Talking About White Poverty

I’m of two minds when it comes to this widely-disseminated and discussed piece by John Scalzi on teaching straight white men about privilege.

On the one hand, the piece is in many ways as good as advertised. It takes the crucial step in talking about privilege, which is to attempt to do something about it, rather than just using it as a way to assert righteousness. The metaphor is apt and clever, and I think that it could actually be put to productive use in teaching resistant men about how to think of their own advantages. Not many of them, I’m afraid; when it comes to demonstrating received privilege, we’re still on the “low-hanging fruit” stage. But progress is progress, and I think Scalzi has hit upon a genuinely illuminating thought process for achieving it.

At the same time, I wish that Scalzi had done more to look specifically at economic class. Because class is incredibly important, both theoretically and in practical terms of social mobility and equality. I understand that Scalzi embeds that discussion in his talk about different distributions for “attribute points” and such, and I largely agree with that metaphorical analysis. But by being so arch about class, he takes the risk that some readers will miss that point entirely– and they’re the ones who need to understand class the most. To me, the people who need educating are not just the aggressive, privileged straight white men who Scalzi is targeting. It’s also the educated white savvy set that is endlessly linking and tweeting his piece.

Because, look, this is just true: many educated white liberals absolutely suck at talking about white poverty. Follow enough blogs and Twitter feeds, and you’ll find that many simply lack any vocabulary at all for discussing these issues. For many, this is simply an artifact of a very understandable desire to combat racism and take the problems of racial minorities, LGBTQ people, and women seriously. In some cases, it’s a kind of proud, showy ignorance, a signaling mechanism to other liberals. In fact I wonder if that isn’t why Scalzi was so quiet on class in his piece. People are praising him for making his metaphor palatable for privileged straight white men, and he deserves that praise. But I worry that he was quieter on class in order to make the post palatable to the connected liberals who have shown it such regard. The metaphor is white male approved; the refusal to seriously consider white poverty is Twitterati-approved.

Most poor people in the United States are white. The percentages are, indeed, higher for black and Hispanic Americans, and that’s a matter of great concern and considerable challenge to all of us. But talk about poverty is so often focused on racial minorities that it risks ignoring salient aspects of the discussion, when most victims of poverty are in fact white. Wave a magic wand and eliminate all non-white poverty in the country and we’d still have a huge poverty crisis.

It’s similar with education. As someone whose professional life is dedicated to writing pedagogy and literacy education, I frequently interact with well-intentioned white liberals who want to “get real” about our education crisis. They try and get real by making discussions of poverty and poor educational performance solely matters concerning nonwhite children. I have to take the time to explain that, while the percentages are indeed worse for black and Hispanic students, and that fact absolutely matters, we can’t meaningfully make inroads into solving educational problems without confronting them in white students, as most failing students are white and most failing schools are white-student dominant.

Why is there such a blindspot? I think the causes are multiple. I think, in a way that they would never admit, economically stable, educate white liberals often simply identify with other white people on a visceral level, and they can’t imagine being in the shoes of a poor, uneducated white person. It’s a failure of moral imagination. Second, bias exists for sad and intrinsic reasons, and I think lording it over the “white trash” is a convenient and socially-acceptable way to exercise bias in polite society. Witness constant references to “white people’s problems” and the term “sunburnt” to dismiss all problems faced by white people, which demonstrates the invisibility of white poverty and social discord in the educated white consciousness. Third, I think that this is a quiet example of simple, unchosen racism. When consciously enlightened people assume that all problems in education and poverty are black and Hispanic problems, I think that it speaks to a mindset that simply assumes black and Hispanic failure as a matter of course. Sometimes, that kind of insult can be dressed up as social consciousness.

Meanwhile, it’s no coincidence that conservative politicians and commentators help to make implementing the liberal agenda more difficult by exploiting the gulf between liberal intelligentsia and the white underclass. It’s a classic divide and conquer strategy: teach poor white people that their enemies are poor black and Hispanic people, and then point to liberal silence on white poverty as proof. That makes it harder for us to create redistributive social programs that benefit lower class people of all races.

Ultimately, solving crises in poverty, education, and a host of social ills will require solidarity and connection. These problems are cyclical and self-reinforcing and thus have to be solved through attention to all kinds of victims. The worst way to think about these problems is to try and rank them, or to approach them with a zero sum mindset. The righteous recognition that black and Hispanic people have unique interests and unique problems (stemming from unique oppression) in no way requires us to be blind to the problems of the white underclass. Nor do we need to pretend that straight people, white people, and men don’t enjoy considerable privileges in order to take white poverty seriously. I would argue, in fact, that politically, critically, and pragmatically, only a unified effort to alleviate our entrenched social ills can succeed.

Update: I believe this may be relevant.






210 replies
  1. 1
    Linda Featheringill says:

    Poverty sucks.

  2. 2
    Liberty60 says:

    This is also why the New Left circa 1960’s had such a problem attracting working class whites; by conflating all white people with the priviledged elite, working class whites felt they were being abandoned by the liberals.

    This allowed the conservatives to cast issues in terms of “special priviledges for minorities” versus everyone else.

    The Southern Strategy relied upon turning a blind eye to class as much as it did on fixating on race.

  3. 3
    Nina says:

    Well, Scalzi himself grew up quite poor. I think he discussed a lot of your points in another post a few years back. This one was about privilege, not class, although it’s tough to look at one without the other.

  4. 4
    ArchTeryx says:

    And poverty can strike nearly anyone, even straight white educated males. The odds are more in your favor, but just because you’re a WASP, doesn’t mean you know enough people to get a job that pays a living wage in a Depression.

    It all comes back to class. Always. Even racism is mostly used by the rich as a tool to divide in the larger class war.

  5. 5
    Mino says:

    Why is there such a blindspot?

    It’s easier to demonize anti-poverty measures if you can demonize the recipients as being minorities.

  6. 6

    It’d sure be nice if poor whites started voting in a way that was even remotely connected to their economic interests. It seems to me that while a lot of minorities actually seem interested in attacking the issues of racism and vote accordingly, the majority of poor white people will gladly torpedo every economic prospect they have in order to stick it to a liberal.

    Reaching out to a group so filled with hateful spite might be necessary, but few people actually enjoy doing it.

  7. 7
    Mnemosyne says:

    Yes, because John Scalzi has never said anything about what it’s like to be white and poor. It’s only the most famous and forwarded thing that he ever wrote.

    Don’t blame Scalzi because you walked in partway through his speech and want to know why he’s not currently discussing the thing that he discussed in detail right before you got there.

  8. 8
    liberal says:

    There are some nuances, though. For example, some academic pointed out once that if you just look at family income, there’s a lot of “poor” white high school students who are poor in the sense of family income, but they live in a good neighborhood and go to a (relatively) good high school. The family income is low because there was a divorce. But given they where they live, etc, are they truly poor?

    Of course, to first approximation, yes, there are lots of poor whites.

  9. 9
    NancyDarling says:

    Here in the northwest corner of the Walmart-Tyson Colony of Arkansas, I see plenty of poor, really poor, people every day. People only marginally better off refer to them as PWT’s and they are angrier at them if they receive disability or food stamps than they are at the Wall Street fat cats and hedge funders.

  10. 10
    jl says:

    Discussing economic class and power in the US is a big no no. From what I can tell, it can only be approached through emphasizing the importance of the middle class. That approach attempts to avoid the pitfalls of too much emphasis on anything that can be accused of irresponsible populism, and it is a Founding Father(TM) approved topic, since much of what they said about the problems of inequality of income (Edit: and wealth) can be plausibly interpreted to be about the importance of a large middle class.

    Problem is that, as I said in a previous thread, a certain level of tribalism is a natural human tendency, and the progress we can make by keeping that natural, but in today’s world often counterproductive, tendency under control is difficult.

    In other words, every side has a tendency to need to ID a ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bunch of people.

    And tribal identities cut many ways. A large segment of whites who are victimized by the current economic structure have their sense of security and importance threatened when you implicitly equate them to people who they have been using to increase their self esteem.

    All the straight whites who have been in some way, sometimes unconsciously, comforting themselves by feeling superior to nonwhites/gays/immigrants/Hispanics, etc., may get upset. Part of your message to them is that, “no, see, you are in some ways just the same as those other groups, you are being ripped off and exploited.”

    And then they have to deal with the realization that they are being ripped off by ‘their own kin’: those supposedly admirable old rich white guys whom they have been voting for and who have been telling them all these years that they are doing everything they can to help them out.

  11. 11
    Dave says:

    but what about race but what about class but what about race but what about class but what about race but what about class but what about race but wh

  12. 12
    giltay says:

    Here’s Scalzi’s Being Poor.

    (Edit: Mnemosyne beat me to it.)

  13. 13
    Mnemosyne says:

    @ArchTeryx:

    It all comes back to class. Always. Even racism is mostly used by the rich as a tool to divide in the larger class war.

    That’s the true lingering legacy of slavery in the US: our social classes are primarily divided by race. Black and Latino people are lower-class; whites are working-class or middle-class. Whites have social mobility, but blacks do not. Like other immigrant groups, Latinos will probably manage to haul themselves into the same middle class as Italians, Irish, Poles, Asians, Jews, etc., but our class structure demands that black people remain in the lower class.

    That’s one of the reasons why poor whites are so resistant to calls for class solidarity — you are asking them to lower themselves from the middle class or working class into that worst of all classes: black people.

  14. 14
    Spaghetti Lee says:

    This makes sense to me. I know I’m not any sort of expert on the subject, but I do sometimes see fellow liberals make the cheap “white trash” jokes and, in a more serious mode, talk about how their problems are self-perpetuating due to their behavior and how they bring this on themselves. My immediate reaction is that there’s no way they’d even consider talking about non-whites like this. Now, I absolutely don’t think it’s comparable to the open sewer of racism you see in the comments of any right-wing site, but I do think it’s a problem.

  15. 15
    Malaclypse says:

    In addition to “Being Poor,” there is also Things I Don’t Have to Think About Today.

  16. 16
    Bnut says:

    I didn’t even know he had a blog. Old Man’s War is a fantastic novel.

  17. 17
    greenergood says:

    Middle-class, educated, suburban New Yorker, now on the fringes of Europe-land, living below the mininum wage, white 55-yr-old female here: most helpful person for me was Joe Bageant ‘Deer Hunting for Jesus’. Google him and learn, even though he was sometimes a sexist bastard, G-d bless him.

  18. 18
    Rob in CT says:

    I think he went out of his way to stipulate “all else equal” and then, later, mentioned that all else is never equal, leading with class/money.

    That said, while I don’t think Scalzi himself is guitly of this, sure, well-off liberals (like, say, oh, me) do often struggle to talk about this stuff well with poor/working-class white folks. Of course, that’s a two-way street. When the conversation STARTS with [paraphrasing here!] “…take my money and give it to black people! Well, I never!” that ups the difficulty. And in my experience, that’s exactly how these conversations start. YMMV.

  19. 19

    Nice post. I think a specific example that gets at the failure of moral imagination point is that certain sectors of middle-class educated whites can’t picture a white trash person being funny. I think a lot of times humor just doesn’t enter into the mental picture; white trash people can be desperate, or stupid, or morally repugnant or what have you, but humor just doesn’t enter the picture

    And even in some of the rare instances in which humor and white trash people co-exist in the middle-class educated white imagination, the humor doesn’t come from the white trash people as people. The joke is that they’re dumb, or that white trash culture and “normal” culture clashes so violently, or the “normal” characters are surrounded by hostile white trash folk in a humorous way, or the “normal” characters who are supposed to be so much more competent and sophisticated are shown to be as or more incompetent or crude as white trash folk.

    There’s an A-plot from 30 Rock from a season or two ago where Liz and Jack are searching the comedy clubs for more talent, Jack wants to get out of the heathen coastal enclaves to where real folk are to access the real Murican style of humor, and Kenneth suggests going to his backwards white trash town. When Jack and Liz get there all of the above things happen. (What makes that sequence especially irritating is that the point/theme they’re trying to make is that “there are no red or blue or rich or poor or urban or rural Americans, we’re all the same! *fart joke*” There’s a wee bit o’ tension between saying that superficial pablum at the same time as denying white trash people the ability to be humorous on their own terms to “normal” people and only being portrayed as capable of being funny by putting “normal” people in their places.)

