When Did White Trash Become The New Normal? A Southern Lady Asks the Impertinent Question.

From the get-go with an eye-catching cover illustration of a vintage trailer parked and bedecked with colorful Christmas lights and a wisecracking dedication ("For my great-nieces Jenna, Julia, and Sarah -- hint hint"), Charlotte Hays' new book takes you on a hilarious ride of culture clashes, sarcasm and trash-talking 20th century history.blog white trash(1)

Chapter after chapter, Ms. Hays' timely When Did White Trash Become the New Normal? lays out a case for why the lifestyle begs to be validated. The author even includes "A White Trash Timeline," Bibliography and Index. Ms. Hays, who is white, spells out the culture, addressing topics with chapters such as "Why Obesity, Tattoos, and Velveeta® Cheese Prove that Arnold Toynbee Was Right", "White Trash Money Management," "Who's Your Daddy?" and "Bratz® and Brats." There's also a chapter called "White Trash Buddhists."

Pithy thoughts and fact-filled zingers await the reader. Page after page I learned something new about the culture. The timeline begins in 1936, marking the first Tampax print advertisement (wait til you read the relevance), and continues through the millennium. Ms. Hays charts Peyton Place's 1956 record-breaking New York Times bestselling standing, the Marilyn Monroe 1962 Happy Birthday rendering to JFK, Cher's 1969 public announcement of her breast implants and Gov. Ronald Reagan's '69 signing of the California no-fault divorce bill, to name only a few entries.

My favorite comes from 1970: "In an act of desperation, President Richard Milhous Nixon welcomes Elvis Presley to the White House, hoping that associating with the king of rock 'n' roll will make him popular with young people. Nixon grants Presley the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs badge that he covets...and the rest is history." From Jerry Springer and Princess Diana in late 20th century to Sir Mick Jagger and Kim Kardashian in the millennium, Ms. Hays appears to leave no worthy subject or incident out of the growing social circle that continues to prosper.

My only regret here is that I purchased the book for my Kindle instead of (a hard copy) for the coffee table.

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Up Next: "White Trash?" Slur or lifestyle?  I was taught it was derogatory, a pejorative.  Why in the millennium are there mixed emotions and signals on its use? The answers may rest with the majority population.

Later this week: "Fight for dear old Grambling!"  Finally a win last weekend for the fighting Tigers (No, not the Tigers from that other Louisiana university). Do lousy gridiron standings mean Grambling is no longer the "pride of the USA!?"  Wait til you hear what I have to say about HBCs in general, and the hot mess at my beloved alma mater in particular!

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Eight years ago today we lost a civil rights treasure. Rosa Parks was indeed in the right place at the right time, rosa parksbw but she didn't have to take a stand, or in this case a seat, on the Birmingham bus that drove us straight into a movement that dramatically changed the country for the better.

That's why I'm taking time today to salute Carrie Brown,  former Montessori kindergarten teacher and University of North Texas alum, for taking the time in 1995 to teach the story about Mrs. Parks, then a living legend. There was no strict curriculum that dictated Carrie teach this specific lesson, but boy teaching it is what she did. Read about this special  Rosa Parks moment in a reprint of my 2005 essay that ran in The Dallas Morning News in tribute to Mrs. Parks' passing.

WordItOut-Word-cloud-267755I love Word Clouds. I've used them for committee work and occasionally for my writing. Classroom teachers famously and effectively use it as a learning tool and corporations often produce them for project and planning purposes.

When erace your isms was conceived, I wondered first how much bias and isms was out there? What kind of hangups, pejoratives, prickly phrases, hate terms, lightning rods, slurs, intolerance campaigns, tolerance movements, race awareness, etc. had been introduced in our recent American history? I picked a time-frame, 20th century to 2013, and thus began the list that almost never ended. Until I decided to quit counting. Scan this giant word cloud!

