males get more.

    Maybe more people need to read Kurt Vonnegut’s “Hocus Pocus” (where I got the term “uniform of the skin” from), it really opened my eyes to race and class privileges.

  20. cat says

    If we poor whites don’t fight the oppression then it won’t end. I was livid when I heard the John and Ken radio show on KFI back in the late 90’s. It wasn’t just an occasional trailer trash joke with them. It was at least four times per hour! Every criminal or evil politician debated was “trailer trash” with missing teeth..etc. As a disabled trailer park resident with missing teeth who never had so much as a traffic ticket, I was offended. But I worried more about my neighbors kids who had to be painted by that brush and grow up labeled and develop a negative self image to live up to, shunned and intimated. As someone who grew up in a lower middle class investing home buying family, who was shunned for wearing the wrong shoes, I knew what prejudice could do. I embarked on a obsessive war against KFI. The plan was to round up, inform, and fire up, trailer park residences everywhere, hire a lawyer, and sue the station for libel against trailer park residents. But before I did this I called the station and informed them that we were not trash and they were basically screwed. I expected to just be laughed off so I was surprised when next I tuned into John and Ken and heard not one reference to poor whites..ever again. Which was great for me because I was tried already at the thought of going though all that.

  21. Jennifer Kesler says

    cat,

    I’m not sure who you were talking to, but I come from “white trash” and I AM fighting the oppression, but EVERYONE’S oppression. Poor people, including whites, are oppressed tremendously and the Great Recession that’s occurred since I wrote that makes it even more painfully clear. The article clearly states that poor whites have some legitimate grievances against the system. The point is just that sometimes whites argue that there IS no race/class privilege merely because they personally haven’t benefited from it. Well, I don’t benefit from someone else’s pension but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. :D

  22. J says

    Yeah, but it sounds like your family did get to the middle class while you were a kid, right? And I could be mistaken, but it sounds like you’re from California. You’re assuming that all poor white people have the same difficulties facing them. Being white from a lower income neighborhood is not the same thing as being from, say, McDowell County, WV, about 90% white, and, according to one measurement, the 4th poorest county in the country. So let’s say you come from a typical family there. Typical means impoverished, it means that even if you have health coverage you don’t really have any access to it. It means that if you want escape that poverty, you have to move. If you move to a major American city, you will be treated as inferior. Even if you use correct grammar, the way you talk will be seen as either bad for business or a reason not to take you seriously. You have to deal with a media that sees you as a group that can be viciously ridiculed without consequence. And people believe those stereotypes just as strongly as they believe stereotypes about minorities

  23. Jennifer Kesler says

    J,

    J, where on earth did you get the idea I’m from California? I’m from West Virginia. My family managed to move, and that’s when my father’s profession changed and he started earning a middle class income. I was in high school before that happened, so I never got accepted. How do you think I wrote this article? It actually says a lot of what you’re saying, so I don’t think you bothered to read before spouting off, which makes you as much of a jerk as the people you’re criticizing. You will not be commenting here again.

  24. Richard says

    I’m sorry but I don’t have the patience to read 77 comments so I don’t know if you have heard this one before. I personally think the use of the word privilege is extremely alienating to categories described as privileged. Users of the word might have a specific marxist meaning of the word in mind, but most people hear nothing but condescension. The association of the word with moneyed elites is so normal that to a person who views themselves as a “regular person” to be called privileged has an insulting cast. Worse still is trying to explain what you mean because now your basically insulting someone and then telling them they are taking offense because they are ignorant, which is further insult.

  25. Jennifer Kesler says

    Richard,

    Well? We’re waiting to hear what word you think we should use. You do have one, don’t you? It’s not “love bunny of the sunshine behinds”, is it, because that one was considered and rejected as too long.

    See, here’s the thing, Richard. What we’re talking about in this particular article is RACISM. Do you know what happens when you call someone a racist? They feel quite insulted! Why, they’ve never been in the KKK! They’ve never used the N word! They had a black friend once or whatever! How can they be a racist?

    “Privileged” is an adjective, not a noun/label, which makes it less inflammatory right there. “Privilege” is the problem – it is the unearned heaping of good things upon oneself. It can make an ass out of anyone, and the only decent human beings are those wiling to consider that maybe, just maybe, they haven’t earned everything they’ve gotten out of life.

    If you find that “privileged” hurts your feelings, I suggest you do the digital equivalent of high-tailing it out of here, because I have a lot of meaner words that are far more comfortable and familiar to me, and I’m ready to apply them to your ass.

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  1. [...] I found that culture to be rife with gender bias. But you know what? I am so bloody sick of how stereotyping Southern and poor whites is still widely accepted even in venues where stereotypes of virtually any other kind would not be [...]

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