A Note from Poor White America

I’m probably going to get SO MUCH backlash from this, but you know what, I stopped caring about ten days ago.

I’ve talked to a lot of people about this motherfucking election. And a lot of people I’ve talked to have noted that “racism/sexism/homophobia/utter disdain for the environment/etc. are bad BUT”

And then continue with a sob story about poor white Americans who are poor and white and American. And how we need to reach out to them right now. And worry about their futures.

Ignoring the fact that many white college-educated people voted for the king of rotting peaches, I have two responses.

First, where was this sympathy when you just thought we were ignorant cousin-marrying inbreds without any real political power? Why is it just showing up now to excuse us from any culpability in supporting a racist fascist dictator and his (how is it possible???) even worse cronies?

Second, I’m poor white America. I grew up in a family of six sharing a two bedroom, one bathroom house. I wore patches in my jeans and got my hair cut on the back porch well into middle school. I went to bed hungry most nights. It was a shock one day when I realized for the first time in a long time that I wasn’t hungry.

I’m not saying I’m the poorest. I’ve never known what it’s like to be homeless. But I know the poor rural white America you’re talking about. That’s where I grew up. I remember when the RV factory shut down and half the town was unemployed.

And GUESS WHAT. That still doesn’t excuse racism. That doesn’t excuse sexism. It doesn’t excuse anyone from being a good person.

To use that excuse (sorry “explanation”) is to ignore the fact that even when you’re poor you still have free will.

I have gone month after month where I wasn’t sure I’d be able to make rent. I’ve counted down the cups of rice left until the next paycheck. It’s disheartening and demoralizing. But I still knew that the enemy wasn’t immigrants or “the gays” or Planned Parenthood. I knew that the enemy was a capitalist society.

And, yes, I’ve had the advantage of a prestigious private education. But you know what? Even when I was an under-educated little runt, running around trying to hit boys because I wanted them to like me, I still stood up for gay rights and against racism. I never would have voted for the orange asshole no matter how bad things looked. And I know many other poor white Americans who agree.

Look, I’m very happy that wealthy liberals are now suddenly aware of the existence of rural America. It’s about fucking time. But don’t pretend like you “caring” about us now is anything other than a smokescreen to once again ignore that America is inherently racist, supports rape culture, and is intensely homophobic.

If you really do suddenly care now, then do something about it. It will probably arise that working for social justice for poor white Americans will require you to also work for poor black Americans and poor Asian Americans and poor Native Americans. If you really want justice for poor white America, then work for all of poor America.

I’m tired of hearing this argument as a way to avoid looking at the truth. You’re still responsible for your actions even if you’re poor. Yes, lets provide jobs, but lets not pretend that scapegoating is ever excusable.

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