I wended my way up the Walgreens greeting card aisle. I stopped dead in my tracks. A card featured a cartoon image of a white man with a mullet haircut. This cartoon character wore a baseball or seed cap and a sleeveless t-shirt, a so-called “guinea T,” “dago T” or “wife-beater.” The very names convey class and ethnic contempt, as the New York Times points out. “Is the vilification of working-class men fair?” The Times laments, in an op-ed entitled “Are We Really Still Calling This Shirt a ‘Wife Beater’?”
Over the sleeveless t-shirt, the character on the card was wearing a red plaid shirt with cut-off sleeves. Red plaid is associated with men who work outdoors and require warm, sturdy clothing. This is a shirt you could wear while working as a janitor, a plumber, a mechanic, or a landscaper. Even such relatively low status jobs as golf caddy or busboy would not allow this shirt. Behind the man is his home, and, if you are paying attention, you know exactly what his home is. It’s a trailer, one of the declassee models that would not be allowed into the better campgrounds.
His mouth is open. He has one tooth. His chin is weak. He has no neck. Necklessness is a quality associated with sub-humans. Orangutans, as well as some weightlifters, can appear to have no neck. An elegant neck is a sign of evolution; necklessness is the sign of a throwback. He has a hairy chin, a hairy chest, and hairy elbows.
The caption on the front of the card reads, “How about some redneck fireworks for your birthday?” Inside, the white trash man is bending over. His buttocks are exposed, as often happens when a working class man, a plumber, say, bends over. He is holding a lit match to his anus. Smoke appears. He is lighting a fart.
Search Google for “toothless” and “white trash.” You will find almost a million results. Perhaps the most sickening detail of this search is the many porn pages that offer “toothless white trash” as a sexual fantasy. You will see poor white people depicted as among the ugliest, most repulsive creatures on earth, here, here, here, here, here, and here.
Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. collects race antiques. Such collectors are on the prowl for any product, no matter how obscure, that depicts African Americans in a stereotypical way. They cite the lawn jockey or the four-piece kitchen canister set shaped like a plump black woman in “Mammy” attire, and declare, “See? America is systemically racist.”
I’m throwing the gauntlet down. Tell me that “toothless white trash” images are any less contemptuous, hostile, and repugnant, any less saturated with the superior’s hatred for the inferior, than any given image of a Mammy sugar canister. Be sure to switch off safe search so you can see the hideous porn. Sights that, once seen, can’t be unseen. And then there are the captions, like “Donald Trump supporters are all toothless, inbred, white trash.”
My search for batteries in Walgreens came to a dead halt. I froze up. My mind was erased. I was trying really hard not to feel what I was feeling. A voice inside my head was saying, “Don’t get upset. Don’t take it seriously. It’s just a joke. Move on.” I asked where they keep the batteries. Behind the counter, I was told. The store didn’t have the kind I need – rechargeable. I moved toward the exit.
I turned around and photographed the card. I just didn’t want to pretend that this isn’t happening.
What is the “this” that is happening?
I’m not the laughter police, and I have no beef with anyone selling, buying, or enjoying cards that mock poor whites like me.
Rather, I will argue, in this essay, that the American canonical narrative is being re-written. I will attempt to support this assertion with reference to such mainstream cultural products as greeting cards, movies, university curricula, and social media posts. I will argue that those rewriting the American narrative self-identify as helping black people. I will argue that they are wrong.
During the pandemic shutdown, I’ve been keeping my spirits up by re-watching Christopher Guest mockumentaries, that is, comedy movies that pretend to be documentaries. They are lighthearted, deadpan, and G-rated. “This Is Spinal Tap,” was made in 1984, “Waiting for Guffman,” 1996, “Best in Show,” 2000, and “A Mighty Wind,” 2003. These almost archaeologically ancient artifacts contain no f-words, nude body parts, or acts of violence.
None of these movies could be made today. The main character of “Waiting for Guffman” is a closeted gay man. A character in “A Mighty Wind” identifies as a trans woman. All of this is played for affectionate laughs. For example, one gay man, for an overnight trip, packs eight kimonos. Such laughter is not currently permitted in America. You can see condemnations of Guest’s sinful laughter here and here. At the same time, obscenities and anti-social violence are inescapable features of modern comedy.
