Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Blogger won't let me comment.

Preface: it's awesome that I can't comment on my blog.  Go technology.  (I got this cool comment, I wanted to respond.)

Why do you call yourself specifically *white* trash? It can sound weird and off-putting to people of color to hear that, because it carries the implication that just plain trash would of course refer to someone non-white. Obviously a life of rape and welfare fraud and Nice People not looking you in the eye isn't something that happens solely to white people. Is the part of your identity that includes your family's antagonism toward black people and a black girl's antagonism toward you sufficiently important that "white trash" is the right label?

I don't normally comment anonymously but from everything you've said about your rage, I think that might be the way to go. What you're saying is interesting and that's why I've commented, but after having someone tell me on Facebook that my opinion on something didn't count because I can't trace my family back to the Mayflower like she can, I'm a little wary of setting off white girls who know my name.

I think that is a fucking awesome comment and I thank you for leaving it.  :)  Uhm, and I'm sorry people have been assholes to you.  Despite my profusion of swearing I try to be civil to actual people.  I hope you will take my swearing in the abstract.  It's excessive emotion leaking out, none of this was written with hostility.

I don't know how to answer that.  I want to.  There is an answer in there.  I've been trying to find it for a while.  There is something there for me in the intersection of how my privilege and my lack of privilege has existed that has specifically felt different from the people I have known who were not-white but also poor.  (That's been a lot of people.)  There is something about the hick, cracker, redneck, weird mountain people...

I'm not sure what it is.  I want to be able to explain it right.

I know it sounds off putting on a racial front.  I know it offends the shit out of my friends for me to say it.  That's part of why it feels right.  Because I feel like I am that kind of offensive.  It's like "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist Sometimes".

The racism of the people who raised me is part of it mostly because it is part of the cultural construct.  It's part of... creating the ambiance?  This is really hard to describe.  Being poor doesn't mean you are racist.  Being racist doesn't mean you are poor.  But there are poor racists.  I don't think that any of the individual things that have happened to me has been unique to me.  However the combination seems to be unusual.  It's something in the combination that becomes a specific category.

Ok, the word ghetto:

A part of a city, esp. a slum area, occupied by a minority group or groups.
The Jewish quarter in a city: "the Warsaw Ghetto".

Uhh.  Is that how people in the US use it?  No.  They mean poor and usually black, but possibly hispanic.  It's a denotation connotation difference.

For me there is a difference in some part of the connotation.  So there is this song by Confederate Railroad (country music--see, hick shit) called I Like My Women A Little On The Trashy Side.  It epitomizes, for me, a lot of how I feel about the idea of being trashy.  I like the song because it is upbeat and enthusiastic.  People like what they like in an unabashed heartfelt way that appeals to me.  They are raw.  They have no class.  And they like being that way, thankyouverymuch.  I think there is trashy, trash, and white trash as three distinct, possibly overlapping, circles.

The movie Hounddog.  There is a specific culture and mystic to white trash.  It doesn't look the same when other races enact the same patterns.  There is a flavor difference.  It's not better.  It's not worse.  I spend a lot of time looking for movies and books and stories and songs that embody this for me.  I can't find any parallel that feels right anywhere else.

I don't know why the violence and the country music and the racist rednecks and their constant belittling of how the women don't do enough fucking work.  It all ties together for me.  It is all part and parcel of the same willingness to fight.  Fight because you were born feeling less than.  You were born with a fucking chip on your shoulder because the whole god damn world acts like they are fucking better than you and that's not god damn right.  Because I fucking deserve better.

But I don't.  No one does.  I don't see the same hubris in other races.  That sounds... trite?  Stupid?  Like I'm sucking up?  I don't find examples in poor white culture that I want to emulate properly.  Roseanne was the strongest rolemodel and look what happened to her.

There is some part of being willing to say that I'm not special because I'm white.  I'm white and I'm trashy and I'm white trash but I'm not really trash.  I don't really think any human being qualifies as trash.  Just because I can wear the right clothes and style my hair and "pass"...there is still this part of me that can't get over everything that was poured into my head.  All this hate and anger and rage and feeling of injustice.

I don't think I am special because I am white trash.  I think that actively reminding myself that I have a long way to go before I have the ability to act like a fucking human being around all people in all circumstances without regard to provocation is something that I have to do to me.  I have to deal with the fact that I don't know how to be appropriate.  It is a problem for me.  It is a problem in my life.  I'm working on it.  I don't know how to fix it any faster than I am.

I am white trash because I only find echoes of me in poor white girls in Southern movies despite the fact that I was raised primarily in the bay area in yuppie central.

I don't know how to speak about my experience without acknowledging that I'm white.  I am.  And I don't feel like I can speak to the universal poor experience.  Or the universal trash experience.  I can only speak to mine.

And I'm white trash.  It's a circular logic.

I hope this felt more like an answer and less like me being set off. :)

1 comment:

  1. Great answer, especially this: "I don't know how to speak about my experience without acknowledging that I'm white. I am. And I don't feel like I can speak to the universal poor experience. Or the universal trash experience. I can only speak to mine."

    I don't think that's circular logic at all. You're defining yourself not just by economic experiences and how other people treated you (the welfare fraud and looked through like you're invisible), but by a culture that's specifically white. What's interesting and kind of curiously complicating to me about that is that until the 1920s, Southern culture was the geographic culture most impacted by black people. After WWI, enough black people had migrated to Chicago, NYC and other northern industrial cities that their cultures became more identified with black culture, but even then a lot of what got carried north was what we'd think of as southern: styles of cooking, language (like saying "y'all," which has gotten further spread from the South recently by hiphop culture), etc.

    So it's actually easier for me to envision a distinctly white white-trash culture for people in much of the rest of country like the Northwest and Midwest. I can think of a more ... authentically white? purely white? is there a way to say that without sounding like Mein Kampf? ... culture for places like Oregon, Idaho and Iowa than for where I grew up (east Texas, the "southern part" where my classmates from nice families would be named after Robert E. Lee and my high school was still under a desegregation court order).

    I'm not sure I agree with this: "I don't see the same hubris in other races." I don't see that much in people who are immigrants/2nd gen (which would be a lot of the Latino population), maybe because most people are immigrating from poorer countries than the U.S. and their economic situation has improved within their or their parents' lifetime. But I think the longer your family is in the U.S. and not getting a piece of The American Dream (TM) and in the last 40 years, instead has been getting poorer while everything gets more expensive, then that chip on the shoulder comes out, that feeling that the system is set up to screw you.