Why are rednecks and hillbillies always trying to co-opt my heritage and ethnic identity?
We’re still struggling with the
White Trash brand, as you can see.
You know America has really gone to hell when a self-respecting white supremacist can’t attend a tea party rally without getting harassed by some elitist intellectual teabagger type. We suggested a while back that the country may be headed for some kind of red vs. blue civil war, but this thinking was based on the pretty narrow evidence of two-party voting behavior during a national election. Now that we’ve had a chance to see America showing its true (mostly white) colors, we’re rethinking things a bit, and think the real civil disorder will be just that: civil disorder. And mostly amongst the hard-to-define factions known as rednecks, hillbillies, and white trash. Yes, while American spatial mobility seems to have slowed around 2007, we’re still left with a lot people from different American subcultures transplanted to a variety of urban areas. And as the old saying goes, “you can take the boy out of the country” yadda yadda. I was reminded of how powerful these subcultural influences can be recently when I used the term “white trash” in mixed company. And by “mixed company”, I mean a group of white people from various parts of the country, some of whom are only spittin’ distance from their more rural roots. I really thought that in an age when so many oppressed groups of people had reclaimed the power of words used against them – i.e.: gay men calling themselves fags, black people calling themselves niggers, etc. – that my reference to my white trash background was pretty safe. How wrong I was. The hilarious arguments that ensued regarding what the differences were between rednecks, hillbillies, and white trash inspired me to do a series of utterly unscientific pop-anthropology overviews of the distinctions. Since my snuff-dippin’ grandmother from West Virginia always bragged about how the main thing that made her not a redneck was the fact that her family fought for the Union during the civil war, that’s the first line I’m going to draw. The strongest image in the redneck brand seems to be the confederate flag, so I’m going to assert that since grandma didn’t come from the hills, and wasn’t a redneck, she must have been white trash. Which gives me license to claim a certain expertise on this group. We’ll go into more detail in upcoming pieces (besides, we already covered how to talk like a hillbilly) , but I figure we’ll cover some basics right now. First of all, you’ll need a name. An awful lot of my white trash (see how comfortably I use the term now?) ancestors had that familiar “billy bob” or dotty mae” theme going on, so I highly recommend this white trash name generator. Two other fundamentals in life are food and housing. As a culinary guide, I can comfortably recommend White Trash Cooking . A friend gave this to me years ago (thanks Johnnie Sue!) and although I’ve never tried the recipes, my older brother borrows it all the time, which I think speaks to its authenticity. And for a nice home (more commonly referred to as a “trailer”) try Cullman Liquidation. As Mr. Cullman himself eloquently and honestly puts it: “These are mobile homes. Not mansions. They come in two pieces“. We’ll be back soon with a more in-depth look at rednecks, hillbillies, and white trash. If you have any expertise regarding these complex American subcultures, feel free to chime in.