It’s telling, though, which jokes from these films would be permitted today. “Best in Show” includes a redneck bumpkin character, Harlan Pepper. He socializes with city sophisticates by rambling on about fishing lures. The white sophisticates are stone-cold narcissists obsessed with status, power, and victory. There’s a white family living in a shabby house with a messy yard. The father is a hostile, sexually aggressive cop. There’s another white family too poor to pay their hotel bill. They have to sleep in a broom closet. The wife is a retired nymphomaniac. The husband is a schlemiel with two left feet. A character named Jonathan Steinbloom is a Jewish nebbish. Steinbloom is the son of an overprotective mother. He fears flower arrangements, light bulbs, and is so fearful of chess pieces he wears a helmet while playing.
This is all still funny. Had any of these characters been black, none of this laughter would still be allowed – and it would also not make much sense. The Yuppie social climbers, the Southern fisherman, the timid Jew, are very much parodies of white people’s foibles. Parodying white people’s failures of rationality or self-awareness is okay. Your application to laugh at white heterosexual characters has received the approval stamp from the People’s Committee in Charge of Laughter. You may not laugh at the affectionate portrayal of a gay man, or a trans woman.
In any case, none of these films would be made today. Guest’s ensemble, who follow him from film to film, is white. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has established “new representation and inclusion standards.” At least one lead or significant supporting character must be “Asian Hispanic/Latinx, Black/African American, Indigenous/Native American/Alaskan Native, Middle Eastern/North African, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander.” “A Mighty Wind” is a mockumentary about the 1960s folk scene in New York City. It’s based on the Kingston Trio, the New Christy Minstrels, and Ian and Sylvia. Arbitrarily inserting non-white characters into this film would be like making a biopic of pioneering rappers, the Sugar Hill Gang, with the African American Gang’s lead singers Wonder Mike, Big Bank Hank, and Master Gee played by an Asian, a Pacific Islander, and an Alaskan Native.
What we are allowed to laugh at, be it Hallmark cards or Hollywood films, informs us where society draws its lines, and what groups it puts on what side of what lines. If the greeting cards on the shelf at Walgreens were as diverse as the Academy’s standards, if there were also cards milking laughs from stereotypes of caricatures of people who are “Asian Hispanic/Latinx, Black/African American, Indigenous/Native American/Alaskan Native, Middle Eastern/North African, Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander,” there would be no red flag. But there are no such cards, and redneck Hallmarkcards, beloved of many consumers, communicate who exactly occupies the lowest rung in woke America’s caste system.
In August, 2020, Professor Greg Patton, a highly accomplished education professional, was teaching a Chinese language class for the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business. He mentioned that Chinese speakers’ version of the American “um” might be the Chinese phrase “ne ga.”
Black students complained to Dean Geoffrey Garrett. “To use this phrase, a clear synonym with this derogatory N-Word term, is hurtful and unacceptable … The negligence and disregard displayed by our professor was very clear in today’s class … we were made to feel less than … We are burdened to fight with our existence in society, in the workplace, and in America. We should not be made to fight for our sense of peace and mental well-being,” the students wrote.
Garret responded, “It is simply unacceptable for faculty to use words in class that can marginalize, hurt and harm the psychological safety of our students … this caused great pain and upset among students, and for that I am deeply sorry.” USCremoved Prof. Patton from his teaching position.
Several years ago, a student approached me for help. Her professor discovered that she is Christian. He harassed her in class. She and I approached a higher-up, who told us that the professor was free to say whatever he wanted in class. The student, who had paid for the course with money she earned at her job, dropped the class, and forfeited her tuition payment.
YouTube Christian apologist Dr. David Wood offered another example of current woke double standards on September 14, 2020. He attempted to market via eBay an origami figure made from a Koran page. EBay rejected the item because it might offend Muslims. Wood pointed out that eBay markets highly inflammatory anti-Christian products. You can see one such product here.
