Thanks again to SisterCoyote for my White Trash gift exchange!
“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. Hell give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”
That Lyndon B Johnson quote, featured in White Trash, floated around the Internet in the weeks following Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton and it helped many people sum up their feelings about last year’s election. This logic is not unlike the one poor white tenant farmers held about their superiority to the African American slave.
Did you now that Rascal, Squatter, Crackers and Scalawags have definitions and clear points of origin? Or that White Trash southerners were classified as their own race? Isenberg also takes the reader through the twisted logic of Eugenics and sterilization. And in the first few decades of the 20th century there were “fitter family” competitions at state fairs. In the stock grounds. Like cattle. And families won medals. Like cattle.
The book starts slow; the early American settlers and rehashing of the Civil War era were a bit dense and didn’t feel like they had a lot of “new” information but it picks up in the early 1900s. White Trash is also deceptively short; 140 of the 460 pages are just notes and the Index- it just left me feeling like some aspects could have been elaborated…
But, like I said, the book picks up as Isenberg delves into the 20th century and it is scary to see that we aren’t that superior to our ancestors.
After 2008, a new crop of TV shows came about that played off the white trash trope. Swamp People, Here Comes Honey boo Boo, Hillbilly Handfishing’, Redneck island, Duck Dynasty, Moonshiners, and Appalachian Outlaws were all part of a booming industry. Like the people who visited Hoovervilles during the Depression, eyeing the homeless as if they were at the zoo, television brought the circus sideshow into Amercian living rooms.