Neil Greco

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Being Poor and White ("White Trash") is like being at the bottom of the Caste System in India.

In my experience growing up impoverished in the US and working with many disenfranchised populations as an adult/professional... Impoverished Whites... Commonly referred to as "White Trash, or Trailer Trash.." are not seen as better than their circumstances. Rather they are despised and rejected by society in general. Evidences of this for me are:

1) Most forms use White or Caucasian to rule out the applicant as being a minority vs. every other choice on forms, which are identified minorities. A list of which has grown over the last few decades to make sure social imbalances are being corrected, etc. (I do agree with targeted services and thank the maker that any minority or class that needs attention is getting it.)
2) There are no special scholarships, grants, services that are offered to them as part and parcel of social services vs. every social service provider, educator, medical systems etc. that at the ready to give many choices to anyone identified as a minority.
3) I rarely have seen impoverished whites question this reality? (However, I have had many discussions with persons who are not to happy as being targeted for services all the time. It can come accross as quite demeaning for some).

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    Jun 26 2011: What about the ever shrinking middle class who fight any tax increase, especially if going to 'welfare' programs and all the while.. They are heading towards needing them? I am just baffled by the illusion that there are really any other agendas out there but those that keep the rich rich and the poor poor.

  • Jun 23 2011: "White Trash" or "Trailer Trash" in my experience does not link directly to being poor but more to the way the individual interacts and behaves in the world.

    I have know a number of poor whites and they have not been called "white trash" because they work to better their lives. They may liven in trailers but they keep their trailers tidy, work hard, and have a strong ambition to rise above poverty.

    Those considered "white trash" accept (if not demand) government handouts, have no ambitions to rise above poverty or their addictions and live in squalor by choice over will.

    It may be difficult at times to rise above poverty but the United States offers the opportunity to do it. It is not a Caste System.
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      Jun 23 2011: Hey Bob,

      I agree that not all poor whites would fit the nomenclature of white trash. However, not everyone is capable of climbing up very high, or to the top. Many persons, of all classes, are not neccessarily meant to go to college, or be a professional. Take a look at the wages available to those with a High School education. The system is not geared towards a better quality of life for all. Maybe 50+ years ago when people could earn a living that allowed for them to buy a home, help their kids go to college & have a retirement. "Chain Saw Al..." Layed that all to rest when he began to elevate the "shareholders" right to earn as much as they can (vs. decent wages, benefits, etc.), even though the real shareholders who benefit are the top 1-2% of shareholders (a select, elite group). They also worked to convince (what was an actual, which is increasingly disapearing) Middle Class that the poor are to be considered unworthy, drains on the system, etc. That phillosophy came from Evangelical Movements in the early 1900s. If you broke your leg, or you couldn't provide for your family, well, It's because you are not in right relationship with God.. A sinner to be shunned. Pull yourself by your bootstraps.."Let them eat cake" a few centuries ago.

      However, I am not in favor of people living soley on government assistance. You are referring to a time when each child increased welfare amounts. Today, that is not so. People are required to actively look for work and the max amount they can receivie in cash per month hasn't changed for 20 years, it's about $700.00. I am in favor of continuing to move people into the labor force. However, this might be easier if most Americans without the benefit of knowing decent, hard working poor, would see this as a worthy goal as well.
      The comparison to the Caste system, when I thought about this, is a reference to those who are perceived as being "only" what they are and no more... And for the most part not challenging i
      • Jun 25 2011: I think the poor are a drain on the system when they receive government assistance. Of course some use that assistance to improve themselves and give back more than what was used. There is a delicate balance I am sure.

        I believe a lot of opportunity has been drained out of the United States by stagnant public educational structures and globalization creating heavy competition for factory jobs that would normally employ high school graduates.

        I recently read an article stating that employers do not want to train employees for their positions. These companies want to higher employees with years of experience for entry level jobs and that does not make sense to me.

        The loss of on-the-job training has also leeched away the opportunity for employees to become more valuable to society.
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    Jun 23 2011: I was fairly poor at one point when my parents arrived in Canada, we were fortunate that Canada had good social programs, but coming from a family of intellectuals I was still encouraged to be polite, to keep my close and house clean. So even though we hardly had any money we didn't look white trash. I think white trash is more of an aesthetic which is correlated with being poor rather than a division in social class.
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      Jun 23 2011: There is a difference though in being financially poor, and being culturally impoverished. I think its a bit over exaggerated to compare it to a caste system since there are no laws preventing people from rising above it, but culturally people do assign one another to different statuses. Lacking money can be overcome with some diligence, but when coupled with a lack of education, healthy role models, social skills, etc you do start to create a class of people living in poverty.
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        Jun 25 2011: There is upward mobility in our class system so it's not necessarily a caste system. However there is a great deal of injustice with regard to who gets to move up the ladder and who stays behind. Many people are capable of being educated or doing more with their lives than manual labor. But upward mobility gets more competitive as more people attempt to move up, so people are being intentionally eliminated and held back from positions that they can acquire.
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      Jun 26 2011: I would argue that poverty in America at least has more to do with social/education issues than with actual money. The poor here are giving educations design to make them desirable to factories that no longer are here. They are not giving health care, despite the fact that they are often subjected to much more polluted neighborhoods. Nutritious food is found no where near where they live. There is enough government programs to keep the poor from rebellion, but not to help them out. If we dealt with these issues even if we did not remedy the economic problems the poor would be much better off.
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    Jun 23 2011: Like Bob said; USA does not have a caste system, people can and do rise above their fiscal situation.

    I think it is unwise to call impoverished whites a minority, in the 21st century we should move away from color distinction.

    With that said I do agree; society does wrongfully stereotype poor whites in all forms of media.