Terms like “white privilege,” “white fragility,” “white anxiety,” “white silence,” ad nauseum exist to demonize anyone with white skin. The woke do not allow criticism of a black alleged rapist and domestic batterer. So much for “Me Too.” The woke do say very ugly things about black conservatives like Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Candace Owens. There have been many video-recorded incidences of white, left-wing demonstrators calling black cops the n-word; see here.
We all know about the double standard. We all step around it everyday, in our social media comments, in what we say at work; perhaps we have been so cowed that we timidly obey the double standard in our sleep, and in our dreams.
Fifty years ago, Alan Dundes of the University of California at Berkeley mapped the race morality of the white liberal. Dundes asked why Polak jokes became so popular in the 1970s. They were suddenly everywhere, from a paperback collection in bookstores to the Johnny Carson show. “Lower-class whites are not militant and do not constitute a threat to middle-class white America … with the Polack [joke] cycle, it is the lower class, not Negroes, which provides the outlet for aggression and means of feeling superior.” Dundes’ research indicates that after the Civil Rights movement, it suddenly became uncouth for America’s best and brightest to establish their superiority over a black shoeshine man or restroom attendant. It was necessary to find another, easier target.
Polak jokes are not as popular as they once were, but Larry Wilde’s “Official Polish Joke Book” is still available at Amazon, even though Amazon regularly cancels “offensive” items. Hallmark’s redneck cards are cousins to the Polak joke. Both feature crude, disgusting, poor white people, people the left can safely mock and feel superior to.
Oklahoma-born poet Lloyd van Brunt commented on this trend.
Unlike blacks and other racial minorities, poor and mostly rural whites have few defenders, no articulated cause … And they have been made to feel deeply ashamed of themselves — as I was. This shame, this feeling of worthlessness, is one of the vilest and most self-destructive emotions to be endured. To be poor in a country that places a premium on wealth is in itself shameful. To be white and poor is unforgivable … That’s why I call them the Polish-joke class, the one group everybody feels free to belittle, knowing that no politically correct boundaries will be violated.
Upper class whites and their allies on the left don’t choose poor whites as their whipping boy just because doing so establishes their superiority. Leftists revile poor whites because we refuse to act out the role they assign us in their narrative. Rich white liberals like nothing more than to emote about their “white privilege.” Poor whites, mindful of working minimum wage jobs, facing occasional hunger, delaying gratification, swallowing humiliations, and observing wealth in America that they have never enjoyed, hear of “white privilege” and scoff, and hide deep resentment. Poor whites have had different interactions with African Americans, and those interactions complicate the rich white liberal race narrative. For that reason, RWLs must malign and silence poor whites.
In Quillette, William Ray provides the essential takedown of white privilege. Peggy McIntosh, who popularized the phrase,was wealthy, and divorced from the concerns of any poor person of any race. With the laser-focused self-absorption of a clinical narcissist, McIntosh described her own experience, floating through life on a cloud of inherited wealth, and assigned that life trajectory to every white. Indoctrination in white privilege dogma is now required by numerous universities and businesses. The outcome? A 2019 study showed that teaching white liberals about white privilege reduced their sympathy for poor whites, and increased their desire to blame and punish poor whites.
The Civil Rights Movement was supposed to make us better people. It was indeed glorious, but it was human. Subsequent inheritors of Civil Rights heroes’ legacy betrayed one of the key tenets. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” Too many people in power in America have chosen to obsess on skin color in lieu of character, or anything else.
Leftists assert that America in 2020 is no better than America in 1963, the year before the passage of the Civil Rights Act, when Jim Crow was in full force throughout the South. America is “systemically racist,” they claim. On September 14, 2020, Matthew J. Franck, a scholar and author with an impressive resume, published an article in Newsweek contesting the assertion that America is systemically racist. The article was removed within two hours. Since Newsweek removed the article, those who had not seen it were free to conclude that it was somehow a KKK manifesto. To forfend malicious insinuations, the author posted the article in full at a different site.
Franck’s weighty article, Guest’s witty mockumentaries, Wood’s whimsical origami, and the redneck Hallmark card, though very different genres of cultural products, are all bright, red lines. They tell us: “You must say this. You must not say that. You must respect black people’s pain. You must always attribute that pain to white malice. You must never so much as imply that black people’s own choices play any role in their fate. You must not respect white people’s poverty. You must assume that they are poor because they are inferior. And when it comes to Christians, it’s open season. Those who violate these rules will be severely punished.”