  20. 20
    Malaclypse says:

    Oh, and “Being Poor” even made it into this textbook on poverty.

  21. 21
    Spaghetti Lee says:

    I understand the argument that it’s just too late, poor whites are irretrievably conservative for the most part. One thing I wonder, has there been a real, concerted effort to try to reverse that? One thing that comes to mind is that if you look at the statistics for how some of these areas actually voted in 2008, it might be a bit surprising. For example, Kentucky’s 5th congressional district, represented by GOPer Hal Rogers for decades, over 95% white, and the poorest district in the country-Obama still got 30% of the vote. Tennessee’s 4th, similar demographics, if not quite as extreme-36% for Obama. Virginia’s 9th, 39% Obama. West Virginia’s 3rd, 42% for Obama. These are all very poor districts that are well over 90% white.

    Now, I know that there’s some caveats to be made here: ex-dixiecrat loyalties, 2008 being a high-water mark for Democrats with four years of bile since then, etc. But it seems to me that in that part of the country, everything about the culture is geared to make any white person vote Republican, and that 30, 35, 40% of people there still aren’t convinced and pulled the lever for the Kenyan Usurper, it makes me think that it’s not like we’re going into Mordor here. There’s something there to work with. It’s not all beyond saving. Obviously lots of 27%-ers and their kin will never be convinced, but would it really be impossible to flip 10 or 15 percent of the vote in these areas with a strong message that appeals to those people and lets them know who’s really on their side?

  22. 22
    Zaftig Amazon says:

    What’s hard to take is the judgemental attitude that quite a few whites escaping the poverty trap have, concerning the people that they left behind. My father came from Appalachia, and got out because he joined the Navy. Virtually every time a newspaper article on poverty in Appalachia appears, some jerk who left Appalachia will comment that, these people could just leave. What these jerks fail to grasp is that, (a) it’s hard to leave when you have responsibilities, (b) it’s hard to leave when you are old, (c) the traditional stepping stones out (manufacturing jobs in Ohio and Indiana) are not there anymore, and (d) if everybody in Appalachia DID leave, we would have a repeat of “Grapes of Wrath”, with marked increases in homelessness, which place an even greater drag on the national economy.

  23. 23

    @Spaghetti Lee:

    …but would it really be impossible to flip 10 or 15 percent of the vote in these areas with a strong message that appeals to those people and lets them know who’s really on their side?

    They’d ask first not whom you’re for, but whom you are against. And when you gave them an answer they didn’t like, there goes the 15%….

    Mudsill democracy.

  24. 24
    Bruce S says:

    @Liberty60:

    Except that there was a significant effort to organize poor white people within the New Left. Tom Hayden’s second manifesto, after Port Huron Statement, was “An Inter-Racial Movement of the Poor.” The problem was that most of these grassroots organizing efforts were overshadowed – between 1965 and 1967 – by the escalation of the Vietnam War and that issue subsumed all others. Also led to intense hostility from the AFL-CIO toward the young left. By the late ’60s a certain amount of nihilism and counter-cultural assumptions had come to dominate large swaths of the left – along with Marxist dogmatism that often fetishized the “working class.” But you can pretty much trace this narrative of alienation of the New Left from working class whites (to the extent it became true in some circles) – and from the Democratic Party – to the Vietnam escalation and all of the political intensity that went with it. There is a lot more complexity to “the ’60s” than the impressionistic retrospectives tend to acknowledge – a lot of history was packed into the trajectory of, as prime example, SDS from 1963 to 1968. Ditto the emergence of a highly self-conscious (narcissistic) counter-culture (that included lots of young working-class whites, incidentally) and the “Black Power” radicalization of the civil rights movement. Hard to comprehend all of the painfully transformative elements coming together – and fracturing presumed political alliances – in those years in a backward glance.

  25. 25
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    It must really suck to be stricken with poverty AND privilege.

  26. 26
    Rhoda says:

    I think this ignores the fact that there are many poor whites that will oppose a program that would help them, because it would also help a minority. Race was the cudgel used to divide the 99% when this country formed. The concept of white privilege is a construct of the “New World” to attempt the few rich plantation types to connect with the poor whites by giving them a common enemy.

    A white man is therefore created in the image of God, while a black or brown or yellow man is inferior because of the color of his skin. You may both be poor, but you have more intrinsic value if you are a poor white than a poor colored person.

    While a white man may be indentureed into service, possibly for the rest of his life he has a soul. Colored people don’t: this is why they and there offspring will be enslaved for generations and why Indians can be lied to, killed, eventually placed on a reservation.

    Privilege IMO is tied to race, this division is what creates the better class in America not money. Given how that construct is foundational to some white people (and black too) these people are willing to sacrifice healthcare for example rather than acknowledge the common humanity btwn the races.

    White people have no problem feeling empathy for other poor whites, the idea that a black or brown man with his lazy soul would unfairly benefit prevents the common acceptance of social services and programs common in conservative European countries.

    Canada didn’t have to fight a color barrier to get universal healthcare, just class issues. Illustrating the power white privilege holds in dividing this country.

    Sorry if I’m rambly or for any typos, I’m on my phone.

  27. 27
    dude says:

    Something that troubles me about white poverty is how my experience growing up with it was intertwined with being proud of ignorance and an assumed superiority, as in, poor ignorant white people are naturally “better” than all other groups, including those pale ones what read books.

    Over and over again I saw a social norm of “we’re better, so you quit trying to learn or get away from your rightful place.”

    Usually this was expressed to me as this venomous, “you think you’re so smart” remark that was normally hissed by someone who thought anyone else’s success reflected badly on the accuser. Eventually I started answering “Yes, and fuck you,” right before I really started lifting myself out of that miserable hole with the help of college and student loans.

  28. 28
    gorram says:

    Uh… from the link:

    If you start with 25 points, and your dump stat is wealth, well, then you may be kind of screwed. If you start with 250 points and your dump stat is charisma, well, then you’re probably fine. […] Likewise, it’s certainly possible someone playing at a higher difficulty setting is progressing more quickly than you are, because they had more points initially given to them by the computer

    It most certainly does acknowledge class as force impacting peoples’ quality of life. Maybe not as centrally as it should (and I agree, class needs to be more openly discussed in the United States, and probably many other places too), but it’s still there.

    You know what’s much more obliquely referenced? Abilism. You know what’s not even given a cursory mention? Cissexism.

  29. 29
  30. 30
    Jay in Oregon says:

    So you read an article about Straight White Male Privilege and your reaction was to worry about the straight white guys who have it rough too?

  31. 31

    @dude: In a democracy, Mr. Dooley said, each man is as good as the next one, and frequently better.

  32. 32
    Dave says:

    anyway, it has been true since the beginnings of america: the revolutionary coalition would be poor white people and poor black people combining their interests.

  33. 33
    Bruce S says:

    Dude – “Don’t get above your raisin’!” Can be an honest plea for humility in proper context, but also evidence of profound insecurities and even envy that someone else might succeed.

  34. 34
    Zaftig Amazon says:

    @Spaghetti Lee: If Democrats actually made efforts to increase opportunity in Eastern Kentucky West Virginia and Western Virginia, whites would start voting for them in greater numbers. The last time there was ANY effort to alleviate poverty in Appalachia was in the mid-1960s. If both parties ignore impoverished whites until election time, why shouldn’t impoverished whites vote for the social conservativism that their churches encourage? I am surprised that black communities vote at all, given the neglect of Democrats until election time.

  35. 35
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Zaftig Amazon:

    There’s something to that — one of the reasons why the South was solidly Democratic for so many years was because of New Deal programs like the TVA. There’s a whole lot of infrastructure improvement that could be made in rural areas (ie schools, roads, libraries, medical clinics) that the states just don’t have the money to do or are unwilling to do because TAXES.

    Tangible improvements in people’s everyday lives would do a whole lot more for the Democratic cause than more rhetoric.

  36. 36
    Rhoda says:

    So, everything I said was said far better earlier so I just want to add that it is getting better. In a generation we went from MLK to Obama. And John Edwards message of two Americas connects because we feel the economic divide so clearly now and recognise the redistribution of wealth. Issues of economic class are starting to divide us. The idea of what constitutes privilege is shifting to be economic, we saw this debate in 2008. Through we can see in Europe how quickly it all goes tribal.

  37. 37
    Someguy says:

    White poverty? It’s toothless uneducated Republican voters in pickup trucks mostly, and largely male. Their version of privilege is getting the Gubmint out of the business of helping out people like themselves, so largely it stays away. The way I see it, Appalachia is a Randian wonderland. People there understand that when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. And a shitload of crystal meth.

  38. 38
    jl says:

    @Spaghetti Lee:

    ” Virginia’s 9th, 39% Obama. West Virginia’s 3rd, 42% for Obama. These are all very poor districts that are well over 90% white. ”

    I think you make a very good point. I don’t think anyone understands very well how the often conflicting economic class and recial/ethnic identities change with income and wealth among whites.

    There is a some (edit: on second thought, alot of, now that I think about Gelman’s research) evidence that many poor whites can see beyond the race/ethnic, gender, gender identity wedge issue nonsense and vote for moderate and liberal candidates, even a mixed race Democrat(!). Andrew Gelman has done a lot of work on this, and he has a blog so people can follow what he is doing (right now, looks like he is busting newspaper editors for stealing stuff off the internet)

    http://andrewgelman.com/

    These whiteys, let me tell you since I am in the club and see how they talk amongst themselves at their tribal rites, are a surprisingly diverse group.

    There is evidence that a lot of poor and lower class working whites see through the BS. But there are a lot of middle and upper class conservative whites for whom their economic and historical and habitualprejudices go in the same direction.

    That latter group is a tough nut to crack. In my opinion it must be cracked because these deluded whites do not realize that everyone is on the list to get sucked dry, they are just further down on the list for tactical reasons (as Walker said: divide and conquer is the strategy)

  39. 39
    liz says:

    @dude: That’s pretty much the same problem that black kids encounter if they do well in school, i.e. – “Why are you trying to be white?!”

    “Tangible improvements in people’s everyday lives would do a whole lot more for the Democratic cause than more rhetoric.”

    How are Democrats supposed to do that sort of stuff in Arkansas and West Virignia?

  40. 40
    Dave S. says:

    …he takes the risk that some readers will miss that point entirely…

    Scalzi is under no obligation to write for the lowest common denominator, nor to write the post you wished he had.

  41. 41
    Keith G says:

    Talking about poverty and class is very important. To my thinking, such discussions can be a bit superficial and a bit over generalized.

    What mattered to the students I taught was security: security of nutrition, security of affection, security of supervision, security of personal safety, security of family stability, and the like.

    There can be a strong correlation between any of these items and family income, but not always. Many purely middle class families have more problems with this list then some of the impoverished students I taught.

    Discussions centering on race or class can miss a lot of important stuff.

  42. 42
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    Freddie, Scalzi didn’t write much about white poverty in this piece because he was writing about something else. It happens.

  43. 43
    Spaghetti Lee says:

    @Zaftig Amazon:

    Hey, you don’t have to tell me twice. And Southern Republicans on the hill know that if their constituents catch on, they might have to actually do some damn work at improving their lives rather than just yelling about Soshulism all day. Probably why so many aid and infrastructure programs get killed by Goopers in congress.

  44. 44
    flukebucket says:

    White poverty.

    Might not be as bad as it seems.

  45. 45
    Mino says:

    @jl: You might enjoy this from 1959.

    http://news.google.com/newspap.....46,3231770

  46. 46
    Mattminus says:

    @Jay in Oregon:

    Traditional left identity politics demanded that someone say something really fucking stupid in this thread.

    Thank you for bearing that burden, Jay.

  47. 47

    @Bruce S: also an instruction to not get up from the table before breakfast is finished

    @Someguy:

    Actually poor white people are more likely to vote Dem than higher SES white people. Yes even in the south. (Actually poor white southerners are more likely to vote Dem than poor white northerners.) The south is solid red because lower middle class, middle class, upper middle class, and fuck the middle class whites are much more likely to vote Repub, and the higher up the SES you go the more lop-sided it becomes. And the higher up the scale you go the more likely you are to vote.

