The Most Despicable Term I’ve Ever Heard

by Elise Lockamy

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I can hear my mother’s voice now.

“You let her do that to you!  You are not a garbage can! DO NOT ACCEPT TRASH!”

With her words in the back of my mind, I grow disheartened when I hear the term “white trash”. Themes persist in its denotations – backwards, derogatory, disparaging, inferior, rural South, underprivileged, uneducated, and poor.  Google Images of trailer parks, confederate flags, tattooed toothless bearded pot-bellied men, and guests of the Jerry Springer show flood my search results.  The sloth of society.  The meth users. The social service leeches. The ones of questionable hygiene and moral stature.  White trash.

We throw away items that have lost their use and value.  We no longer need the empty peanut butter jar, used aluminum foil, or the comb with missing teeth.  As I stare into my trash can I realize that I, by various means of consumption, have used up the items I discarded until they’re no longer valuable to me.  Is it the same with this perceived underclass?  Have we, the other, positioned ourselves to use up a group of people – in this case poor whites – until they are no longer valuable to us?

I believe “white trash” is a cover-up term.  Those in positions of power and access choose not to acknowledge (the social and public policy failure that is) poverty amongst white Americans and thus relegate them to a disposable sector of society.   We create social labels to categorize and distance ourselves from the other.  In this case, “white trash” is the crab pot.  I firmly believe the wall built to section off poor whites will reveal itself to be a two-way mirror for society’s ruling class.  They too will see their own faces in the faces of America’s poor.

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