Leftists insist that one fact proves that America is “systemically racist.” The average African American household has less wealth than the average white household. This is true, and it is also true that there is a higher percentage of poverty among blacks than among whites. Here’s a number that is so radioactive that they never mention it: there are almost twice as many whites living in poverty as blacks. That simple fact throws a monkey wrench at Robin Di Angelo and BLM and every shrill, woke pontificator on social media. As long as we can diagnosethe problem thus – “America is racist, all whites enjoy privilege, whites must publicly submit to a Maoist struggle session, and every film must have a black lead” – Robin Di Angelo is a hero.
Are you white? Do you want to avoid the stigma of being a racist in a “systemically racist” country? Announce on social media that you are ashamed, and you have white privilege. You have just bought yourself a pass from stigmatization, at very low cost.
When we switch the focus to poverty, and include focus on poor whites as well as poor blacks, the edifice of woke virtue begins to tremble like a Jell-O mold during an earthquake. With poverty, anybody’s poverty, as the focus, rich liberals cannot acquire a pass from stigmatization so easily. Saying “I’m so ashamed! This country is so racist! I am so privileged!” doesn’t feed anybody. A focus on poverty, rather than skin color, robs leftists of their favorite hated other, the redneck, the Polak, the white trash who refuses to play the white privilege game.
How taboo is it to switch from a focus on race to a focus on poverty? When African American Professor Adolph Reed tried to do it, he was canceled. Scholar Richard Kahlenberg has been publishing factually supported, cool-headed arguments for class-, not race-based affirmative action for years. The idea never seems to get anywhere, and race-based affirmative action continues to contribute to the underrepresentation of poor whitesand Asians on elite college campuses.
When we switch from skin color being the problem to poverty – any American’s poverty – the solutions become a little more scary for millionaires like DiAngelo. As long as the focus is skin color, multimillionaire Colin Kaepernick is an outlaw hero. His biological mother and adoptive parents are all, shamefully guilty of whiteness. But his absent biological father’s ethnicity lends Kaepernick status. LeBron James, as long as we focus on skin color alone, is a hero fighting “the man.” When we switch lenses, and focus on economics, LeBron James is a multimillionaire, as are many of his peers. According to Forbes, the NBA’s top ten players earn more than half a billion dollars a year. If you talk about skin color alone, LeBron James is a rebel, a crusader of righteousness. If you turn your focus to the bottom line, LeBron James is just another greedy, selfish, privileged elitist looking, inevitably, down on the rest of us, who could never dream of occupying his throne. We, black and white, struggle to pay medical bills, to please bosses who balance axes over our heads; we lose sleep over sick kids and bad teeth and leaky rooves. “We work, and wait for the light, and go without the meat, and curse the bread,” while multimillionaire culture heroes like James “glitter when they walk.”
I am not a member of the laughter police, nor am I recommending a Marxist revolution that will level all class strata. I’ve lived in the workers’ paradise, the old Soviet Empire, and in spite of the best intentions, including those of my Communist Party card-carrying relatives, Marxism doesn’t work. Capitalism does. And so does charity. When you grab the leftist megaphone, and say, “Enough about race. Let’s talk class,and let’s talk about charity, not about raising taxes and increasing government programs,” the solution then becomes for the wealthy of all skin shades to open their pockets, and share their wealth and their status with the poor, any poor, including white ones. Perhaps James could learn from a biography of Andrew Carnegie, who became the richest man in the world, and gave it all away.
Charity would require not just sharing wealth, but also sharing dignity. Share: share status, share authority, share respect, share person-hood, share the microphone for telling the national narrative, share all this with poor whites. Such sharing is anathema to whites and blacks on the woke left. Christianity says that all lives matter, and that one must give, even to the hated stranger, the Samaritan. In the Bible, even the lowliest folks, from the starving, widowed outsider, Ruth, to Mary in the Magnificat, get to tell their story, and be heard. There is no such mandate on the woke left. Rather, suppressing unorthodox narratives has always been a central project. As Castro said, “Within the Revolution, everything. Against the Revolution, nothing.” Truth is that which serves the Party.
