White trash

White trash is a pejorative term targeted at lower social class white people with poor prospects and/or low levels of education. To call someone white trash is to accuse a white person of being economically, educationally and/or culturally bankrupt. White trash should be differentiated from the more socially acceptable term Redneck, as each has an unique historical etymology and context in modern usage. While white trash is most commonly used as a pejorative, low- to middle-income rural whites often self-identify as rednecks.


The term white trash originated in the Baltimore and Washington, DC area during the 1820s post-revolutionary war reconstruction boom. During that period, many poor people migrated to the area, and white and black semi-skilled workers were competing for the same jobs, resources and marriage partners. The term white trash first came into common use in the 1830s as a pejorative used by upper-class United States southerners of all races against poor whites. It was synonymous with the slurs sand hiller and clay eater. White trash were hyperbolically assumed to farm ineptly on poor land, and therefore resort to eating clay in order to survive.

In 1854 Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote the chapter "Poor White Trash" in her book A Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin. Stowe tells the reader that slavery not only produces "degraded, miserable slaves", but also poor whites who are even more degraded and miserable. The plantation system forced those whites to struggle for subsistence. Beyond economic factors, Stowe traces this class to the shortage of schools and churches in their community, and says that both blacks and whites in the area look down on these "poor white trash". Sociologist Max Weber described white trash as "[those] not owning slaves".

In literature

In film

In television

"White Trash" jokes, stereotypes and images relating to the topic can be found on the TV comedy series Roseanne starring Roseanne (Barr-Arnold), another TV comedy series Blue Collar TV starring Redneck comedian Jeff Foxworthy and the animated series The Simpsons features a poor rural white man Cletus and his wife/cousin Brandine. Many white trash stereotypes are also present in the sitcom My Name is Earl.

In music

See also



  • Berger, Maurice (2000). White Lies: Race and the Myths of Whiteness. ISBN 0-374-52715-6.
  • Goad, Jim (1998). The Redneck Manifesto: How Hillbillies Hicks and White Trash Became Americas Scapegoats. ISBN 0-684-83864-8.
  • Hartigan, John Jr (2005). Odd Tribes: Toward a Cultural Analysis of White People. Duke University Press. ISBN 0-8223-3597-2
  • Mickler, Ernest Matthew (1986). White Trash Cooking (Spiral-bound). Ten Speed Press. ISBN 0-89815-189-9
  • Pitcher, Ben (2007). The Problem with White Trash - Review of M. Wray (2007) Not Quite White, Duke University Press. ISBN 0822338734. darkmatter journal
  • Sullivan, Nell (2003). Academic Constructions of 'White Trash' , in: Adair, Vivyan Campbell; Dahlberg, Sandra L. (Ed.) (2003) Reclaiming Class. Women, Poverty, and the Promise of Higher Education in America. Temple University Press. ISBN 1-59213-021-6
  • Webb, James (2004). "Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America". Broadway. ISBN 0-7679-1689-1
  • Wray, Matt and Annalee Newitz, eds. (1997). White Trash: Race and Class in America. ISBN 0-415-91692-5.

External links

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