    Massive white trash voting drives in the south would do more to change the dynamic of american politics than anything since Vietnam ended

    ETA I also got a lot of this stuff from Gelman, jl. Statistical rigor FTW

  48. 48
    rikyrah says:

    @The Other Chuck:

    It’d sure be nice if poor whites started voting in a way that was even remotely connected to their economic interests. It seems to me that while a lot of minorities actually seem interested in attacking the issues of racism and vote accordingly, the majority of poor white people will gladly torpedo every economic prospect they have in order to stick it to a liberal.

    this this this

    a thousand times this.

    if ever there was a group that clings to WHITENESS over their own economic interests…it’s this group.

  49. 49
    jl says:

    @dude:

    I experienced that too when I was a kid. I call it a ‘peasant mentality’ among many ethnic whites.

    ” What the hayyawl good is all this school larnin’ anyway, you cram too much silly stuff up in yar head, you jus’ git mixed up, is all. End up good fer nothin’ “

  50. 50
    giltay says:

    @Rhoda: The primary divide in Canada was historically Protestant/Catholic (English/French being a proxy for that, IMO). The party that really pushed single-payer health insurance was the CCF, a predominately rural, western party (hence, poor, English and Protestant). The lack of a religious angle made it mostly about class.

  51. 51
    Mino says:

    @Spaghetti Lee: Until very recently, a lot of the South voted Republican nationally but for Democrats locally, though those Dems were likely Blue Dogs.

  52. 52
    WJS says:

    Why do we have to get on bended knee and gently explain such things to privileged white men again? Is it because they might call us shrill?

    Fuck that. It’s not about identity politics. It’s about asking the question, “who are you to presume that you know what is best for anyone when you clearly can’t run anything because you’ve spent your whole life cheating in school, skating by on your connections, and stealing what you have?”

  53. 53
    Freddie deBoer says:

    You know, I wish the people accusing me of being a poor reader would be a little more careful in their reading themselves. I specifically am saying that for this piece, it would be better, from my point of view and in my opinion, to highlight class and talk about it specifically. This is the piece that’s gotten the attention, so this is the piece that I’m commenting on.

    Chill, and consider the origins of your sensitivity.

  54. 54
    Silver says:

    To extend Scalzi’s wonderful video game analogy, most people are simply bad at life, just like most players are bad at games.

    That is why you see rogues gemming with STR and people gettin knocked up (or knocking up) young, for example. If you were one of the lucky ones, you end up like Bristol Palin. If not, you’re fucked, because everyone overestimates how good they are at the game…

  55. 55
    Spaghetti Lee says:

    @Both Sides Do It:

    I believe, statistically, class is the single biggest variable in determining how likely one is to vote one way or the other, with richer people more likely to vote Republican. Race comes in second, but not by much.

  56. 56
    pragmatism says:

    if the 1%’ers won’t teach their kids the concept of noblesse oblige, the middle class should pick up the slack.

  57. 57
    Freddie deBoer says:

    So you read an article about Straight White Male Privilege and your reaction was to worry about the straight white guys who have it rough too?

    I would argue that statements like this are indicative of what I’m talking about: the problem is that for a lot of ostensible liberals, politics is not about solving people’s problems but about signaling and cultural competition. Nobody ever won that cultural competition by talking about white poverty. Meanwhile, saying “aha! you are less enlightened than I am when it comes to race and gender!” is necessarily a self-aggrandizing statement.

    Incidentally, I didn’t say, and have never said in my life, that “it’s not about race” or any such thing. It’s about race, and it’s also about other things.

  58. 58
    jl says:

    Any Californian should understand how important economic class is, and how that issue is disguised as anything else but about economics power, for example, regional culture.

    There were very low class worthless groups, really hopeless classes of poeple in CA, probably lower than many nonwhite and non Anglo communities during the Great Depression: the Okies, and Arkies, the Dakes, etc.

    Thanks to commenter above for linking to newspaper clip to remind me.

  59. 59
    Raven says:

    @Bruce S: The Twilight of Common Dreams

  60. 60
  61. 61
    Freddie deBoer says:

    I wrote this recently, and I think it applies to a lot of what I’m talking about.

  62. 62
    Anoniminous says:

    @jl:

    Except that a properly constructed emotive argument is more persuasive to most people, most of the time.

  63. 63
    dude says:

    @liz: I went to a minority-white high school pretty far away from where I lived and saw my friends get a bit of that. The difference in how many parents treated it was vastly different though, among my poor non-white friends their community seemed to accept education as the path to prosperity, while the poor white community seemed to all scream “WE’RE ALREADY BETTER SO DON’T EVEN TRY.”

    So looking back on my comments makes me realize I’ve got some resentment about all that. Something to talk to my therapist about I guess.

  64. 64
    Bruce S says:

    @Raven:

    Raven – Gitlin’s first book was “Uptown:Poor Whites in Chicago”, based on his own organizing experiences. Kind of hard to fathom all these decades later – a young Todd Gitlin as left-wing missionary amidst Appalachian immigrants to Chicago – but it’s part of the “New Left” picture that’s been overshadowed by Yippies, Weathermen and all of the rest of it that generated the Time magazine covers.

  65. 65
    NancyDarling says:

    @rikyrah: From my vantage point in a county with maybe a half dozen blacks, the hatred of abortion drives many poor whites to vote R. Mostly because their preachers told them to. When I talk to people here about economic issues and they bring up the PWT’s who don’t deserve their food stamps or disability, I agree with them that some are scamming the system but most of those who get help deserve it and we shouldn’t do away with the safety net just to punish the undeserving. I say let’s go after the fat cats who game the system before we start after the little people. I almost always get agreement from them.

    Almost 100% are concerned about SS and medicare and worried that their parents will lose it.

  66. 66
    Mino says:

    @pragmatism: That has become the obsession of the MSM. Middle class entitlements must be used to pay down the debt. They’ve conveniently forgotten that the reason they are called entitlement is because the middle class has pre-paid them.

    It’s like…Hand over the annuity.

  67. 67
    jl says:

    @Anoniminous: I agree. And I think that is why the powers that be go full bore apeshit whenever Democrats talk about economic inequality and fairness directly and truthfully in way that hits the emotional buttons that get hit when minimal standards of fairness, trust and honesty are violated.

  68. 68

    @Bruce S: Krugman’s piece is from 2007.

    Map of counties where Kerry did better than Obama.

    No pattern there, nope.

  69. 69
    Rob in CT says:

    @WJS:

    Way to miss the point, wow. Or is this parody?

  70. 70
    Mino says:

    @Davis X. Machina: Given their latest antics, I’m only surprised that West Virginia is not more red.

  71. 71
    Raven says:

    @Bruce S: Yes but he did write it after his experiences in the SDS. I always liked “Years of Hope, Days of Rage”. Being from Chicago and serving with poor whites and blacks from 66-69 in the big green machine gave me an interesting perspective.

    eta Love this Gitlin quote: ““ …those who still cling to gauzy dreams about untainted militancy need to remember all the murders committed in the name of various radical ideologies that accomplished exactly nothing for the victims of racism.”

  72. 72
    jl says:

    @Davis X. Machina: I think you miss the point. If you say that the pattern of the shifts by counties is due mainly to white prejudice, you have to account for the distribution of income among whites in those counties. I think issue you are concerned about is how much white prejudice influences white voting patterns. You forget about how that changes as income increases, and how that conflicts with or aligns with race/ethnic prejudice.

    Krugman did discuss the problem of ‘rich white trash’.

  73. 73

    @jl:

    I think Obama got around 10 percent of the white vote in MS, and Clinton maybe 20 percent. The difference is the smaller part about race, but the larger part about class, and poor whites following both categories, unless it is suggested that 90 or 80 percent of the white voting population for the GOP is from mainly the wealthy.

  74. 74
    Bruce S says:

    68 Davis X. Machina Says:

    “@Bruce S: Krugman’s piece is from 2007.

    Map of counties where Kerry did better than Obama.

    No pattern there, nope.”

    Yes, Obama’s candidacy 2008 accentuated racial voting patterns in the South, but this elite narrative about poor whites being somehow a bulwark of the GOP because they can’t discern their economic interests has been with us long before 2008. It is an extension of facile middle-class attitudes – I don’t underestimate the impact of Obama’s race in 2008 among Southern whites, but neither will I underestimate the impact of class prejudice in these comments threads or in long-held assumptions about lower-income whites voting patterns.

    In fact, according to Thomas Edsall, “whites with incomes under $30,000 had favored Democrats by 15 points in 2008.” So my point stands, even given the impact of race alone in the South.

    Unfortunately, in the wake of the economic crisis, polling among lower income whites is starting to favor the GOP. That’s a “low information” in hard times, but also tied to the degree to which the Democrats haven’t delivered according to expectations. Lots of reasons for that, but the desperation persists and the party in power is going to catch hell, rational and justified or not.

  75. 75
    Darkrose says:

    Freddie, I think you’re missing a lot of the context here. As others have pointed out, Scalzi has talked about class. The other element is a certain science-fiction writer–who shall not be named lest he show up here–who is best known for derailing every online discussion he enters by insisting that racism is no longer an issue; class is the only thing that matters. If said writer showed up here, I’m sure he’d say that despite being a black woman, I can’t talk about privilege because I went to Stanford; that’s one of his favorite silencing techniques.

    Discussions of social justice in the science-fiction/fantasy fandom community tend to look at race and class separately, because the conversation’s stuck in the frame of a zero-sum game instead of intersectionality.

  76. 76
    TrabbsBoy says:

    The piece was about straight white male privilege and you want to make it about class. This is a constant divide on the left. Politics is all about money, so we should focus on economic issues and not social issues. But that ends up sounding to people who aren’t straight white males an awful lot like “Shut up with your trivial issues and let’s all focus on what I think is important.” People who are not straight white males want a fucking piece of the pie already. They don’t want to see things shift from rich straight white males to poor straight white males.

    You make good points in your piece, but I wish you had chosen a different jumping off point.

  77. 77
    Schlemizel says:

    I would bet that if you adjust for economic status you will find white males are better off at every level. But, certainly, if you adjust for race and gender you will find that economic status is the deciding factor in future ‘success’.

    What I think a lot of white males don’t get when we hear how lucky we are is that being a white male does not equal success, wealth, easy access to power or money. Many of us lack a yard stick to measure against. So a white guy who has busted his hump all his life just to get by may not see himself as lucky because he sees plenty of people (many not male nor white) who are doing much better. What he does not see is that had he been other than white male it would have been even harder for him – in general to just get what he has today.

  78. 78
    pragmatism says:

    @Mino: i don’t disagree that the gopers fully intend to injure the middle class to make up the budget gap. i believe that the higher income people will not willingly pass on the concept and there are middle class people who advocate and vote not in their interest because they still believe trickle down clap trap or are hedging their bets in case they win the lottery so they can keep more or are willing to hurt their own interests as long as it hurts X group.

  79. 79
    Bruce S says:

    @Raven:

    He’s written a lot of excellent stuff – not exactly a charmer, but a welcome throw-back to the old “public intellectuals” who were more about substance than celebrity.

  80. 80

    …Unfortunately, in the wake of the economic crisis, polling among lower income whites is starting to favor the GOP.

    Reversion towards the norm.

  81. 81
    Raven says:

    @Bruce S: agreed

  82. 82
    middlewest says:

    It’s amazing that you seem to have written that piece on self-aggrandizing internet slacktivism without knowing about Tumblr. If you think Jezebel or Facebook is bad, Tumblr will blow your mind.

  83. 83
    Bruce S says:

    Just as clarification to my point about low-income whites, I believe they SHOULD be voting Democratic in much larger numbers and that fact mostly has to do with some combination of race and religious fundamentalism, but they have been, in fact, Democratic voters in a slight majority. Yet they get dissed as a major bastion of “false consciousness.” I don’t think there’s another segment of majority-Dem voters who get treated to such facile contempt by other Democrats.

  84. 84

    @Davis X. Machina:

    The Civil War was an elite-driven conflict

    I do nah thin’ tha evidence prove what you thin’ it prove

  85. 85
    Anoniminous says:

    @jl:

    Any list of US “the powers that be” must include the Democratic Party.

    An unpopular position but – I submit – an accurate one. And until it’s faced squarely nothing substantial is going to change.

    @Bruce S:

    Democratic Party abandoned rural voters, their needs and concerns, 50 years ago. So the voters abandoned the Democratic Party.

  86. 86
    Bruce S says:

    Davis – you’re full of shit regarding lower-income whites being part of the GOP “norm.” It’s just not factually correct. Not surprising in these comments threads, and also not my problem…

  87. 87

    @Bruce S:

    but neither will I underestimate the impact of class prejudice in these comments threads or in long-held assumptions about lower-income whites voting patterns.

