Our trashing of poor whites and their trashing of others

Chapter 22



Vagabonds and blacks have a special relationship to poor whites, who barely exist for the rest of society.



With their guns hanging inside pick-up trucks as symbols of power, they are the ones who shoot at hitchhikers late Friday nights, throw beer bottles at you other nights and try to run you over at all hours.




While the better-off whites create the climate it is the poor who exercise much of the direct physical oppression of black people, who in turn contemptuously call them "poor white trash." 



It was they who were given the brutal and sadistic roles of slave overseers and catchers. Like poor whites in today's America, the overseers sensed that they were held in contempt by plantation society and took out their insecurities and hostilities on the blacks in relentless cruelty.



It was to them that demagogic Jim Crow politicians addressed themselves, but when blacks got voting rights and swung the political pendulum towards more liberal politicians, the poor whites had much of their policing role reduced. But they still cling to the overseer role and I sometimes heard them talking about "shooting up nigger town."



Like the blacks, they suffer from self-hatred and therefore react violently against their surroundings by for instance throwing trash all over.



They too have their intelligence impaired by malnutrition and neglect, and can be even more fearful than blacks. When I approach their shacks they usually are frightened and run inside and lock the doors.



When I go hunting with them and see their cruelty to the animals, I realize that the source of their violence and abusive behavior is their own early oppression - beaten as helpless children into their insensitive and repressive social role.



This cycle of mistreatment is similar to that suffered by blacks who tend to replay their violent experience on their own kind; the poor whites not only have their own children, but also the blacks as a vulnerable and socially sanctioned target group.



Having always been told that whites are superior they feel left behind when they see blacks in better jobs than themselves.



Poorly educated, their suffering is partly caused by having been indoctrinated with the caste feeling that "no nigger can ever attain the status of even the lowest white," and they therefore feel left behind when they see many blacks living better and having better jobs than themselves.  They feel that "niggers have gotten too many rights."



They do not understand the inner dynamics of our system which often leaves them unemployed, and blame anyone different - just as similar groups in Europe use Muslim immigrants as scapegoats, Irish Protestants use Catholics, Israelis use Palestinians, Japanese use Koreans, Indians and Africans use lower castes and tribes - and everybody fantasizes about the Jew - especially where no Jews exist!



Since no society or system has ever been free from oppression, we must in every new generation learn to embrace and heal anger before it accumulates into tragedies like Yugoslavia, Rwanda or World War 2.



This presentation is difficult, for the pain we witness is our own deeper pain and insecurity. The more personal pain people in my audience are in, I find, the less can they usually relate to other people's pain - and endure this presentation. But if we dare not confront the dark sides in ourselves, we all too easily act them out in displaced anger.



With no cradle to grave equality and security in America, especially the poor are at great risk here. Their racism and poor education often makes them even more right-wing than most Americans and against any social safety net which would also benefit blacks.



When I live with poor American whites I understand how this lack of security - linked up with our own constant insensitive propaganda against them as "red-necks" and "crackers" - leads this unhappy and bitter minority into right wing hate behavior, creating a devastating psychological inferno for blacks.