LeBron James does give. He has also owned Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Porsches, Rolls Royces, Mercedes Benzes, etc., several of these cars, all at the same time. Is that really the “look” of a racially oppressed revolutionary courageously risking all to fight the man? James has a tendency to portray himself that way. “I know people get tired of hearing me say it, but we are scared as black people in America,” James has said. “Black men, black women, black kids, we are terrified.”
I’m not asking for LeBron James to share his riches with me. I demand, and I take, what Ruth had, what Mary had.
The other day, there were four police cars parked in front of my building. This is not an unusual occurrence, and they could have been there for any number of reasons: a health crisis, a kitchen fire, a domestic dispute, a malfunctioning alarm. An officer lingered near the entrance for a good forty-five minutes. My neighbors, largely black, walked in and out. Children skipped, as I did when I was a kid; parents joked. No one cowered. No one chose the easily accessible other entrance. Over the course of decades, I’ve seen similar non-violent interactions between black civilians and police dozens of times. I do not believe that what James said is true.
I’m not alone. At least one African American man responded to James’ cant with, “I’m black. I’m not scared. I’m not terrified. Neither is LeBron James. He’s lying. He and the political activists controlling him want black people to immerse themselves in fear. Fear is a tool used to control people.”
The woke will protest: “You are not allowed to say what you just said. You are not authorized to see what you saw. You are white and you are not woke. You have no status. You must be silenced.” What accords status to LeBron James, and not to me? LeBron James, as a black man in America, suffers. White people do not suffer. In this economy, it is skin color and the suffering inextricably linked to skin color that conveys status and the right to speak.
This principle of obliterating any mention of white suffering, indeed of mocking it with pre-packaged terms like “white fragility” and “white tears,” is most obvious when it comes to one awkwardly inescapable fact. More whites than blacks are shot by cops annually. These shootings include egregious events like Officer Mohamed Noor’s shooting of Justine Ruszczyk, a completely blameless civilian. Team BLM shoves the names of whites shot by cops further down the memory hole than Stalin shoved Trotsky. John McWhorter is to be commended for mentioning these unmentionable names of dead whites in a Quillette article. Note that his home publication, The Atlantic, did not run that article. Team BLM’s anathematizing the names of the hundreds of whites shot by cops annually exposes Team BLM’s true mission. If they were really about police reform, those names would be central to their project. That one cannot say the names of whites shot by cops proves that Team BLM’s goal is to exploit black pain to rewrite the American narrative in order to facilitate the dismantling, as Ilhan Omar put it, of America.
Michelle Obama is one of the most powerful, lucky, and admired women in the world. She presents herself as a perpetual victim. This is because she is black, and a white woman cut in front of her in line for ice cream. Obama broke this news in August, 2020. Ironically enough, a black woman cut in front of me in line for ice cream that same month, specifically at Montclair, NJ’s, famous Applegate Farm. I don’t think there was any malice involved. I think the queue, given COVID-19 restrictions, was loose and disorganized. But, again, being white, I’m not even allowed to exculpate the black woman who cut in front of me, because, as a poor white, I have no authority, and I am not allowed to participate in this national narrative.
Years ago, I participated in a race discussion round table with other Bloomington, Indiana residents. One of the discussants was a highly placed, African American, Indiana University administrator and local celebrity. He said that when proposals crossed his desk that required the university to fund facilities or programs for women or homosexuals on campus, he canceled them. He did so, he said, because women and homosexuals face no discrimination; only black people do. “Black people are lynched! Women don’t get lynched! Gay people don’t get lynched!”
This was at a time when the local Bloomington paper included letters to the editor calling for homosexuals to be stoned to death, in accord with Leviticus. It was just after the notorious torture and murder of Matthew Shepard, a gay man. A memberof a hate group that opposed both immigration and Christianityhad just shot a Korean student to death outside a Christian church. The Bloomington Hillel received so many credible threats that it required round-the-clock protection.