    Bullshit. Voting patterns are what they are, and not reflective of prejudice. In the south, it is clear that all classes of whites vote overwhelmingly republican where race is not a factor, and those white GOP voters are by and large, the poor. There aren’t enough rich white southerners to account for more than a fraction of that voting pattern. They may have a variety of reasons for voting that way, but per economic class, they vote republican against their own economic interests.

  88. 88
    Jay in Oregon says:

    @Mattminus:
    No, the stupid part was when someone decided to write an article about a post John Scalzi wrote, criticized that post for not addressing an issue that it wasn’t constructed to address, and then spent the rest of the time speculating on the author’s motives for not addressing that issue while not talking about the issue he DID choose to address.

    I’ll cop to my original statement being glib, but there are a lot of ostensible liberals who read about issues regarding race or gender in this country and immediately seek examples of how those issues apply to Straight White Males too. That’s what I took away from Freddie’s post at first, which is why I said what I said.

  89. 89
    Soonergrunt says:

    @Bruce S:
    @Anoniminous:
    Yup. If you ever want to understand Oklahoma, where registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans 3 to 2 and yet we have a Republican State House, Senate, Governor, and almost all Republican (soon to be all Republican) Federal delegation, you must understand that the four main driving ethos of these people are the deep seated conviction that rich whites use and abuse them, that this is their lot in life, that nobody outside their group cares about them, and whatever else they may be, at least they’re not as far down the totem pole as the blacks.

    I’ll also note that I knew Freddie was going to be excoriated for this, it being pretty fucking spot-on. I did underestimate the level of vitriol though.

  90. 90
    Bruce S says:

    Larry Bartels, linked at that Krugman link:

    Al Gore and John Kerry did better among low-income whites in the close elections of 2000 and 2004 than John Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey did in the close elections of 1960 and 1968. Thus, while it is generally true that Democratic presidential candidates have lost support among white voters over the past half-century, those losses have been entirely (and roughly equally) concentrated in the middle- and upper-income groups, and have been partially offset by increasing support for Democratic candidates among low-income white voters.

    I don’t pretend to be an expert, but I do try not to recycle stuff that appeals to my impressions or prejudice when I have seen evidence from folks doing actual research and analysis that contradicts my gut notions or appealing conceits.

  91. 91
    geg6 says:

    Having grown up as a barely lower middle class white woman, I really don’t have any problem envisioning white poverty. I lived it. And even my effete liberal adult lifestyle has not made me forget what it was like to go to bed hungry or to watch my parents worry, scrimp, and go without so as to provide for their young. Lucky for them, they were children of the depression, young adults of the Greatest Generation, and, eventually (after many years of low income, working 2 and 3 jobs, and many strikes at the steel mill my dad worked), solid middle class people who could send all six of us to college and with guaranteed pensions that would cushion their old age.

    For myself, I may have two college degrees and work in what many seem to think is a fairly prestigious job, but I’ll never have a pension and I will need another four or five years on my job (in my 15th year here!) to finally earn what my father earned at the end of his working life (and he never earned over $40,000). At which point, I will have topped out and will never get another raise again. But then, I haven’t had one for the last three out of four years anyway.

    And yes, I know that I’m not poor because I am single (though living in sin) with no children to support. But I’m not wealthy or even upper middle class. And I’ll never forget being poor. Never.

  92. 92
    Anoniminous says:

    At the risk of adding facts to the discussion:

    State Voter Turnout

    Alabama 43.1%
    Arkansas 37.5%
    Georgia 39.9
    Kansas 41.7%
    Kentucky 42.4%
    Louisiana 39.0%
    Mississippi 37.0%
    North Carolina 39.2%
    Oklahoma 38.7%
    South Carolina 39.7%
    Tennessee 34.7%
    Texas 32.2%
    Virginia 38.7%
    West Virginia 36.7%

    The problem isn’t who they vote for. The problem is the vast majority don’t vote.

  93. 93
    gwangung says:

    @Schlemizel:

    What I think a lot of white males don’t get when we hear how lucky we are is that being a white male does not equal success, wealth, easy access to power or money. Many of us lack a yard stick to measure against. So a white guy who has busted his hump all his life just to get by may not see himself as lucky because he sees plenty of people (many not male nor white) who are doing much better. What he does not see is that had he been other than white male it would have been even harder for him – in general to just get what he has today.

    Yeah. Pages and pages of commenters who don’t understand that “easier” is not the same as “easy.”

  94. 94
    gwangung says:

    @Schlemizel:

    What I think a lot of white males don’t get when we hear how lucky we are is that being a white male does not equal success, wealth, easy access to power or money. Many of us lack a yard stick to measure against. So a white guy who has busted his hump all his life just to get by may not see himself as lucky because he sees plenty of people (many not male nor white) who are doing much better. What he does not see is that had he been other than white male it would have been even harder for him – in general to just get what he has today.

    Yeah. Pages and pages of commenters who don’t understand that “easier” is not the same as “easy.”

  95. 95
    Brachiator says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    That’s the true lingering legacy of slavery in the US: our social classes are primarily divided by race. Black and Latino people are lower-class; whites are working-class or middle-class. Whites have social mobility, but blacks do not. Like other immigrant groups, Latinos will probably manage to haul themselves into the same middle class as Italians, Irish, Poles, Asians, Jews, etc., but our class structure demands that black people remain in the lower class.

    This sounds more like caste than class. And the great barrier of privilege is “whiteness,” which is meta-racial. So, Italians, Irish, Poles and Jews were considered the inferior non WASP “other,” but now have become white. The same is true in an odd way for Asians, who are seen as over-achieving strivers.

    However, blacks, no matter how wealthy or Cosby mainstream are still considered “the Other.” Consider even the odd thread about the tv show Girls, with the implicit assumption that black life is so … different that it cannot be included in general upper middle class sisterhood.

    And even most white liberals go out of their way to make sure that they don’t move into a “black” neighborhood. American apartheid maintains the barrier between black and “white” almost without regard to the wealth or achievement of the blacks. And so, you have, for example, the odd, irrational belief by some Tea Party people and other conservatives that Sarah Palin is more accomplished than Barack Obama.

    Latinos, who already include a wide range of ethnicities, are clearly more accepted. You can be a Bush and be married to a Latino. Not as easy to be married to a black person.

    And the richest man in the world currently is a Mexican national, Carlos Slim. I’m sure he gets invited to all the Village and Vanity Fair parties.

  96. 96
    Mino says:

    @geg6: Yes, and I wonder when wages will begin to reflect the loss of employer contributions to invested pension benefits and healthcare benefits (soon to be disappearing). Not holding my breath, however.

  97. 97
    Bruce S says:

    Incidentally, from the stuff I’ve seen it appears that there is a major shift in the $30,000-$50,000 segment of white voters toward the GOP. So the biggest “white people” problem isn’t located among the truly low-income whites – it’s the group of whites who are in the lower rungs of the “middle class.” That – so far as I can tell, and again I’m not an expert – is where the locus of fundamentalism and racial/cultural resentment begins to kick in in a major way. Because that group can better afford to wallow in their own bullshit.

  98. 98
    Soonergrunt says:

    @Anoniminous: “The problem isn’t who they vote for. The problem is the vast majority don’t vote.”
    I don’t think it’s an either/or question, myself. If you got more Okies to vote, yes, you’d have (probably) proportionately more votes for Dems, but you’d still have a disproportionate vote for Reps because the rednecks know in their hearts that rich liberals despise them.

  99. 99
    jl says:

    @Anoniminous: Sadly, I agree with your point on the Democrats. Not sure where else anyone can go to try to change things, and stave off even worse, though.

  100. 100
    Mino says:

    @Anoniminous: You would be shocked to see how many positions are unopposed in deep red states. What is especially bad is the judicial slots just given to conservatives.

  101. 101
    Rob in CT says:

    @Bruce S:

    Because that group can better afford to wallow in their own bullshit.

    Actually, I think it’s more about a group that knows they are hanging on to middle-class status by the skin of their teeth, and are therefore easily scared.

    edit: say you are in such a precarious position. Then you are told that you are privileged, and privilege is bad. It’s a simple matter for the GOP to then assert that the Dems want to screw you over in favor of [insert favored group here]. Democrats do need to figure out how to effectively counter that.

  102. 102
    WJS says:

    @Rob in CT: I’m not missing the point. I don’t think the point was made at all.

    America is divided by class AND race. If America’s poor would learn to look past race and focus on class, there’d be no need to sugarcoat anything to privileged white males.

    One of the simplest aspects of white poverty is very easy to understand. As long as someone of color has it worse, poor whites feel “better” about themselves. At least, that is what the white elites seem to tell them when they blow that dog whistle right before election day.

  103. 103
    Anoniminous says:

    @Soonergrunt:

    It’s easier to Blame the Victims than do the hard work of organizing and mobilizing the peasants precincts, the hardest part being listening (*begads*) to what they’re saying and then doing something (*gasp*) about what they care about (*faint*).

  104. 104
    Bruce S says:

    @Rob in CT:

    But, in the context of actual impact of GOP policies on the lower middle-class, voting for the GOP out of “fear” or economic insecurity qualifies as bullshit. I also think this income level is a large cohort of the “Religious Right” voting bloc – the folks who go to mega-churches and vote on primacy of their “values.”

  105. 105
    FlipYrWhig says:

    Yeah, I don’t know if it’s “low-income white voters” who are the problem, but — though I don’t know if the stats back it up — rather the group someone (here? was it Anne Laurie?) called something like the one-truck small business owners. Those are the core of the Republican party: the aspirational lower-middle-class white person who sees himself as working as hard as he can and getting rooked anyway, whose dollars are being siphoned away to support Those People who are lazy and game the system. He might culturally identify as redneck or what have you, but he isn’t poor as measured by income.

  106. 106
    Rob in CT says:

    @Bruce S:

    Sure, I agree that it’s bullshit. The GOP sells a lot of bullshit. They’re very good at it. They’ve got a bunch of people with not much money convinced that Democrats want to take their money away and give it to shiftless black people. It’s bullshit, yes. I’m just arguing that it’s possible that certain folks are vulnerable to that bullshit because of fear (reasonable fear, just misdirected).

  107. 107
    Pen says:

    @Jay in Oregon: Way to reinforce Freddie’s point. Any discussion of privilege that treats class as inconsequential misses the point. Freddie’s covering a related point to the original article, on a topic that many liberal’s, like you, seem to automatically dismiss as if the millions of poor white’s in America should really care that their shit sandwich has marginally less shit in it than their black neighbor’s.

    Sorry, they don’t, that’s not how human nature works. Want to know why idiotic terms like “reverse racism” exist? It’s behavior like this, behavior that tells people to “Quit whining about being poor and one paycheck away from homelessness. Quit whining about always having to tell your children, ‘Sorry kid’s, maybe next Christmas Santa will bring you that present’. Your white so you can’t complain.”

    Well sorry but fuck that, and fuck anyone that says poor white’s should stay silent because other’s have it worse.

  108. 108
    Spaghetti Lee says:

    Open question: Is ‘privilege’ primarily a state of mind or a function of quantitative economic factors? There seems to be some disagreement about that bubbling below the conflicts in this thread.

  109. 109
    Anoniminous says:

    @jl:

    Ack & Roger. It’s the “Dem Way or the Highway” and here in “Deepest Red” New Mexico we are regularly shafted by the state and national organizations. I guess I keep at it because:

    1. I’m the dumbest m—–f—— on the planet
    2. See item 1

    (LOL)

    @Mino:

    Not shocked at all. After 15 years a state Democratic Party insider wandered out of Santa Fe to visit the hinterland and asked us if we thought running Dems for state and county positions in our area was a good idea.

    ?

    The incompetency of these cretins is amazing.

  110. 110
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Bruce S: I hadn’t seen this post from you while I was writing mine, but it synchs with my impressionistic ideas above.

  111. 111
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Rob in CT:

    Actually, I think it’s more about a group that knows they are hanging on to middle-class status by the skin of their teeth, and are therefore easily scared.

    That’s my suspicion as well. They just barely managed to drag themselves into the middle class, they have a hard time paying their mortgage and their car payment and they’re terrified that someone in the family will get seriously ill because, even though they have health insurance, they don’t have enough saved up to pay the deductible for a hospital stay.

