Media & Communication

Ashleigh Howland

They Are Such White Trash:

An Examination of Disenfranchised Whites

Beginning in the 1830s, the term "white trash" has been used to essentially separate and oppress a "sub-race" within the Caucasian population. Poor whites were originally targeted by free African-Americans, after which the use of their derogatory language spread to the middleand upper-class whites once the popular media of the time adopted both the phrase and the stereotypes of poor whites. Over the next 180 years, the term "white trash" has become common, despite its demeaning economic, social, and racial connotation. Unlike other racial slurs that are shunned by today's media, "white trash" seems to be embraced, and with that acceptance comes the continuation of harmful stereotypes and stigmas of poor whites as having chosen their unfortunate lot in life. Neglected is the emphasis on their true suffering: limited education and employment opportunities. Behind a term that is so often used for comedic relief by people who do not live the day-to-day realities of poverty are real people who, through an unkind drive to entertain and amuse, the media has helped ostracize and oppress.