Sunday, July 25, 2010

What Kind of Cracker are You?

The shitstorm swirling around racism, teabaggers, Republicans in General, Fox News, the Obama Administration and the NAACP and Shirley Sherrod presents another opportunity to open an authentic dialogue abut Race in this country. Although Shirley herself concluded that the real struggle in America is not between races but between socioeconomic classes, race remains a major determinant in socioeconomic status. Looking at all the Genteel Decline in Tennessee Williams, we see that money is often less important than race. Certainly there similar examples of race vs money in the North, even though Northerners often try to make Racism seem like a Southern issue. If you ask me, Yankees are always trying to make themselves seem smarter and more important than Southerners anyway. Just look at the way they make fun of the way we talk.

Today, I'm curious about the influence of socioeconomic position on self-perception among White Folks. Identifiers such as Cracker, Redneck, Hillbilly are often derogatory because none of those folks have any money to speak of, but at the moment, I can't think of any vocabulary words that describe middle class white people - except, maybe, Honky. There are variations within that demographic based on country of European origin - like Italians or Irish, for example. And there are Religious variations, too, such as Catholic, Protestant and Jewish - although Jewish gets a little complicated because there is a cultural component that extends beyond simple religious affiliation. When money becomes a factor, all these variations become irrelevant because nobody has near the kind of money that the descendants of Robber Barons and Slaveholders have. Now that the middle class is growing smaller by the minute (Swerve Left, The disappearing middle class), a lot of white folks have to scramble to keep from getting mixed up with their dark skinned neighbors. Maybe that's what the Teabaggers are doing - but miscellaneous groups of White People have always been jockeying for position among themselves.

If you look at college admissions statistics, we see that lower class whites are underrepresented at "selective" or "elite" universities. A NYTimes article this week, The Roots of White Anxiety, sites Minding the Campus where Russel K. Neil states:
Most elite universities seem to have little interest in diversifying their student bodies when it comes to the numbers of born-again Christians from the Bible belt, students from Appalachia and other rural and small-town areas, people who have served in the U.S. military, those who have grown up on farms or ranches, Mormons, Pentecostals, Jehovah's Witnesses, lower-middle-class Catholics, working class "white ethnics," social and political conservatives, wheelchair users, married students, married students with children, or older students first starting out in college after raising children or spending several years in the workforce. Students in these categories are often very rare at the more competitive colleges, especially the Ivy League. While these kinds of people would surely add to the diverse viewpoints and life-experiences represented on college campuses, in practice "diversity" on campus is largely a code word for the presence of a substantial proportion of those in the "underrepresented" racial minority groups.
Personally, I wouldn't let in Pentecostals either - and I don't think there is a place on the demographics information form to check Italian or Greek like there is for Caucasian, Pacific Islander and Hispanic. I can't remember if Black is the race or if it's labeled African American because, here in New York anyway, there has been some disagreement among African Americans who have been here since Slavery and recent immigrants from Africa who aren't American citizens but are certainly Africans living in America. It's all very complicated.

I wonder how The Rich benefit from having all of us in the dwindling middle class arguing about Racism. It's easy to forget about a Class War when somebody is trying to instigate a Race War.


MRMacrum said...

I was not going to rise to any political bait by anyone. But you pushed my buttons with this fine post.

You seem to go full circle here. From first stating that there are indeed racial factors involved to economic status and then finishing by calling it a "Class War", which at it's roots is all that it is.

I am of the opinion that race is only a deflector to keep all of us off balance. We buy into the race thing because that is what they want us to do.

There still exists in this country countless mechanisms and opportunities to raise oneself from the economic situation they are born into or fall into. Race, in my opinion, is often but a handy excuse for failure. Both sides use it. One to expalin it. The other to delineate it.

Until both races decide that it is not race that seperates us, but a situation of haves and have nots, then the decline in racial tension will continue to creep along rather then leap into a more healthy interaction.

A person is not poor because they are black. They are poor because of a variety of reasons, of which their race has a part, but is hardly the only reason. Their race means nothing really to those who would like to see themselves continue at the top. And race becomes a very easy and effective weapon with which to assist them in remaining on top.

PENolan said...

MRMacrum, I hope you're spending the day riding your bike, or walking in the woods and eating something like that blueberry cobbler and ice cream you had the other day.

It's like Joni Mitchell said: We've got to get ourselves back to the garden. Something's telling me it's the only way.

I don't know exactly what it means - but for sure, there's blueberries. Peaches, too.
And tomatoes.
And weed, now that I think about it ;)

Jaliya said...

I get so damn tired of the focus on what we call race ... everything from "black vs white" to "the human race" ...

