The wretched and landless poor have existed from the time of the earliest British colonial settlement. They were alternately known as "waste people", "offals", "rubbish", "lazy lubbers", and "crackers". By the 1850s the downtrodden included so-called "clay eaters" and "sandhillers", known for prematurely aged children distinguished by their yellowish skin, ragged clothing, and listless minds.
In White Trash, Nancy Isenberg upends assumptions about America's supposedly class-free society. Poor whites were central to the rise of the Republican Party in the early 19th century, and the Civil War itself was fought over class issues nearly as much as it was fought over slavery. Reconstruction pitted poor white trash against newly freed slaves, which factored in the rise of eugenics. These poor were at the heart of New Deal reforms and LBJ's Great Society; they haunt us in reality TV shows like Here Comes Honey Boo Boo and Duck Dynasty.
We acknowledge racial injustice as an ugly stain on our nation's history. With Isenberg's landmark book, we will have to face the truth about the enduring, malevolent nature of class as well.
©2016 Nancy Isenberg (P)2016 Tantor
"This is breathtaking social history and dazzling cultural analysis at its best." (Michael Eric Dyson, author of Holler If You Hear Me)
As a person of color and first generation college during the age of affirmative action debates, I am shocked to silence. During these debates I often wondered out loud how my white peers could be first generation college. My grandparents were brutally opressed and enslaved for 400 years, what did their grandparents do with a 400 year head start, that was my question to my peers. In truth I never received an adequate answer. Thanks to White Trash I am in a better position to understand their struggles to rise in the face of class warfare. Now I understand the visceral response to Clinton and Sarah Palin. Now i understand why so many whites hate affirmative action, becuase it tries to remedy the effects of slavery and oppression for ex-slaves while confining the mobility of poor whites, or so it would appear.
This is a must read book for all humanity, especially for those who are the offspring of former slaves. Having an understanding of class in America will help you understand that we have more in common with our poor white brothers than we would like to admit, mainly the reality that we have all been mislead.
The author's account of Classes in America is done in a chronological manner from Jamestown and early New England settlements up through early independence, the civil war, turn of the 20th century, WW1, WW2, LBJ, and today. The book was based on the writings of influential writers, forefathers, politicians, Hollywood and Presidents of the times. The topic challenged the very notion of American exceptionalism.
Exploring the history of America's White underclass is helpful in understanding the political climate we find ourselves in today. As the attention of progressive politicians turn understandably to issues of racial justice, it's become easier to see why the members of America's disaffected White working-class, who feel increasingly forgotten, are willing to turn to demagogues who promise a return to an American middle-class Utopia that for the most part never really existed.
The author painstakingly chronicles the trials and tribulations of, and attitudes towards America's White underclass; from our colonial beginnings, through to present-day. It is an eye-opening read, that helped me understand both my own family history and the attitudes of those I disagree with politically.
Overall an excellent history, well researched and informative. Some bias becomes more evident from the Nixon administration forward, and the final chapters feel rushed. The conclusion of historical trends is well supported, but the assertion that a consciousness of "breeding" is still prevalent today is mostly supported by extrapolation rather than a thorough assessment of the modern status. Much recent research has examined the role of family and cultural lessons (as distinct from status) on economic outcomes of children. This is largely overlooked and as a result some potential remedies, such as teaching economic literacy and office soft skills in schools are left out, which weakens the final chapter of an otherwise excellent book.
The hidden nature of aristocracy in our country's founding, and subsequently the failure of our 1776 Revolution, is exposed, analyzed and detailed to great extent by Nancy Isenberg. She proves that we have never freed ourselves of that old British view of the world and the poor. She highlights each aspect of this paradox with incredible stores of evidence and a deep understanding of history and it's relevance today. I highly recommend this book!
I was drawn to this book because I wanted to know why this group keep voting against their own interest. The author took me on this journey. Though I don't get the phenomenon, I understand it better .
From the African American perspective, I was drawn to this book by it's mere title. By the end of the first chapter I found myself engrossed in the historical foundation of America's diabolical institutions of race and class.
Quite astoundingly, I was amazed to discover that social Darwinism has not only been relegated to race although it has been known to me and my fellow humans of the Black race, that all are guilty of holding onto family and regional pride.
What does seem to be inevitable in these days of "occupiers" and "All Lives Matter", Equality here and there is...nothing will change. What has been confirmed for me is that human nature is so deeply ingrained that what seems to be rigged, is rigged indeed.
I really enjoyed hearing a different perspective on how America became America. The settlers. I never understood why the word cracker is an adjective applied to a "white" person or why the term Cracker was negative. Now I understand...I can not complete the book in with binge listening because it is too depressing. In fact I am taking a break from it currently. It is a good book and I recommend everyone to read it. Allow this book to expand your understanding of the USA as an embryo, as an infant and as a toddler. I stopped reading/listening some where near the mid to late 1800's, the toddler phase. I will pick it up again I just had to take a mental break from the books heavy content. There is little to no comic relief.
Why should people relegated to the outside care about the opinions and class structures maintained by those on the inside? White Trash is a survey of history's outcasts in England and the USA. It is not a deep exploration of how these outcasts came to be nor does it offer remedies for their inclusion. You must accept that the indentured servants of Colonial America ended up in the South with slave labor prior to the American Civil War. Little attention is given to waste people anywhere else including the more modern US Rust Belt. White Trash is a worthwhile read if only as a reminder that we live in an unfair world and that Fairytales are rampant in USA history.
An untold history from the colonization of America to the present day with insightful information, that the middle and upper classes would deny and wish to conceal. The myth that anyone who works hard can move up the social ladder and achieve the American Dream is exposed and how a eugenics mentality from the beginning of has helped keep the classes separate, allowing the elite few to maintain control of the country.
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