    It’s very easy to terrify those people with the prospect of sliding back into poverty and losing the gains that they’ve made, especially if they go to a fire-and-brimstone church where any small action could be the one that takes you on the slide that leads directly to the fires of Hell.

    I don’t have any excuse for upper-class whites except that they’re IGMFY assholes.

    ETA: We’re all aware here that the Republican Party gets votes from frightened people, so it’s in their interests to make sure that people stay as scared as possible for as long as possible, right?

  112. 112
    WJS says:

    @Rob in CT: That, I agree with.

    The selling of this “bullshit” has been inordinately successful because of the absence of a working media in this country.

    Our “elites” aren’t good at anything. They’re stupid, insolent, and lazy. They think they know how to run things, but they can’t do anything right.

    But Freddie is absolutely right–this is about class. And the “ruling” class in this country is damned near as bad as the ruling class in England, and look how that’s turning out for them right now.

  113. 113
    CVS says:

    …many educated white liberals absolutely suck at talking about white poverty.

    Because, increasingly, being educated means they most likely were not born poor and do not have a handle on what it is like to be poor. Also, while most of the poor may be white, I suspect that most desperately poor are not. Even people who are white and poor may not be able to relate to being exceptionally poor.

  114. 114
    catclub says:

    @Spaghetti Lee: “poor whites are irretrievably conservative for the most part.”

    I do not think this is true. If it were, then the GOP would have stable majorities nationwide. They do not.

    All poor people vote more democratic than rich people.

    There may be more poor whites who vote with rich people than blacks or latinos, but while rich white people are overwhelmingly GOP while poor white people are not.

    Think of it like the military: officers are pretty much all GOP (but not quite),
    the enlisted are all types.

  115. 115
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Pen:

    Well sorry but fuck that, and fuck anyone that says poor white’s should stay silent because other’s have it worse.

    No one’s saying they have to stay silent. We’re pointing out that their anger is pointed in the wrong direction. It’s not the fault of the black guy down the road that the white guy’s kids don’t have Christmas presents, but apparently it’s easier to blame the “welfare cheats” than to blame the CEO that decided to close the town’s one factory and move everything to China so he could get a bigger bonus that year.

  116. 116
    Heliopause says:

    The metaphor is apt and clever,

    I don’t know how to break it to you, but an awful lot of straight white males don’t play online role-playing games. Many straight white males consider the equating of their lives to such a thing to be an insult. Many straight white males are sick and tired of being talked to like they’re in the 8-to-24 demographic. Many straight white males feel that if you can only explain a thing to them by analogizing it to some ephemeral aspect of pop culture then don’t bother at all.

  117. 117
    WJS says:

    @Mnemosyne:than to blame the CEO that decided to close the town’s one factory and move everything to China so he could get a bigger bonus that year Bain Capital.

    I like your version, but let’s take a shot at Romney just because we can.

  118. 118
    WJS says:

    @Mnemosyne:than to blame the CEO that decided to close the town’s one factory and move everything to China so he could get a bigger bonus that year Bain Capital.

    I like your version, but let’s take a shot at Romney just because we can.

  119. 119
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Brachiator:

    This sounds more like caste than class.

    I’m not sure there’s much difference in the US. We have a permanent underclass (undercaste?) that is distinguished by skin color, and no amount of education and wealth can completely erase that stigma.

    The example I often use is Spike Lee vs. my white best friend. If you stood both of them up in front of an audience and asked which one of them had been raised poor in Detroit (to the point where they were sometimes mugged for their groceries) and which one of them was raised in a nice middle-class home where Mom was a housewife, I guaran-damn-tee you that 90 percent of the people in that room would pick Spike as the person who grew up in Detroit and my blue-eyed, blonde friend as the one from a nice, middle-class home.

    Spike Lee was raised firmly middle class, and my friend was raised working-class (at best), but in this society, she has an automatic social edge because we make class assumptions based on race.

  120. 120
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Mnemosyne: That’s one that comes back to how people have learned to think about the label “hard-working.” The CEO works hard to make a buck, so his sins are venal but not mortal. But the “welfare cheat” doesn’t work hard, he just wants a handout, which makes his sins grievous.

    I haven’t heard the “young bucks buying T-bone steaks with welfare checks” line we mock here, but I _have_ heard, many times, “young mom uses food stamps but gets her hair and nails done all fancy.” The total money being squandered even in these fables is, like, $100, tops. But they’re the appropriate _kind_ of abuse to justify conservative policy.

  121. 121
    Rob in CT says:

    @WJS:

    Our “elites” aren’t good at anything. They’re stupid, insolent, and lazy. They think they know how to run things, but they can’t do anything right.

    This is something that lefties and righties agree upon, in my experience. They just draw entirely different conclusions from it.

    This is why it’s so important for Democrats to demonstrate they can govern well, and why it’s so fruitful for Republicans to prevent it (or force the Dems to spend all of their time fixing shit the GOP broke).

  122. 122
    hilzoy says:

    I don’t have a view about what Scalzi should have written. But I do in general think that class is one of the hardest boundaries to cross: virtually no men know no women, and vice versa; in a lot of parts of the country, blacks will meet whites will meet Asians will meet Hispanics, etc.; but it’s really much harder to move from a rich world into a poor one or vice versa, especially if you’re not just trying to do some horrible form of class tourism.

    But I think it’s incredibly important to try. I’ve had several stretches when I really had very little money, though it did in fact make all the difference in the world that if I had been run over by a truck or suffered some horrible disaster (that wasn’t my fault), I could absolutely count on my parents to help. That said, I am an obstinate person, and I was damned if I was going to try to discover whether or not they’d help out in the absence of catastrophe. (As I said, I do realize that having a choice about this matters enormously. This was not genuine poverty, any more than fasting is starving.)

    This is how I came to spend several months throwing the Tucson Citizen for a living ($400/month; I spent $200/month on rent, and throwing 4-500 papers a day does eat gasoline.) This is also how I spent 4-5 months working in the biker bar, how I took the job ironing shirts that led directly to my never having ironed anything at all since the day I quit, how I came to survive off thick-rinded fruits and vegetables that I picked up off the street in Jerusalem’s outdoor market because my stupid boss kept screwing up the paperwork that would have gotten me paid and the $10/week I got teaching guitar was not going to cut it, etc., etc.

    I learned an enormous amount during those times, especially in Tucson, where for maybe 8 months I don’t think any of my closest friends had finished high school, or had ever made more than, at the outside, $10/hour. (My closest friend at that time once looked at me in amazement and said: you believe in we came from apes and all that? I never met *anyone* who believed that. It was far, far away from Cambridge MA.)

    One of the things that hit me hardest was how very, very close to the edge everyone lived. Where I grew up, it was inconceivable that losing, say, a $20 bill could literally mean disaster: there were just too many people who had $20 extra, and who would give it to you if you really needed it and didn’t make a habit of asking, to make any $20 bill irreplaceable. Among my friends in Tucson, not having the $20 you were counting on could set off a cascade of catastrophe, involving the electricity being shut off, the car being repossessed, you and your family getting evicted, etc.

    Add to that the fact that a lot of people, especially (for whatever reason) the guys, just seemed to have married too young, and would periodically just throw up their hands, head off to a bar, and drink up all the rent money, and it was a genuinely scary life. Since, for whatever reason, this did seem to be a gendered thing in the group I hung out with, a lot of my female friends lived in serious fear a lot of the time, because even if they hadn’t lost that $20 bill yet, and even if (as many of them did) they hid the rent money to prevent this very thing from happening, there was no guarantee at all that it wouldn’t, and thus no guarantee that tomorrow would not bring serious disaster.

    To those of you who say: silly them for not voting Democratic: I’m sure that some of you have spent time in these parts of the social world, but those of you who haven’t should spend some time there, and listen to people. My sense, for what it’s worth, is that a lot of people are working very hard and trying their best to be responsible and to take care of themselves and their kids, and for whatever reason (Limbaugh? he’s on incessantly there, along with the other talk radio jocks), they seemed to identify Republicans as the party of people who try to be responsible, and the Democrats as the party of their meth-addicted screw-up siblings who are always asking the responsible ones for money they don’t have to spare.

    We need to change this, but just talking about how irrational they are doesn’t seem to me likely to help. The people I knew were, for the most part, doing their best, working several jobs, and taking care of their kids; they did not have a lot of time to read GAO reports or track down the facts behind what they hear on the news. Crossing class boundaries as often as we can, and being willing to really listen, strike me as a much better way. Plus, even if I weren’t interested in convincing people, these divisions are just horrible for a democracy, and we should do whatever we can to weaken them.

  123. 123
    Daulnay says:

    @Bruce S:
    Thank you for dumping a cold bucket of data onto the fire of discussion.

    I like BJ and the comments, but the sneering stuff about how the ignorant poor whites foolishly vote against their interests irritates me. It’s the Alexandra Pelosi/Bill Maher view of poor whites, and helps the GOP drive a wedge between poor religious whites and Democrats.

    The real problem is that we’ve had 30 years of ‘A Rising Tide’ and ‘trickle-down’ and ‘lets liberate the job-creators and everyone will get better’. All we have to show for it is an American Dream on life support, having been mugged by the kleptocrats. 30 years, most of my adult life, Americans have been in a zero-sum economic game, apart from the very richest. For every one of us who did better, someone else did worse, except at the very top where they skimmed off all the economic cream.

    It’s class war. The sooner everyone in our middle class notices, the healthier for our country.

  124. 124

    If you are a southern white republican, and want to hear something really scary?

    More and more Hispanics taking up citizenship in Dixie land, to at some point augmented by southern black democratic voters, to give Big Daddy a big birthright to rule problem in the land that Jefferson Davis once roamed around.

    And with the typical wingnut knee jerk, just pass draconian immigration laws that make it illegal to uncomfortable to exist with colored skin.

    We are not post racial. No wheres near it.

  125. 125
    Shawn in ShowMe says:

    @Bruce S:

    In fact, according to Thomas Edsall, “whites with incomes under $30,000 had favored Democrats by 15 points in 2008.”

    Whites WHERE with incomes under $30,000? Let’s look at the map …

  126. 126
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @hilzoy:

    the Democrats as the party of their meth-addicted screw-up siblings who are always asking the responsible ones for money they don’t have to spare.

    Well, that’s what’s so funny, not ha-ha funny but the other kind. The party that makes a systematic effort to provide resources for people who fall through the cracks gets tagged as the irresponsible, spendthrift party, while the one whose guiding principle is “Tough shit, not my problem” gets tagged as responsible and frugal.

    ETA: IOW, “I like those guys who won’t help me or anyone else, and I hate those guys who promise to help everyone else but me.”

  127. 127

    I like BJ and the comments, but the sneering stuff about how the ignorant poor whites foolishly vote against their interests irritates me.

    Well, I grew up white and poor in the south, and what irritates me are folks who want to turn away from reality, that are cold hard numbers and or knowledge from lived experience.

  128. 128
    Bruce S says:

    Geezus – of course there are regional difference. I don’t need to look at a map to know the obvious. But I offered facts about the trends related to income that quite a few of the commenters here appeared to be oblivious to.

  129. 129
    Anoniminous says:

    @hilzoy:

    FTW

  130. 130
    Pen says:

    @Mnemosyne: That’s a partial explanation of GOP voting among poor white’s but doesn’t relate to the subject I was discussing. My appologies if I was unclear. No, my issue is people like Jay, those who basically say “You’re white. Then shut up, we don’t care about your problems.”

    If we look at pure percentages non-white populations are obviously poorer and worse off economically than whites, but when we instead look at raw population as Freddie points out we cN see that millions of white’s are just as screwed. Telling them their privileged will just convince them we’re out to take what little they’ve managed to scrounge. And wouldn’t you know it, that’s exactly the tension the GOP has been so successful in exploiting.

    As other’s have pointed out poor white’s, those who mistakenly believe they’re actually middle class, don’t tend to be receptive to claims that they’re privileged. We talk about taxing the rich while at the same time many liberals rant about ‘white privilege’. To many poor people privilege isn’t an abstract, it’s just another word for money. The logic chain here isn’t hard, and when the poor (who think they’re not despite their fears) think you want to raise their taxes (which they can’t afford already) they’ll vote against you.