The IU administrator’s privileging of white supremacy over misogyny, anti-Semitism, homophobia, or any other social problem is dogma on the woke left. A very public example of the privileging of black experience above all others: the July, 2020 statement from the English Department at the University of Chicago. The department, “ranked first among English departments in the US,” would, henceforth, accept only applicants working on “Black Studies.”
English, properly understood, is as disciplined and circumscribed as any hard science. To earn a degree in English, traditionally, the candidate would have to be exposed to all, and to master some, of the following: Beowulf, Chaucer, Shakespeare, the King James Bible, sonnet construction, grammar, rhetoric, and linguistics. Imagine a mathematics department deciding it would allow study only of mathematics generated by black mathematicians. Imagine an institution granting medical degrees focusing only on medicine advanced by black doctors. No matter how significant the contributions of black mathematicians or black doctors, those institutions would turn out scholars with vast gaps in their knowledge.
The University of Chicago’s English department will not, one suspects, allow any of its graduate students to study the work of Shelby Steele, Thomas Sowell, Christine Douglass-Williams, or other black conservative writers. It will not, one suspects, allow any of its graduate students to study the Alcott family, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Harriet Beecher Stowe, John Howard Griffin, William Lloyd Garrison, Joel Chandler Harris, Ralph McGill, Roy Reed, Jonathan Kozol, or numerous other white author-activists without whom it’s doubtful America could have made the progress on race that is has made. They also will not study Anzia Yezierska, Ole Edvart Rølvaag, Thomas Bell, Tillie Olsen, John Steinbeck, Betty Smith, Dorothy Allison, or Upton Sinclair who wrote about the life-and-death struggles of poor whites, from Bohunks to Oakies, from Irish to sod busters, from hillbillies to Jews. No. The only whites allowed for study will be empowered white supremacists. How do we know that the University of Chicago will limit inquiry? They say so. Students will only be allowed to focus on how English study has been used to “provide aesthetic rationalizations for colonization, exploitation, extraction, and anti-Blackness.” Students will only be allowed to study blacks who are defined by “political struggle, collective action, and protest.” Note “collective action.” Blacks who go their own way, think their own thoughts, and are not part of the “international” “collective,” need not apply.
The University of Chicago’s English Department’s suppression of intellectual activity is on a par with Lysenkoism and other Soviet suppression of scholarship.
So Hallmark cards and university departments and BLM activists exercise a double standard. So what? Why should we care? Maybe we should care because poverty is poverty. We should care because Lloyd van Brunt is exactly correct. Poor whites live with shame, and a sense of worthlessness, that encourage self destruction. We, poor whites, are skewing demographic assumptions, and we are dying younger and younger; these are called “deaths of despair.”
There’s another reason we should care. Poor whites’ low status, if acknowledged by the powers that be and allowed into the national dialogue, would serve as a check on profiteers like Robin DiAngelo. There are factors at work on success in America other than skin color: poor whites’ mere existence, contrasted with obscenely rich potentates like LeBron James, Robert F. Smith, and Oprah Winfrey, proves that.
But we are silenced by superior whites. This silencing can be imposed by something so simple as a Facebook post about the sound of an air conditioner.
A Facebook friend posted that he can’t sleep because his neighbor uses air conditioning. I did not understand. I was hesitant to speak. If I say, “I don’t understand. I’ve never had air conditioning,” am I exposing myself as “white trash” to be laughed at and excluded? Will I sacrifice whatever status the anonymity of the internet allows me? Will I lose my entrée into the better world, the wealthier county, the cleaner, safer, more attractive city my friend inhabits?
I asked. My friend explained that his neighbors have a “whole house” air conditioner, and that it makes a lot of noise, and that noise interrupts his sleep.
Ah, okay. I understood. And I wanted to respond, “Noise? In my neighborhood, men drive up and down the street, blasting from car stereos as loud as the sound systems in sports stadiums.” (Example of one such stereo here.)
