Trump and the white trash syndrome

Not all antebellum Southern whites owned slaves. Most were much too poor. They lived in squalor. But they had one consolation: holding themselves above blacks.

This actually accentuated after the war, when Southern poverty was ubiquitous. Read Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, by Evans and Agee, a searing portrait of Depression-era Southern deprivation — among whites. And again there was one thing they could cling to: at least they weren’t black.

It’s the white trash syndrome. Exemplified by the Ewells in To Kill a Mockingbird. In their depth of degradation, it was desperately important to be able to see one group, at least, as even lower.

To be clear, poverty itself is not degradation. Poorer people are not generally less worthy. While some may be responsible for their straits, the bigger factor is mere luck, especially who your parents were. Many poor people live honorable lives. Poverty makes that harder (and so poor people who do live upstanding lives deserve extra credit), but poverty doesn’t make you white trash. It’s what’s in your head and heart that does. And if you do have white trash attitudes, you more likely are responsible for your poverty.

It wasn’t the Southern aristocracy so insistent on keeping blacks “in their place.” Their position was secure and not threatened by blacks. It was instead the white trash feeling imperiled; if blacks prospered as respectable members of society, then the white trash would be on the bottom. So it was they who fought tooth and nail against giving blacks an inch, perpetrating the hideous violence aimed at keeping them down.

We’re seeing a version of this syndrome recrudesce in Trump support. Careful studies of polling data have shown that the one factor most closely correlated with Trump support is racial antagonism. Whites who are doing fine have no cause for animus against other ethnicities flourishing. But a big segment of today’s white population is not doing fine. Especially less educated middle aged men, especially outside major cities. This demographic looms large in the opioid crisis. That’s one way to cope with feeling devalued. Another, as with the old white trash syndrome, is sticking it to a different group they can see as even lower. They need to keep blacks where they were.

But they’re failing. Where non-whites were previously marginalized, they’re now mainstreamed, America becoming less white. This messes with some people’s sense of identity. Today’s America is no longer a collective they really feel tight with. Moreover, some see the change as actually happening at the expense of whites. So compounding the economic malaise is an aggrieved resentment, scapegoating non-whites. All the more potent if you furthermore imagine them inferior.

It’s evident in the flood of comments to a blog post I wrote, titled “Why so many blacks in ads?” One might have expected critiques along lines of “reverse racism” or overdone political correctness. Instead most simply vent hatred toward blacks. A recent one actually said racial divisions are caused by blacks’ violence; you never see whites acting that way! These people are obviously desperate to have a group they can look down on. (Oblivious that they’re actually proving their own inferiority.)

Of course Trump’s never actually said ethnic minorities are inferior — though he’s come close. He did apply the words “very fine people” to the white supremacist marchers in Charlottesville. Racists, neo-Nazis, and KKKers cheered this, immensely empowered. Of course his disgusting recent racist tweetstorms play to them. And the cruel war on migrants, racialist at its core, is the core of Trump’s politics: as if he’ll at least keep the country from becoming even browner.

America’s white trash gets the message loud and clear. That’s why they stick with Trump no matter what. Not all Trump supporters are racist. But all racists are Trump supporters. If their hatefulness wins in 2020, America will be a white trash nation.

5 Responses to “Trump and the white trash syndrome”

  1. Popo Says:

    This whole article is trash. Sounds just like a sore loser syndrome. Black culture(for the most part) is violent and the whole mainstream progressive movement is condemning of whites , america, and our culture by attempting to erase our history and demonize whites with all types of false narratives( hatred towards white police, made up systematic racism, fake ass white privilege, etc). The facts are that without these race baiting white democrats and liberals, the black culture(the majority of) in america is ,as we real americans have seen it being exposed all these last 10 years or so, A HATEFUL, RESENTFUL, VIOLENT, DEPENDENT, ALWAYS EXPECTING A HANDOUT, DECEIVING GOVERNMENT PROGRAMS AS A WAY OF LIFE, FALSE NARRATIVE PUSHING, DESTRUCTIVE, CRIME RIDDEN, LEECHES ON SOCIETY! This of course is not the fact of all blacks in america, it is just what lame narrative and representation is being put out their by the angry race baiting portion of black society and what is unfortunately being supported by a good portion of the other blacks in america. I dont understand why the good portion of the black society is supporting these unjustified and false narratives, but it is what is causing a lack of trust and a division in this country. By the way, this country is majority white and had always been this way and i dont understand why others are threatened by this and are determined to change it. Get over yourselves, because its your delusions that are keeping you from success, not racist white people. You all would know this, if it werent for the race baiting dems and liberals. ✊🏻+✊🏽= 😀

  2. Lee Says:

    I have to disagree with the article and with the first comment. Most people are looking for a safe and secure place to raise their families and live their lives. Most people are doing the best with the resources they are given. That the environment pits needy groups against each other is not their fault. Where they are doing evil, it is because they see no better options.

    There are some who want much in excess of what they need and are willing to hurt others to get that. These people are the ones we need to be wary of. These are the ones we need to rein in.

  3. rationaloptimist Says:

    Lee, you “disagree with” the comment above yours? Have you seen the comments on “blacks in ads?” You think these are somehow legitimate responses? “They see no better options?” Really?

  4. DJ Qu8ke Says:

    I’ll make this simple for the one’s in the back. The writer of this article is either a baby killer, a baby eater, or a baby f#ck3r. Or the writer is a friend to all three. Go ahead respond you p3do-freak. TIK TOK.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    You don’t have to be poor to be White Trash! This is a great read here!

    Article on history of White Trash

    White Trash Hats

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