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Saturday, April 09, 2011

Do you know what it means? White trash

We use the term white trash a lot. It is a simplistic description of how I feel about what I do when it comes to being creative and repurposing. I was recently looking for something and an article popped up about getting rid of the term.

From Tree Sugar;

On the most basic level, calling anyone trash is just plain cruel and dehumanizing. When you think of it from a racial perspective, there's the implication that it's such an unusual event for white people to be "trash" that there needs to be a special category. Political theorist bell hooks, in her book Black Looks, says that white trash is basically a code term meaning, "as low as black people." To hear more thoughts on the term white trash, read more.

Wow. Wait. I don't think this person has a clue where the term came from. In an age where not only PCisms are rampant but an era where we are told to "own" words, I think this writer is a bit off base.

I am White trash, however I am not a cracker, I don't come from Florida.

Now many people feel that the term White trash is about someone's moral failings. Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote a chapter called Poor White Trash in her book Uncle Tom's Cabin. She tells us that slavery not only produced degraded and miserable slaves, but poor whites that were degraded and miserable. Everyone looked down on these poor whites. EVERYONE, including slaves. Not only could they not afford schooling, they could not afford land nor slaves. And were unable to secure work. They were looked down upon by both Blacks and Whites. In the 1800's the description found its popularity with upper class whites to describe lower class people with questionable morals no matter the race.

I do not call into question my education nor my morals when I refer to myself as white trash. I live in a 25 year old mobile home, I have junk laying around everywhere, I am poor, I am white skinned. (I am Irish and Black Foot). The term white trash is used affectionately to describe myself. I can not afford to go out and buy a chicken coop, so I make one. It is as simple as that.

Even my fellow writers at Girls gone Trashy have up and ran with my term "white trash with a purpose"

So is it derogatory? Depends on the context it is used in. I am proud of our trash ingenuity, be it white or not.


SkippyMom said...

And I <3 your chicken coop, as I <3 you, my ingenious recycler. I have to agree - where it with pride - and who is anyone to judge.

SkippyMom said...

*wear, not where.

I STILL need coffee. or something. My typos are legendary this morning. grrrr.

Phelan said...

giggle. It ok Skippy. I have learn how to skipspeak over the years.

Bob from Athens said...

If poor white trash means recycling, repurposing and building your own with whatever you have laying around instead of buying it, then count me in. I come from a looooong line of trash. Now please excuse me while I have to go and put a different old tarp on the leaky roof.

Lisa said...

I did feel it was a derogatory term...not bad like some words but a description of an inability to achieve...which is an oxymoron when you pair it with the name made it funny! where I am from the term "honyock" is common as a term of affection such as your "white trash" actually refers to a "dirt farmer" or someone that does not have an incredibly large piece of land but has a mere subsistence farm...well, I am a declared, by choice.. HONYOCK! I have laughed several times about your referral to yourself as white trash...because you are friggin genius! when someone such as yourself has "junk" laying around? it all has a useful purpose or is thought of as a "possibility"...that kind of ingenuous thought process puts you in an elite category...YOU will not be the one hungry or cold when this world goes to cracks me up that I WANNA BE WHITE TRASH and I am trying to follow your example as best I can! and I think, obviously, all your readers do to!

kath said...

I think white trash often refers to people who weren't born with a silver spoon in their mouths, who haven't had the advantages and opportunities others have had, who come from a long line of blue collar workers who have to work hard and even struggle just to survive. We're the people who become very creative to get what we need. Like you said, we build the chicken coop out of stuff we had laying around instead of having one built for us or buying a fancy expensive one. Our lifestyle is becoming "trendy" these days, only it's called "upcycling" and living "green." It's a pretty broad term. I guess in a really derogatory sense, it also means lazy people who live off the government and don't take care of their kids, who end up in jail and on drugs, but that describes a lot of suburbanites these days too. The lines are getting blurred.

Phelan said...

Kath, hahaha! Yes indeed they are. And I will stick to being white trash rather than a upcycler.

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