But. I had griped about the loud car stereo cultural practice previously, on a rich, white liberal’s Facebook page. I was immediately labeled “a racist piece of shit.” As a poor white person, I am not allowed to talk about the discomforts of living in a majority-minority neighborhood. Even though my black neighbors also complain about these car stereos. Even though my black neighbors have, with me, signed petitions against these car stereos. Even though my black neighbors have gone with me to City Hall to beg the city to address Paterson’s noise pollution. Even though Nakima Redmon, an African American candidate, assured me in a Facebook post that “noise pollution and loitering in addition to garbage are my top three quality of life changes that I will be bringing to the first ward” – which is why I voted for her. None of this matters. The important narrative is that talk of noise pollution is “racist.”
“White comfort” is a concept invented by totalitarians to silence blasphemous speech. “You don’t want to heard loud car stereos at three a.m.? Your focus on white comfort is racist.”
Here’s what it is.
One, cops could address the noise, if there were enough cops, and if they were empowered. We, the residents of my building, have watched cops approach the noisy drivers. A non-white resident complained to me that the cops are timid and want to avoid conflict. They deliver a mild reproof, if they show up at all, and the noise continues.
Two, there are many children in this building. Children can’t sleep through the noise, either. And they have school the next day. Think about that, and while you are thinking, remember the achievement gap. Ask yourself if black kids can study or sleep with obscene rap lyrics, repeating the n-word over and over,pounding into the walls of their room at three a.m.
Three, the men doing this know they are breaking the law, and social norms. They are engaged in the very oppositional culture described by John Ogbu, John McWhorter, and Orlando Patterson. If someone who cared about them would communicate to them at a young enough age, and in response to a mild enough violation of societal norms, that what they are doing is wrong and must stop, they might not go on to worse violations of societal norms. They could be saved before they careen down a slippery slope of increasingly serious criminality. But those with the courage, and the contempt for woke condemnation, to interfere with their anti-social behavior, are few and far between, and any whites who tried to do so would be denounced as racist.
Finally, when relatively minor anti-social infractions continue without significant brake, greater infractions are invited. Loud car stereos are the first step. Then come drug dealing, violent robbery, and killing. Our neighborhood features all three.
But I can’t say any of this. No one can. It’s racist.
“Bob,” a wealthy, white friend, posted a meme that implied that BLM demonstrations have been peaceful and law-abiding. I politely disagreed. I mentioned that BLM leader Hawk Newsome said that he plans to “burn down the system and replace it.” I mentioned Alexandria Ocasio Cortez’s DNC speech, that described America as a sexist, homophobic, racist, xenophobic wasteland. AOC never said a single positive thing about America in her speech. This is just one of many leftist statements that describe America as a hellhole that deserves to be destroyed. I mentioned the AutoZone stabbing. A man inspired by BLM rhetoric “felt the need to find a white male to kill” because of “police brutality.” After the stabbing, he beat a white man to death. I mentioned two police officers, Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, shot to death by an ambush killer inspired by BLM. I said, “These officers had wives, kids, and parents.”
The response I received astounded me. “Becky,” an ordained minister, called me a liar. BLM protests, she said, were all about “making the US better for everyone.” No one had called for burning the US down, she insisted. There have been no murders, she asserted. Minister Becky continued. “You are getting your ‘facts’ from unreliable sources … Your thinking that anyone wants to ‘murder and destroy’ says more about you and ‘your side’ than it does about others.”
I googled Minister Becky. She lives in a town that is 92 % white or Asian. The entire staff of her congregation is white, as are the elected leaders. This in an historical slave state with a twenty percent black population.
Bob stepped in to support Minister Becky. Bob, who has known me for decades, reminded me that Minister Becky is wealthier than I am, more successful than I, and more loved.
I could tell a hundred such tales. About me, about people I know, about students in the classrooms of rich, white liberal college professors, about once poor whites who have become successful but are still put in their place by their betters.
There are millions more poor whites than poor blacks. We have a different story than that of rich Bob and Minister Becky. We often don’t live in mostly white enclaves. We have worked those jobs that white people are supposed never to work. I myself have worked most of them: nurse’s aide, landscaper, live-in domestic servant, waitress, factory worker, shit shoveler, toilet cleaner.