    I grew up extremely poor, this isn’t an abstraction for me. So trust me when I say that the worst thin liberals can do in this situation is tell millions of voters to sit sown, shut up, and learn their place. That’s not the intention, but that’s what they hear.

  131. 131
    Shawn in ShowMe says:

    @Bruce S:

    Incidentally, from the stuff I’ve seen it appears that there is a major shift in the $30,000-$50,000 segment of white voters toward the GOP.

    I saw your reference to whites with incomes below $30,000. What is your source for the voting patterns of whites in the 30,000 – 50,000 bracket? Is it greater than the 19 point swing cited for the former group?

  132. 132
    Mino says:

    @hilzoy: …they seemed to identify Republicans as the party of people who try to be responsible, and the Democrats as the party of their meth-addicted screw-up siblings who are always asking the responsible ones for money they don’t have to spare.

    Cripes, even poor folks can judge the difference between what you say and what you do. When has a Republican in living memory acted responsibly or, for that matter, admitted responsibility? There is something else going on.

  133. 133
    Bruce S says:

    Stuck in the Funhouse: “cold hard numbers” – the cold hard numbers using income as key indicator don’t support your belief that you know it all when it comes to poor whites. The South throws a regional indicator in. Yeah, adding that as an index gives a different set of statistics, no doubt. Just like adding “rural” vs. “urban” as an additional index undoubtedly yields a different set of statistics. Or “religious fundamentalist.” But the discussion here was about the economic cohort of “poor whites” – not “poor Southern whites” or “poor whites who attend church regularly.” Add another index and you can come up with varying results – because you have a smaller and more specific slice of the “low income whites” pool. This is sort of Sociology 101. My bad for discussing what we were apparently discussing and trying to bring some facts to bear, rather than giving primacy to grinding my particular ax. I could rave on about Evangelicals all day – and many of them undoubtedly fall into the lower income whites category – but that wasn’t what I thought was on the table.

  134. 134
    WJS says:

    @Pen:

    the worst thin liberals can do in this situation is tell millions of voters to sit sown, shut up, and learn their place. That’s not the intention, but that’s what they hear.

    And I just gotta say–Fuck You John Edwards.

    You had a chance to talk to white people about poverty, and how the Democratic Party is not there to take your money and give it to lazy people, and you had a chance to talk about what it is like to honestly and realistically find a way to climb out of the cellar, and you had to hook up and fuck it up.

    Yeah, I’m probably wrong and shrill, but fuck. What a lost opportunity.

  135. 135
    Shawn in ShowMe says:

    @catclub:

    @Spaghetti Lee: “poor whites are irretrievably conservative for the most part.”
    ………………..
    I do not think this is true. If it were, then the GOP would have stable majorities nationwide. They do not.

    Poor whites in the South and rural Midwest are irretrievably conservative for the most part. As long as they use each election as an opportunity to refight in the Civil War, it ain’t gonna change.

  136. 136
    Bruce S says:

    @Shawn in ShowMe:

    Pew data using the $50,000 cut-off that show an advantage for McCain in ’08. This is just my fumbling at interpreting varying statistics.

  137. 137
    Binky Bear says:

    @Both Sides Do It: That’s funny because the in-laws love nothing better than a dose of redneck comedy tour and that dingbat with the ventriloquist dummies of ethnic stereotypes. We’re just coming off a huge national gush of pretending that real America is Jeff Foxworthy and Larry the Never Was a Cable Guy, Branson crack.
    I’m pretty sure we can all tell from our liberal enclaves what the PWT enjoys.

  138. 138
    Mino says:

    @Pen: “You’re white. Then shut up, we don’t care about your problems.”

    Hello. Dems live to solve problems. What the hell do you think Obamacare was about? Foodstamps? Education? I could go on and on.

    Republicans seem to enjoy wrecking.

  139. 139
    Jay in Oregon says:

    @Pen:
    You’re making some really hairy assumptions about something I didn’t say.

    I wasn’t trying to dismiss the validity of what Freddie wanted to talk about, I was taking issue with the angle of taking an article John Scalzi wrote and finding fault with it for not discussing about what Freddie wanted to talk about. And casting some unwarranted aspersions towards Scalzi in doing so.

    I realize that having regular enough access to the internet that I can comment here says something about who I am and where I may sit on the socio-economic ladder, and that it’s trite to say “don’t assume you know me, because you don’t.”

    But really, you don’t know me, or how I do or don’t feel about white poverty.

  140. 140

    I really don’t give a shit about white man reports of personal angst, or neglect, or hurt fee fees. We have affirmative action in this country because the white population has run up a huge tab of oppression of minorities, mostly black minorities, that goes back centuries. And white butthurt over having that reality rubbed in their privileged faces, is not an impressive sight to see.

    White people who vote stupidly against their own best interests, will never change unless you smack them up side the head with the truth that they are mired in a legacy of white supremacy from cradle to grave, that many or most can’t begin to articulate to themselves. And it is killing them (the country as well) and their chances for rising out of the poverty and prejudice that rules their economic and social world. You can’t eat hate or stupid, and it is not easy nor painless the extraction from generations of bequeathed poverty for southern whites. And also to a degree elsewhere in the country.

  141. 141
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Mino: Republicans talk about cutting off moochers, cutting spending, giving you back your hard-earned money… that’s the _rhetoric_ of responsibility that hardworking white lower-middle-class people often rather like, because it chimes with the way they think they run their lives. Republicans cut people off, Democrats cut people checks. Republicans get tough, Democrats are softies. Republicans work harder, Democrats whine. You hear these things constantly. It’s a whole moral/ethical vision.

  142. 142
    daveNYC says:

    My personal take on ‘white privilege’ is that it is poorly named. Privilege always makes me think that a person is getting something handed to them, and for the vast majority of people they’re not actually getting anything handed to them, it’s that they’re not getting shit dumped on them like the various non-white types are. Of course ‘lucky to be white, because black people manage to get even more screwed over’ is a tad long to just throw into conversations.
    Dunno, I wish there were some better way to convey the relative advantages that being white brings, without having the language seem to imply that being white is automatically awesome.

  143. 143
    Brachiator says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    I’m not sure there’s much difference in the US. We have a permanent underclass (undercaste?) that is distinguished by skin color, and no amount of education and wealth can completely erase that stigma.
    __
    Spike Lee was raised firmly middle class, and my friend was raised working-class (at best), but in this society, she has an automatic social edge because we make class assumptions based on race.

    But here is why it is caste, not class. America doesn’t just make class assumptions based on race. In the past it made legal distinctions based on race and obliterated class as far as black people were concerned. So, for example, restrictive covenants said that Nat King Cole, no matter how much fame and money he had, could not buy a home in the Hancock Park area of Los Angeles.

    There are homes in the Crenshaw district, in Windsor Hills, etc, that are larger, with better vistas, etc, than many homes in Beverly Hills, and yet many white people would never consider living there because the area is black, and a white person living there would conciously lose status.

    They would become less white. This is just about assumptions made about black people and other groups. It is about the deliberate maintenance of privilege, and the deliberate denial of equal status to blacks and Latinos.

    Also, oddly, there are white people of all ideological persuasions who have trouble even imagining non-disadvantaged blacks and Latinos, unless they are celebrities or athletes. In their imaginations blacks and most Latinos are always viewed as their social inferiors, even if the black person were a Spike Lee.

    This reminds me of a story that Salma Hayek used to tell. She had only been in the US a short time, and she was walking out of a restaurant with a Hollywood producer after meeting about a film role. All the parking lot attendants immediately started to surround her and ask her for her autograph, since she was then very well known in Mexico as an actress in novellas. The producer at first didn’t understand what was happening, but then became upset at being upstaged by a Mexican woman whose status here was higher than his.

  144. 144
    Mino says:

    @FlipYrWhig: Republicans cut checks to a different set, that’s for sure.

  145. 145

    @Bruce S:

    LOL, nope. You said something false and stupid and got slammed for it. And now are whining with a bunch of stale pseudo intellectual gibberish you specialize in. Economic ‘cohort’, or whatever that means for poor people – should not be without including the most politically and economically dysfunctional region in the country. You should have stopped with ‘i’m not an expert’, that in this case, not having a clue what the fuck you are talking about. I didn’t pile back on, but you insist on writing smarmy snobbish comments like this one addressed to moi’.

  146. 146
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Stuck in the Funhouse: I dunno. From one perspective their vision of material interests checks out fairly simply: they vote for the party that promises to let them keep more of the money they make, and that promises to make sure the share they _do_ have to give up doesn’t go to lazy, undeserving people. That’s “material,” it’s just narrow.

  147. 147
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Mino: I know that, but do you ever hear Republicans admit that? I mean, we’ve kicked around on the blog many times how often someone who is, say, an employee of a defense contractor will _still_ talk about how the government doesn’t do squat to create jobs, should cut back, etc. To Republicans in this stratum we’re talking about, Republicans are always the earners, and Democrats are always the looters and moochers.

  148. 148
    Soonergrunt says:

    @Stuck in the Funhouse: You just proved Freddie’s point.
    Good job!

  149. 149

    @FlipYrWhig:

    that promises to let them keep more of the money they make, and that promises to make sure the share they do have to give up doesn’t go to lazy, undeserving people. That’s “material,” it’s just narrow.

    That’s the illusion the wingnuts sell, but it is an illusion. There are many other ways to maintain a sizable group mired in poverty and degrees of servitude to the wealthy. One is by stoking bigotry, another surppressing unions. Another is taking away any number of workplace and social rights, and civil rights, to further increase the dependency on the ruling wealthy elite.

    You don’t have to look any further than the re distribution of blue state wealth to poor red states. It is an aristocratic mindset borne in the south, with southern
    GOP leaders running that party now, and trying to install the same two class system in the rest of the country. They may offer a few bread crumbs, after they with hold the loaf. They are about stealing labor to make themselves richer, and assigning everyone else to the whims of the company store.

  150. 150
    Paula says:

    I will say this from reading lefty blogs/forums: a lot of people who talk about how people in the Democratic Party or those who vote for them aren’t “left” enough are less likely to understand the connection with being well-informed and being a supporter of progressive policy. They whine about the lack of solidarity around “true” leftist policy without asking where or how to build a strong constituency around it.

    That’s definitely a function of class privilege as funneled through increased education (not necessarily meaning “college educated”, but educated enough to follow news, know history, and have a critical eye about what the media and the major parties are feeding us).

  151. 151
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Stuck in the Funhouse: We both know it’s an illusion, but it’s a powerful illusion that doesn’t get negated by something as simple as the truth.

    And IMHO it’s not well-characterized as “voting against their own interests” because it can be made to look and sound a lot like a way to _protect_ their material interests, i.e., their hard earned money.

  152. 152

    @Soonergrunt:

    You just proved Freddie’s point.
    Good job!

    Really? how so? please explain, as I am not completely sure what Freddie’s point was.

  153. 153
    Soonergrunt says:

    @Stuck in the Funhouse: His point was that white middle and upper class liberals can’t connect to the issues of poor white people and as such have great difficulty in dealing with poor white people and their issues, often to the extent of feeling and expressing contempt for those same poor white people.

  154. 154
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    @FlipYrWhig:

    Republicans talk about cutting off moochers, cutting spending, giving you back your hard-earned money… that’s the rhetoric of responsibility that hardworking white lower-middle-class people often rather like, because it chimes with the way they think they run their lives. Republicans cut people off, Democrats cut people checks. Republicans get tough, Democrats are softies. Republicans work harder, Democrats whine. You hear these things constantly. It’s a whole moral/ethical vision.

    __
    Reps are Social Darwinists, they see the world as a zero-sum game at best. Nobody can win without somebody else losing. While that may be false at a macro-economic level, it is a good fit with the lived experience of folks in the lower-middle class, because their micro-economic struggles are dominated by crises like the husband/boyfriend spent the rent money on boozing and cruising which hilzoy mentioned up above. To them the world is a dog-eat-dog place filled with struggle between people who are peers or nearly so (the Big Mansion is over the next hill and out of sight so to speak), and the GOP speaks that language of fear and resentment, fluently.

  155. 155
    300baud says:

    Late to the party, but let me pile on:

    Jesus, Freddie. As a blogger you should know that one post does not and cannot represent the sum total of everything the poster has ever or will ever think.

    If you want a better post on a topic, write it yourself. Being sniffy that other people fail to use their podiums precisely the way you want is ridiculous, especially when you have a perfectly good high-traffic platform of your own.

