Chapter

“You Can’t Get Trashier”: White Trash Cookbooks and Social Class

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Abstract

We have created an American dumping ground. Americans use the terms “rednecks,” “trailer-park trash,” “white trash” and others to create a semantic repository of the collective “unfortunate.” Through such branding, anything and everything can be blamed on these people who are stereotyped as being on the social ladder’s lowest rung. They are disparaged as dumb and ignorant, allowing different socioeconomic groups to feel securely distant and insulated. Making fun of white trash helps other groups assume that, despite any problems that they face, they are not as low as white trash or trailer-park trash. The popular media frequently disparages this underclass, too. Writing for the New York Times Magazine in 1994, Lloyd Van Brunt observed that poor whites are “the one group everybody feels free to belittle, knowing that no politically correct boundaries will be violated” (38).2 Since white trash are commonly looked down upon in U.S. society, it is acceptable to make jokes about them in ways that are not acceptable while joking about African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, and other minorities. White Americans may make jokes about these other groups, but the humor is generally concealed; people rarely try to camouflage jokes about white trash or hillbillies. What is the difference? Why is it that white trash are ridiculed openly? One reason for this attitude is that poor whites have become convenient scapegoats for any dissatisfaction.

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