Thursday, July 09, 2009

White Trash

As a kid (a long time ago and 40 miles away) the term 'White Trash' was not an epitaph one wanted to hear affixed to ones name. Way worse than even being called 'a Nigger'.

If you were white trash you were not fit to be associated with. You probably beat your wife, drank up your paycheck, if you even bothered to work, had kids that were neglected at best and at worst were abused mentally and physically. You wouldn't or couldn't provide a decent place to live and were generally considered unfit for decent folk to associate with.

Of course this was somewhat before the era of political correctness that we now live in. The civil rights movement was getting started and the welfare state was only a gleam in the eye of Lyndon Johnson. People worked....had to...wanted to.....and did so with a will for the most part. If you didn't, and were white, you still didn't want to be called 'white trash'. That was a mark you didn't want to slip down to.

Folks...I'm from the south of the mid 1900's. We were not rich, but didn't consider ourselves poor, although we might not have had as much money as some. We had enough to take care of ourselves with maybe a few perks now and again and were farmers from farming stock going back generations. There was segregation in my early years and de-segregation before I finished high school but I can not recall any instance where my parents or grand parents treated blacks with anything but respect, which they gave to anyone who had not first acted in a manner that showed they were not entitled to respect. As children we were taught to respect everyone regardless and to not associate with those who didn't prove worthy of respect.

One of my earliest memories is of a visit I and my next younger sister had with my mothers parents. I don't know how long we stayed with them but it was long enough that we accompanied them to church.....Might have been a revival...I don't remember. What I do remember is that the congregation was black. There might have been a few other whites there, I have no memory of there being any.

Two memories do stick in my mind. They must have had a dozen preachers that day.

To a child who attended a Methodist church where the members were so few and so poor that the preacher had to what we called 'ride a circuit' in order to receive enough pay out of the collection plate to earn a half way decent living, which meant that we had 'preaching' only every second or third Sunday, to hear that many preachers on one day was an awesome sight. I remember that the preachers were so filled with 'the spirit' that they'd exhaust themselves in maybe thirty minutes or so and would sit back down sweating, huffing and wiping their brows with bandannas and then the next one would start up. Each apparently trying to outdo the others.

The second memory of that day is that as my sister, I and our grandparents were walking back up the dirt road to their house I had a strong urge to pee, so grandpa led me out of the road to behind a big ol' oak tree where I did what came natural...I sprayed the bushes as far and as high as I could reach, even shooting a stream across a huge spider web which sent the spider into paroxysms of rage and caused it to jump up and down on the web trying to startle me....which of course just made me more anxious to wash her off. Aahh.....ol' times, they are not forgotten.

So while there was discrimination and bigotry towards blacks....for the most part it didn't really affect us in a direct and personal way. To be sure we saw on the news, seen on the black and white TV at night, scenes of freedom marches and angry reactions to them by whites who wanted the status quo to remain, we in our little world didn't really understand it.

What we did understand, almost instinctively, was that we didn't want to be considered 'white trash'.

These memories returned to me this afternoon when the mother of the white trash that has been renting the Ol' Grumps doublewide up at Carnesville came by to say that her son was in jail (no real reason given) because there had been an altercation between him and his wife and her family (which had apparently been living with them for a month or so, although we were under the impression that they had their own home) and his wife and child would be moving out. (this 5 days after he had made the last bi-monthly rent payment, which was of course late) Oh, and by the way, they may be tearing the trailer up. (her way, probably, of saying that during the fight the walls and doors may have sustained some damage, which of course should not be laid at the feet of her son.....he of course having been unjustly incarcerated)

So....it turns out...'he' and maybe 'them' could be considered 'white trash' and by extension, I guess, 'Trailer Trash'.

Just damn!

6 comments:

The Hermit said...

I don't do rental property for exactly that reason.

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