  156. 156
    Bruce S says:

    @Stuck in the Funhouse:

    No, actually you said the false and stupid stuff. You narrowed the category under the discussion, as sleight of hand, to make it alld all about your particular hobby horse. If you want to have that disucussion, fine. But you’re changing the subject to regional voting patterns, not economic. If you can’t comprehend my response, you shouldn’t try to converse with adults. You haven’t slammed shit – except your head against the wall.

  157. 157
    Mino says:

    @Paula: Unions were wonderful disseminators of class consciousness to the working people. That is why they had to be shut up and closed down. Is labor history even taught in elementary school any more? If so, I’d say not for long.

  158. 158

    @FlipYrWhig:

    , but it’s a powerful illusion that doesn’t get negated by something as simple as the truth.

    If the truth doesn’t work, then what do you suggest. Drum circles?

    The problem with the south goes way beyond any kind of rational analysis, that has roots that run back centuries. Deep roots of white supremacy, that only raw truth and a lot of deprivation might cure. But I am skeptical anything can be done, short of another civil war of sorts, and this time sticking with the reconstruction. This isn’t intellectual stuff, it is learned heritage made of reinforced steel.

  159. 159
    Michael Finn says:

    @Stuck in the Funhouse:

    That by denying a pain exists in a population, you then are either minimalize it and telling them that it doesn’t matter (very conservative) or tell them it doesn’t exist and it’s all in their minds. That’s not a good communication strategy if you are political party or even a political ideology. Y

    Being poor sucks for everybody. Saying that you don’t care about one segment of the population because you don’t agree with their politics pretty much is telling the other side that they can have them. Waiting for them to change to your point of view on things isn’t going to work, nothing will until you go down and confront their fears and pain.

  160. 160
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    @ThatLeftTurnInABQ:

    While that may be false at a macro-economic level

    __
    And I’m going to qualify my own comment: seeing as how all but a pittance of our economic growth since 1979 has gone to the upper 20%, if you are in the lower 80% then the economy is a zero-sum game.
    __
    The GOP has been strong since the early 1980s because their economic policies and their chosen cultural narrative interlock and reinforce each other. They’ve portrayed our society as a Social Darwinist hellhole and then used the power of the govt to make it so.

  161. 161
    Another Halocene Human says:

    Freddie,

    I think your analysis is wrongly, and horrifically so. I think you probably have been called out already on this thread which is 150 messages long already.

    My two bits:

    CLASS

    Yes, class is important. There is a bias among some wealthier more privileged people to see their world in class terms and see class as a proxy for worthiness. They truly believe that poor people deserve to be poor and are exercised about racial discrimination because it’s keeping worthy people who should be rich and educated and privileged like them down. They reject the notion of racial science but believe in their own fantasy of morally worthy, hard-working, educated, intelligent, empathetic privileged people and stupid, superstitious, vicious, lazy people who deserve what they get.

    This sort of attitude is common in other parts of the world but rarely gets expressed in the United States because the racial ideology was so successful in out-shouting the class narrative. Btw, the class narrative I would say springs up on its own over and over again, whereas the race narrative must be cultivated by the craven by instilling fear, paranoia, doubt.

    Remember: hipsters are smug, white supremacists think they’re under siege (and will take steps to fulfill that self-fulfilling prophesy).

    EDUCATION

    Freddie, Freddie, Freddie. Attempt after attempt has been made to address the education crisis in white schools in impoverished districts, but those districts don’t seem to want to be “helped”. While it’s glib of me to reduce a complex issue to a few sentences, I think there’s some value in the overview here. TPTB tried to introduce better science education. Bible-believing Christians, starting with populist icon William Jennings Bryant, declared war. TPTB tried to improve math education. Parents and teachers rebelled against “new math” and ridiculed it, and schools ended up returning to old methods. TPTB tried to teach critical thinking skills to young students (teach the kids to fish instead of giving them a fish). Bible-believing authoritarian fuck-off parents threw a shit-fit and started the home-skooling movement. TPTB tried putting more money into local schools and improving education for students with disabilities and they attempted to integrate school districts to combine resources. White flight ensued, with special “Christ-stain” private sk00lz (note: no real learning occurs inside) popping up to avoid integration with
    them nears or those awful r*t*rd*d kids, which has now culminated with voucher programs to defund public schools in order to siphon that money into scam charter schools.

    I have never seen an African-American or Hispanic community rise up and fight a school improvement initiative that benefited their kids, but I’m willing to be proven wrong, Freddie.

    All of America would be improved by reducing poverty, but conservatives killed that by reactivating the racist meme, see: campaigns, presidential, reagan, ronald w. All of America would be improved by reducing the sway of superstition and hatred, but good luck with that when babies are starving and everyone’s looking for someone to either kick or blame.

    TALKING ABOUT PRIVILEGE AND RACE

    What really needs to happen is to educate poor and working-class white men about privilege. About the privilege they have and don’t see, and the privilege the rich man uses to keep them down and keep them divided from their Latino and Black brothers and from their sisters of every race. When you understand the structure of privilege you are given a window into the true workings of power. Rich whites don’t want to have that conversation with the unprivileged whites because whites might question why it’s so great to be white when they are so poor. It sounds paradoxical, but it’s easier for them now to claim to be the victim (implicitly: I’m owed b/c I’m white and white is right) and complain that Blacks and Hispanics are getting special treatment by TPTB and playing the race card. It’s the politics of resentment. Understanding what white privilege is and is not (it’s not “having connections to get jobs”, and yes I’ve heard this claimed–THAT’S FUCKING CLASS PRIVILEGE) dispels this death-cult fantasy and empowers working class families to fight for their interests.

  162. 162

    @Soonergrunt:

    My contempt was largely for whites who complain about their lot in life, born into white privilege. The part about southern poor whites, is personal, having come from that stock, and knowing that the only thing that might work, is confronting them with their voting behavior stemming from centuries of white supremacy birthright, rather than some notion of white liberal therapy to straighten them out. It ain’t south Boston down there.

    I personally think it’s a lost cause, and those folks are being exactly the way they want to be, most of them. Some escape and end up in the SW desert.

  163. 163
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Stuck in the Funhouse: Narratives and counter-narratives work. But explaining to people that what they believe isn’t actually true really doesn’t, alas, tend to work insofar as changing what they believe.

    ETA: Or, what you said at the end: “This isn’t intellectual stuff, it is learned heritage made of reinforced steel.” That’s also why the truth doesn’t beat it.

  164. 164

    @Michael Finn:

    I grew up in the dark hollows of Appalachia. So spare me the ‘I should go there’ lecture. And I don’t think I said I did not care about them as human beings. Just their politics and stupid self defeating voting habits. Nor the utility of providing them liberal therapy in lieu of some tough love, or blunt talk. That is the language they speak. Believe me.

  165. 165
    Mino says:

    @ThatLeftTurnInABQ: They’ve portrayed our society as a Social Darwinist hellhole and then used the power of the govt to make it so.

    Amen.

    But they might be sorry for getting their wish. It wouldn’t take much more to be thrown into the 30’s. And what makes them think their hired guns could handle the problem to their advantage this time?

    A short overview:http://www.encyclopedia.com/do.....01229.html

  166. 166
    Michael Finn says:

    @Another Halocene Human: So your plan is set down poor working whites and tell them that other people have it worse because of something that’s out of their control as well?

    Somehow I don’t think that’s going to work out the way you think it is. That would be like going up to a mother who’s kid just died in a car wreck and saying, “Hey, at least the smart one didn’t die.”

  167. 167

    @Bruce S:

    Oh Bruce, you are such a weeny.

  168. 168

    @FlipYrWhig:

    Narratives and counter-narratives work.

    “This isn’t intellectual stuff, it is learned heritage made of reinforced steel.” That’s also why the truth doesn’t beat it.

    So you want to talk to them, but just keep a lid on telling them the truth

  169. 169
    Original Lee says:

    Terry Pratchett said it best: crab bucket. That’s the attitude many poor whites have towards upward mobility. People have their pride, and they just know they’re better people because, well, they’re just the right sort of people and have standards ‘n’ stuff.

  170. 170
    Michael Finn says:

    @Stuck in the Funhouse

    I wasn’t accusing you anything let alone going into your background. I was pointing out that by communicating like you don’t care about them as human beings, and yes feelings are apart of being human, then you are reinforcing their world view.

  171. 171
    the fugitive uterus says:

    Oppressed whites don’t know they are being oppressed nor the identity of their oppressors. Not really. One obvious reason is that American culture and advertising is predominately dominated by, and steeped in, white people.

    It is their religion. They don’t want to know. I don’t know why.

  172. 172
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Stuck in the Funhouse: Um, I guess we’re getting bogged down in “the truth.” Maybe it would be better if I had said “facts.” You can tell the truth with stories and fables and analogies, as opposed to trying to tell the truth with facts, e.g., about which states get most aid money from the federal government. If I had a good example of a liberal counter-story to the conservative story, I’d build a campaign on it and together we could rule the galaxy.

  173. 173
    Bruce S says:

    @Stuck in the Funhouse:

    You’ve got your head up your ass. Pretty pathetic.

  174. 174
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @the fugitive uterus: White conservatives think that they’re being oppressed by the government, which is in cahoots with welfare-dependent black people, illegal immigrants, surly public employees, stuck-up bitches, and Hollywood.

  175. 175
    Paula says:

    @Mino:

    My understanding is that unless you have a very special history teacher, most history in public schools is still very much about the Great (often White) Men. This is why Howard Zinn’s book is still pretty important, no?

    Ignorance of poor/working class peoples’ history is very much behind the systematic trashing of unions that have been going on since forever, and also behind the current vogue of anti-regulatory sentiment.

    I just took a trip to New York City and took a walking tour with the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. We already went down that Randian stretch of expanding industry without restriction and it wasn’t good for most people.

  176. 176

    @Michael Finn:

    I was pointing out that by communicating like you don’t care about them as human beings, and yes feelings are apart of being human, then you are reinforcing their world view.

    Stop misinterpreting what I said. I don’t care about whites who whine about how tough they have it. In general, rich, poor, liberal, conservative. I said nothing about not caring about them as human beings, and I don’t know how you could possibly deal with changing that without telling them the stark truth about their voting habits and the effects of that voting on their economic self interest. I don’t want them taken off of welfare or any other social safety net, no matter how they vote, nor any other reason. I do want them to face the negative effect on them economically, from voting republican. I say this as likely one of the poorest commenters on this blog. You can find serenity even while poor, but poor AND stupid, not so much.

  177. 177

    @FlipYrWhig:

    I assure you, Flip, my version of the truth includes the fax, just the fax. No fairy tales.

  178. 178

    @Bruce S:

    Go ahead, take the last word. From the spirit of generosity.

  179. 179
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Stuck in the Funhouse: Fairy tales whup facts every day of the week and, ahem, twice on Sunday.

  180. 180
    Pen says:

    Re: Jay, my apologies for presuming your position and motive for commenting. I believe Freddie commented on his use of this particular Scalzi post and not another, so I’ll leave that to him. I’ll redirect my comment instead to @Another Halocene Human, because they fit the bill nicely.

    Another Halocene Human: “What really needs to happen is to educate poor and working-class white men about privilege. About the privilege they have and don’t see […]”

    This is what I was talking about, and AHA doesn’t get it. Oh they think they do, and they think they’re dispensing sage advice, but all they’re really accomplishing is to tell someone that their skin color gives them a privilege. I’ll repeat a line from earlier: poor whites don’t care if their shit sandwich is smaller than someone elses.

    People who are struggling through life don’t care about nuance when it comes to their livelihood, all they hear is a combination of “tax the rich” and “white privilege”. Is it any wonder that the TEA party started up? Yes I realize that the tea party was an astroturf movement in the beginning and that the idiots didn’t know what teabagging meant, but the slogan “taxed enough already” has legs and there’s a reason for that. It’s a BS narrative that convinces the poor to fight against their interest, but it’s a successful play on peoples fears and telling them their privileged while they struggle to make the car payment doesn’t bloody well help.

    So which is it AHA? Is “white privilege” a state of mind or a state of economic advantage? Those are two separate arguments and I can guarantee you only stand a chance of winning one of them.

  181. 181
    Brachiator says:

    @the fugitive uterus:

    Oppressed whites don’t know they are being oppressed nor the identity of their oppressors

    People who are getting kicked in the ass genereally know who’s wearing the boot. Doesn’t matter their race, creed, gender or color.