My brother Mike Goska, like many of the men in our town, used to come home from work covered head to foot with silver dust. One of my former neighbors describes the sight. “I remember walking by the guys while they were eating their lunch. They would smile and the only color you could see on them was their tongue and the inside of their lips, and the whites of their eyes!” Mike left a wife, a toddler son, and a newborn daughter when he succumbed to cancer at age 34. I’ve lost three other siblings to cancer, all well before their biblically allotted three score and ten, and I’ve had cancer myself. And here’s the kicker – leftists reading this paragraph would have only one response: how do I lib-splain to this white trash specimen how she and her siblings were recipients of “white privilege.”
In a September 8, 2020, New York Times column, Pulitzer-Prize-winning Thomas Friedman called on Democrats to abandon their contempt for poor whites, and to accord poor whites respect. Friedman said that it was in Democrats’ own self-interest to do this, because it would attract votes for Biden.
The reader comments section was on fire with liberals insisting that they would never show undeserving poor whites any respect. The comment voted most popular by readers, a comment tagged by the Times as a Times pick, insisted that poor whites are despicable and unworthy.
“I’m a woman of color in my sixties,” the author wrote. “White Trump voters feel humiliated? And I am somehow supposed to reach out to them, and to give them a sense of dignity? Why on earth would I do this?” she demanded to know. These people are evil, she insisted. “These same people would turn me and my family out of this country if they could. They don’t see brown skinned Americans as their equals. They see themselves as the only ‘real Americans’ and the rest of us should be content with the scraps of second-hand citizenship.” She offered no facts to support this demonization of tens of millions of her fellow Americans.
Poor whites, she went on, have faced no roadblocks, but live lives of privilege. They have no right to complain, and, unlike blacks, they deserve no sympathy or redress for their hardships. “White Trump voters have no one else to blame but themselves for their failures, for their lack of accomplishment in their own lives. They certainly could have done what I’ve done, with far fewer obstacles. But they chose not to. They chose to remain ignorant. And they expected this ignorance to be rewarded.” She concluded, “White Trump voters feel humiliated? Cry me a river. They couldn’t have lived one week in my shoes.”
Take the above sentences and switch “black” for “white.” I’m supposed to reach out to blacks to help win an election? These same blacks would harm me and my family if they could. These blacks don’t see poor whites as their equals. These blacks have no one but themselves to blame for their failures. These blacks could have done what I did, pull myself up by my bootstraps, but they chose not to. These blacks chose to remain ignorant. Blacks could not survive one week in my shoes. Cry me a river.
Yes, there are whites who talk like this. But such talk is not the most popular Times reader comment, or a Times pick.
When poor whites attempt to speak, to enrich national dialogues, we aren’t just silenced and marginalized, we are humiliated and demonized. This humiliation and demonization is supported by cultural products as diverse as Hallmark cards, university departments, and social media posts. This humiliation and demonization occurs even when a Pulitzer Prize winner attempts to elicit respect for us, and not four our sake, but to help Democrats win an election.
The other day on Facebook, a widely published British novelist insisted that murders of police officers, looting, rioting, and arson are all justified, because “As ye sow so shall ye reap.” The speaker is an atheist, but she was happy to purloin a line from the Bible to support her hatred for a country she’s never lived in and doesn’t know. A distorted, false narrative is being used to justify murderous hatred. Marginalizing poor whites is just part of that false narrative, a false narrative that is rapidly becoming unquestionable canon.
The denigration of poor whites will never help any African Americans, rich or poor. BLM is a Marxist project. Just as, in the past, Marxists exploited poor white workers’ pain to fulfill the dream of constructing the Marxist edifice, only to betray, and eventually to torture and murder too many poor whites, BLM is exploiting black pain for Marxist ends. Black lives will eventually matter as little as Ukrainian or Polish lives. “To make an omelet you have to break a few eggs.” Black human beings are the Marxists’ eggs. Black people should not be toyed with in this way.
Those of us old enough to remember 9/11 remember a rather miraculous 9/12. Suddenly skin color didn’t matter. We were all Americans, and we were deeply invested in each other’s wellbeing. Today we need respectful dialogue that includes poor whites. That dialogue, that will get to the root problems of poverty and culture, will elevate all Americans, in a united country where identity as Americans finally, as per the dream of Dr. King, supersedes skin color.
Danusha Goska is the author of God through Binoculars: A Hitchhiker at a Monastery