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Use of the n-word this century and end of last has taken on a new meaning with this generation, particularly urban youths influenced by hip hop culture.  Rap music lyricists freely  belt out lines in songs that contain the word. Context range from endearing to inflammatory.  Outspoken hip hop enthusiasts, including vocal artists and young comedians, defend free use of the word, arguing that making common references in public speaking forums among their peers could  weaken the damaging effect of the word as a racial slur.

The n-word invites heated debates in households and elsewhere where there is a generational divide. Meet Nathan, nathan a just-turned 28-year-old college educated African American  who admits his use of the n-word was very much influenced by peers and the rap music he has embraced since his preteens. Nate said his white friends don't use the words "out of respect." But, when he was younger his black friends frequently called each other n-word, he explained.  In the urban setting it often is used as a put-down to distinguish between young African Americans that are making bad choices, or maybe worse, as a one-up spawn by youths that feel in any way superior to others they come in contact with, Nathan further explained.  When I suggested that the self-inflicted usage could be interpreted as self-hate, Nate nodded.

It's complicated and conflicting for the 20-something, as you will hear in the audio interview below.  Nate grew up in Louisiana and described how the word for "older generation" black people is painful. Growing up, Nate's grandmother and boomer parents forbade his use of the word in the home and in their presence. While the family's rule set boundaries, it did not deter him from embracing its usage among his friends.

I suggested to Nate that whites and many  black folk I talk to have reconciliation issues with this generation's embracing that word.  When I met with Nate Aug. 25 he discussed in detail his use of the n-word and how his use of it evolved over his life. He's about to become a first-time Dad, he told me, and shrugged as he sheepishly admitted that his views might be softening a bit because he's a father-to-be. He also says as he has become more mature he's "starting to think more about what my grandmother taught me about how hurtful that word was in slavery and beyond."

Listen here to my recent interview with Nate.

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This year we mark the half-century since The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. How’s that going for us? Let’s take recent stock.

In June, Paula Deen, "bless her heart," as her fellow southerners would say, imploded, reminding us that years of stove-top simmering can produce a mighty bitter aftertaste. Paula is in her 60s and arguably a product of her upbringing. I’ve talked to enough different kind of folk from teen to octogenarian, black, white and brown to know that about half of you rolled your eyes and took potshots, ahem,  used cooking puns and laughingly dismissed the episode. A few that were either too young or too cooking-challenged responded with, “Paula Who?’ And the rest asked, “Don’t we have serious issues to obsess over?” 

I don’t have to go into all the particulars because it was a huge story. I mean it got arms and legs that traveled for the rest of the month and then some. I don’t know why we carry on in the pop culture realm about these things. The general rule for celebs and other famous people tempted to speak of that word "on the record" should be: Don’t do it!!! Or, "Leave that word be," as old-timers might say.

Because nowadays you’re covered no matter where you utter the n-word. Somebody will document it. Don’t believe me? Ask Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper, a Millennial of all people, who made his explosive YouTube debut spewing out the n-word in public.  Apparently he wasn’t quite ready for some football, and in his pre-preseason downtime at a country music concert in Philly during a “confrontation,” as he termed it, decided to hurl the epithet at a performance hall security guard that happened to be African American. Riley’s tirade was immediately captured by someone from the predominantly white audience on a cell phone video camera and released to the Interwebs. Pow and ouch! At the beginning of his apology tour, Riley did the obligatory predictable mea culpa to his teammates and the rest of the Eagles organization. Blah blah blah.

(You want to see the viral vile video you’re going to have to dig it out of the the Web's bowels on your own. This blogger prefers to show another not-so-popular though more poignant clip that got my attention.) Riley Cooper apologizes

It's from Riley's first press conference following the YouTube fallout. He characterized his parents’ reaction when he notified them of his misstep and his words  produced a spark of hope. “I was raised better than that. I've got a great mom and dad at home, and they are extremely extremely disappointed…I was raised way better than that, and they are disgusted by my actions.”

Yes, I believed he was not raised that way. The word is offensive across the racial divide.