  182. 182
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Pen: Actually, as Scalzi used it, it is the fact that, at any given SES level, the straight white male is advantaged in society over those members of the same SES level who are not straight, white, and/or male. Also, I would say this privilege has been internalized by the straight white males at each SES level.

    Am I going to win over an unemployed SWM with a family to feed by telling him this? Probably not. Is it nonetheless true? I believe it is.

  183. 183
    FlipYrWhig says:

    @Brachiator: I don’t think that’s true at all. If it were, the Fox News-loving woman who cuts my hair wouldn’t say things like that rich people should pay less in taxes because they earned it, but poor people should get fewer benefits because they abuse them. She feels a boot but thinks the Democrats are wearing it because they let freeloaders milk the system and stick people like her with the bill.

  184. 184
    jrg says:

    @Stuck in the Funhouse: An Asian person stole my wallet. I think I’ll go beat the shit out of another Asian person.

    Moron.

  185. 185

    @jrg:

    What are you talking about?

  186. 186

    @jrg:

    An Asian person stole my wallet. I think I’ll go beat the shit out of another Asian person.

    This sounds like something a right winger would say? would that be you?

  187. 187
    shorterfreddie says:

    Shorter Freddie- don’t talk about white privilege EVER even in ONE post, unless you also talk about how bad poor white peiple have it, and how they’ve been negglected for so long because people only care about non-white poverty. Why not also go the Walter Benn Michaels route – don’t write any literature about race, or slaverym or the Holocaust, because CLASS in the only important thing in the world.

  188. 188
  189. 189
    BattleCat says:

    All you guys talk about Straight White Privilege, but what about Gay White Privilege?

    I’m pretty sure that Gay + White > Gay + Black any day of the week.

  190. 190
    Pen says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: True though it may be, and I certainly won’t argue the point, it remains true that it does little good to tell someone who’s suffering that they’re “privileged”. Maybe it’s just a problem of semantics, but privilege implies easy and the life many poor whites live is anything but. It’s a gut reaction so to belittle their suffering by demanding it not be included in the discussion, as often happens in ‘liberal’ circles, will make an enemy as sure as spitting in his eye.

    In my experience, dealing with right wing neighbors and relatives, deflecting the discussion away from any reference of race and towards the rich bastards that caused their problems in the first place tends to work a lot better. A mode of thinking tends to take over when you’re struggling to survive, and it’s best summed up by one of my favorite characters in all of fiction: “I look out for me and mine. That don’t include you ‘less I conjure it does.” It’s better to work with it, to recognize that base impulse, than any attempt at “consciousness raising” people like AHA so often try.

    @Stuck in the Funhouse: Seriously Stuck, don’t you see the problem with the optics of the following statement?

    I don’t care about whites who whine about how tough they have it. In general, rich, poor, liberal, conservative. I said nothing about not caring about them as human beings, and I don’t know how you could possibly deal with changing that without telling them the stark truth about their voting habits and the effects of that voting on their economic self interest.

    That right there is what I’m talking about. We get that you care about them as human beings, that you want them to change and feel like a tough love honesty talk is the only way to get them to do so, but “I don’t care about whites who whine”? Really? You think statements like that don’t instantly get you rated as an enemy to any poor white person listening to you? You really think they’ll care one bit what you have to say after a lead-in like that?

  191. 191
    jrg says:

    @Stuck in the Funhouse:

    We have affirmative action in this country because the white population has run up a huge tab of oppression of minorities, mostly black minorities, that goes back centuries

    If you can’t see the similarity between this quote of yours and my mocking reply, you are truly an imbecile.

  192. 192

    @Pen:

    “I don’t care about whites who whine”? Really? You think statements like that don’t instantly get you rated as an enemy to any poor white person listening to you? You really think they’ll care one bit what you have to say after a lead-in like that?

    Can you read? I specifically stated my ‘don’t care for’ figure of speech was not directed at poor whites, but all white people who complain about how tough it is being white out there these days. Most are republicans, but some are white liberals as well, from time to time. Had little to do with my commentary about how we should speak to poor white folk.

    I mean, just the other day I told my poor white self, never to vote for republicans because they will steal what little I have. And my poor white self answered back, ‘good decision’.

  193. 193

    @jrg:

    If you can’t see the similarity between this quote of yours and my mocking reply, you are truly an imbecile.

    Imbecile? could be. Why don’t you describe what you mean, and humor this imbecile. I do know what you mean, I think. But it would be nice for you to spell it out for all the readers out there, instead of speaking in tongues. Or are you a common chickenshit?

  194. 194
    Pen says:

    @Stuck in the Funhouse: I can read just fine Stuck, and what I’m reading is a commenter who continually sticks their foot in their mouth. You didn’t say you don’t care about “white people who complain about how tough it is being white”, you said you don’t care about “white people who whine about how tough they have it”.

    Whining is what children do. When you tell someone they’re whining you’re telling them to be quiet, that their problem isn’t of significance. Do you not see the difference? You may have been talking about racial malcontents in your initial comment but, if so, maybe you should have said that in the first place.

    As far as your repartee with jrg? Let’s break it down. First you said this:

    We have affirmative action in this country because the white population has run up a huge tab of oppression of minorities, mostly black minorities, that goes back centuries. And white butthurt over having that reality rubbed in their privileged faces, is not an impressive sight to see.

    The first bolded section is what jrg’s “an asian stole my wallet” quip was in response to. You’re implying that the ENTIRE white population, regardless of ancestry or history, shares an “original sin” of oppression against minorities, based on nothing more than the color of their skin. So when jrg jokes that they’re going to beat an asian because another one stole their wallet they’re using your same original sin logic. I mean, if blaming a white person for past oppression by other white people is ok what, exactly, is wrong with blaming an asian person for stealing their wallet because the original thief was also asian?

    As for the second bolded line, where to even begin? “Butthurt”… “rubbed in their privileged faces”… Really? Affirmative action is a precarious attempt to balance socioeconomic injustices, not some sort of sadistic punishment. Your language though? All you’re going to get is a big “fuck you too buddy” if you say that in public. And considering the topic of this thread I’ll be the first to do it.

  195. 195

    @Pen:

    So you’re a butthurt white liberal person. Apparently with a galloping case of the vapors, cuz people aren’t talking nice enough and the right way to suit you. Welcome to Balloon Juice, it is worse than it seems.Now go fuck yourself with jrg’s racist dick

    Your comment can be found on any right wing blog, it is just more ugly on a liberal one.

    I don’t care about whiny whites like you. There, I said it again. Po babies

  196. 196
    Pen says:

    @Stuck in the Funhouse: Keep digging dipshit. Maybe if you do it long enough the point’ll hit you on the ass because you sure as hell seem incapable ofetting it. Do nything but go over your head.

  197. 197
    Rob in CT says:

    @Stuck in the Funhouse:

    Pen is correct. This is a honey vs. vinegar thing.

    Pen is counselling honey – or at least less vinegar. You respond by spraying piss vinegar around.

    Also, too: Pen is not whining. Pen is suggesting you don’t tell poor white people who are struggling in life that they are all whiny assholes who have it so good. Yes, they likely have it better than a poor minority, etc, etc. And such concepts can be introduced at some point. But if all you have is “shut up you goddamned whiner” then you will not reach them.

  198. 198

    @Pen:

    Shorter pig pen — Look at ME, I’m white and IMPO(r)TENT!!. Take you whiny entitlement and stuff it.

  199. 199

    @Rob in CT:

    Apparently, you are reading impaired as well. What I said on this thread concerning poor white southerners who vote republican, is simply TO STOP VOTING REPUBLICAN against your own economic interest. The whining is from dumbass white liberals, in this case on a blog, that tell us to ignore white privilege and don’t speak it cause it hurts white feelings and makes people uncomfortable talking about it. And could lead to voting republican, which is already the case.

  200. 200
    Soonergrunt says:

    @Stuck in the Funhouse:

    What I said on this thread concerning poor white southerners who vote republican, is simply TO STOP VOTING REPUBLICAN against your own economic interest.

    Great. Go out there and tell them that, absent dealing with the fact that they’re fucking poor and struggling and do it with the contempt with which most of your comments on this thread have been dripping, and see how far that gets you.

  201. 201

    @Soonergrunt:

    Great. Go out there and tell them that, absent dealing with the fact that they’re fucking poor and struggling and do it with the contempt with which most of your comments on this thread have been dripping, and see how far that gets you.

    And what do you intend to do, to change their minds? Tell them it’s okay to keep voting republican, as well as resent minorities, and embrace all the other horseshit fed to them by republicans. That that will end their poverty. You have no idea what you are talking about.

    The only contempt I have on this thread, is for jackwads like you and Pen, and the rest, who suck up to liberal denial of what is happening, and ignore reality to spare feelings of fellow white people. Your contempt is dripping with white butthurt.

    Or is this some kind of front pager rescue of a fellow front pager?

  202. 202
    Rob in CT says:

    @Stuck in the Funhouse:

    You seem to be reading something I’m not reading. Namely: “stop talking about privilege.”

    I don’t see people saying that. I think it’s important to talk about privilege – I’m glad people do. I’ve certainly learned something b/c of it and it’s part of what made me into a liberal (having grown up in a house with pictures of St. Ronaldus, and Rush on the radio). It’s just that you might want to be careful about it is all. Honey/vinegar. TACTICS.

    The point isn’t to spare the feelings of white people for the sake of sparing their feelings. It’s to reach them in the first place, and try to convince them to stop voting GOP.

  203. 203

    @Rob in CT:

    Ronaldus, and Rush on the radio). It’s just that you might want to be careful about it is all. Honey/vinegar. TACTICS.

    The only tactics I am proposing, is tell them the fucking truth concerning their votes for republicans/ And again, for the umpteenth time, the piss and vinegar of mine you speak of in this thread, is directed at non poor whites not wanting to speak the truth plainly, not at the poor for being poor.

  204. 204
    Rob in CT says:

    You keep saying “speak the truth plainly” but it’s not at all clear what that means, other than yelling “stop voting Republican, you idiots!”

    Yes, I know: voting GOP, when non-rich, is self-defeating from an economic standpoint (I’d argue it’s ultimately self-defeating for the rich as well, but that’s in the really long run and in the long run we’re all dead and stuff).

    That’s true, and pointing it out will get a certain amount of votes. If you can make a positive case for liberalism that resonates with poor/middle-class white people’s experiences, however, more votes might be attainable. The trick is doing that w/o catering to racism, sexism, etc.

    I don’t actually know how to do that, since I’m not a political messaging genius (and also I grew up with money and thus have no experience of my own to draw from).

    Are you claiming that liberals have *not* been telling this truth? I’m a little confused.

  205. 205
    Pen says:

    Holy crap did that last comment of mine get mangled, sorry about that. Stupid iphone.

  206. 206

    @Rob in CT:

    Are you claiming that liberals have not been telling this truth? I’m a little confused.

    LOL, Ironic. This entire thread is testament to liberals wanting to avoid the truth, or not speak it in mixed company. How do you tell a poor white person other than truthfully, that their race and class resentment, largely born of notions inherited white privilege, that is a main reason they remain poor, by voting for republicans that validate those toxins, while stealing everything that isn’t nailed down. From everyone, white, black, brown, etc…

  207. 207
    Rob in CT says:

    @Stuck in the Funhouse:

    Ok, you know what, I’m going to stop arguing with you about messaging. We agree on almost everything. We disagree on how best to reach a particular group of voters.

  208. 208

    @Rob in CT:

    We disagree on how best to reach a particular group of voters.

    I don’t know how we disagree with how to reach a particular group of voters, in this case poor southern whites that vote republican. Since you nor anyone else on this thread has actually proposed a plan to ‘reach’ this group of voters. Other than to call me shrill, or ‘dripping with contempt’ for the proposition of telling the truth to this group. So there is no debate on this, other than Stuck is a raspy asshole. Well, duh. That is another long confirmed truth.

  209. 209

    […] Balloon-Juice, I found this excellent essay by John Scalzi on using videogames as an illustration to talk to […]

  210. 210
    Dr. Teeth says:

    @CVS: Poverty is also psychological. Being poor, desperately or not, leaves a psychological mark that can affect one’s aspirations. Seems to be a lot of truth in what you said, though.

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