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On Rural White People

I’m the only one I know who predicted Trump could win this thing.  I think it might have been because I was his target demographic, a poor white person who lost his livelihood to outsourcing.  I was ran out of the suburban area I went to college in due to disability and forced to live in a town of ~500 where there were no jobs except a janitor one (which after years finally swallowed my pride and took).  This is when I started working remote for outsourcing wages since there weren’t any local clients, something I continue to do to this day even after having moved away from that town eight years ago.  So I understand where Trump supporters are coming from.  Some thoughts:

White privilege doesn’t really help the majority of rural white people all that much.  Our media is urban centric and focuses on the white people whose white privilege has gotten them all kinds of amazing things but generally those people had wealth and connections in addition to whiteness.  White privilege dosn’t feel like it confers any benefit at all for the average rural poor white.  This is because for these people white privilege is experienced not as additive but as non subtractive.  Yes, things would be worse if they were a different race but they are already very bad and it would take a ton of introspection or thousands of dollars of therapy (which they don’t have) to see how they could be worse.  Also drug sentencing in rural areas is actually worse for all races than it is in the city so some white guy busted cooking meth and thrown in the slammer for 15 years is not really feeling the “white privilege” thing.  Also, in small towns, getting any job above janitorial or food service depends on your connection to the few families that control most of the wealth in your town.  Most poor whites don’t fare much better than minorities in pleasing these families.  The flip side of white privilege is that when we fail, it’s all on us.  We get no sympathy from the culture or the media.  Poor whites are one of the remaining groups it’s OK to make fun of.

Poor rural whites are sick of condescension and contempt from the elites.  It doesn’t appear to them that the people occupying most of the surface area of the country might have something of value to say.  Polite society bemoans the rise of the alt right without realizing it’s serving a demographic everybody else seemed to have forgotten.  I don’t agree with much the alt right has to say but I do agree with them that the elite are arrogant.  It might not be something that is politically correct to say but it’s true.  We talk to them but they don’t respond and aren’t willing to “stoop to our level”.  Political correctness is a blessing but can interfere with honest, forthright discussion.  For example, frank and honest discourse on race that goes beyond 140 characters is messy and often involves a lot of political incorrectness.  It’s like sausage being made, not pretty at all and sometimes produces bad results.  But being forthright about one’s racism (which is verboten in the culture at large) is the only way a poor white is going to make any progress away from it.  For example, the state’s denial of the Medicaid expansion of Obamacare.  If people were more forthright about it being so the poor blacks wouldn’t get healthcare maybe a lot of the poor whites would have seen through the logic and objected.  But instead everyone is tiptoeing and trying to be politically correct as possible while simultaneously taking the course of action that is the most hurtful to all involved.

Poor whites often don’t have the social support of the church anymore.  There has been a precipitous decline in church attendance by poor whites over the last 30 years.  A lot of this has to do with the encroachment of the prosperity gospel into mainstream Christianity.  Poverty is stigmatized and shamed enough in America as it is, the church was the last bastion where it wasn’t, until the people worshiping the dollar got a hold of it.  Even churches that don’t explicitly practice the prosperity gospel have the implicit idea of “God’s plan” to prosper you, and if your life isn’t going according to that plan you are looked down upon.  In rural America there are less governmental social supports so when one loses the church they lose a whole lot more than their urban counterparts.  The precipitous decline of hospitality and community happening throughout America is also felt more acutely in rural areas as there really isn’t much opportunity to form new social bonds.

Poor whites don’t have any forces countering the bad information they take in.  Where there is solidarity there is a check on bad information.  For example the black church can counter narratives seen in the media with better ones.  It is an open secret that the poorer you are, the more bad information you are exposed to on a daily basis (and because you’re poor you also have less tools to fight it).  This makes sense because power comes from utilizing good information as powerlessness comes from utilizing bad information, and those in power will do everything in their power to keep the powerless powerless.  For example for me going to the indigent clinic where they say a back ache will just go away if you wait it out, and then taking the bus home and seeing a Michigan Lottery ad in the red ticker.  TV is the worst for this, all kinds of predatory lenders and other shady people advertise on the shows they know poor people watch.  Denying that there is truth always serves the oppressor.  Because power is spoken to truth rather than the other way around.