I start with "human" ... There are so many people in my life who vary one from another in countless ways ... Every skin tone, every belief system, every this and every that ...

Diversity amongst humans is natural, inevitable ... There are as many variations as there are people ... We (in general) make such a mess of inevitable diversity ... and our species is doing its best to destroy diversity --> in all species, including our own ...

thanks, you wise woman, for another scathingly brilliant stream of thought ... xoxo

Lisa said...

It's easy to forget about a Class War when somebody is trying to instigate a Race War.

That sentence sums up my feelings. Better to keep all of us fighting each other then demanding justice from those who really have the power to grant it.

intelliwench said...

Fact of the matter is, if it isn't race or class, there will be some label or "distinction" used to divide folks and distract them from what's really important.

Vancouver Voyeur said...

I loved Avenue Q when I saw it in London. Too funny! As for race and class. When I was growing up, I was called white trash. Some people would not allow their children to play with me. My mom was always worried what other people thought of her or wanted from her. Too many years of being used because she had no wealth or power. Today, no one would know about my origins. Yet, I still feel inadequate around those raised with money and privilege even though I've achieved a lot in my life. Some wounds heal slowly. I think we're tricked into focusing on race when it really is a battle between the haves and have nots. The haves are winning overwhelmingly, and as long as they can distract us with non-issues, we won't focus on how much they have at our expense.

PENolan said...

I hear you, V.V.
Kids weren't allowed to play with my mom when she was little on account of my granny being divorced. Scandal back then - especially since everybody in town knew Granny had run off with some man to Texas. Mom still feels it even though half those people are dead. Including Granny.

Lisa, Interesting word choice, "power to grant it." Sounds like asking a King for something. Sort of feels like we're serfs.

Intelli,I read an interesting piece a while back about how keeping people divided and isolated preserves the status quo

Jaliya - you're very kind

Beach Bum said...

I read the column "The Roots of White Anxiety" and about laughed my ass off. If you want to get down to an individual level, yes I am certain that in some cases some poor WASP kid loses out to a minority kid because the minority kid has some sort of affirmative action going for them or a special scholarship.

The problem with white whining is that the very fiscal responsibility chip they like to wear on their shoulder prevents their kids from getting more of a free ride through school. Hey, there is a finite amount of seats in any university and when rich whites can pay the bill easily and with minority parents getting help somebody is going to be flipping hamburgers, fighting in a war, or at best attending community college after high school.

It’s just a damn bummer its middle class and working class folks who often struggle from paycheck to paycheck that are largely getting the shaft. If these same upstanding folks could find it in themselves to support more educational funding, but that might mean paying more taxes, well maybe universities might have a few more "born-again Christians from the Bible belt, students from Appalachia and other rural and small-town areas".

I’m writing this tongue-in-cheek but I do understand that the innocent suffer just as much as the tight wad asshole who bitches about paying taxes that supports public schools when his kids have long since moved on, but it’s an imperfect world. That’s why I about had a heart attack seeing how much my son’s college suffered after all the Wall Street games. I’m not very worried about my daughter though, she’s Chinese and you wouldn’t believe the scholarships she can get.

tnlib said...

You forgot WASP.

Of course there are racial factors in this country that have nothing to do with economic status or class but everything to do with ignorance.

PENolan said...

Beautifully stated, tnlib
I remembered WASP for a minute, then decided I didn't want to use it. Can't remember why, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Beach, re: that article
I know. But that's all I'm going to say since I'm done with sociopolitics and back on dating. You're married, and I refuse to comment on tongues or cheeks.

Gail said...


you raise the best questions amidst the most intelligent well written piece of "the way it is".

For me, I am a recovering Catholic, of Italian Austrian descent and was raised to NEVER be more than friends with Black and Puerto Rican boys, and I was not allowed in a Protestant church, my husband is Native American Indian by birth, andwas adopted and raised Jewish, so what the heck does that make me, us? :-)

Love you and all your insight, wisdom, humor and angst.

peace and hope.....

Beach Bum said...

LOL!!!! Well, If things keep going like they are I will be single far sooner than I expect.

Randal Graves said...

I've never been called a Honky. Damn Coloreds.

dissed said...

@ personally, I wouldn't let in Pentecostals either -- BWAH ha.

PENolan said...

Gail: it makes you mutts, for sure.
Hope all is well in your happy little world.

Beach: What? More trouble in Paradise?

Randal: I'm sure you've been called other nouns and many colorful adjectives

dissed: Are you up late or early?

jadedj said...

I used to think that if we could just get beyond the semantics of it all, the labels that is, we'd come together. But at this stage, I am in agreement with intelliwench...we/they create a them or us, and we/they always will. It is a basic human pack mentality that we will never shake.

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