army of sparkle (sparkle_shortz) wrote in honky_navel,
army of sparkle

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honky wanna cracker?

So, further to the earlier post about the terms honky, cracker, etc., over at debunkingwhite--someone linked in that dbw thread this Tim Wise article about why those terms are not as offensive as racial slurs against POC.


It occurred to me, which has come up in here earlier in our discussion of "cracker," that most slurs against whites as such are actually class-based. And while I liked Wise's article, it felt like he had made the choice to elide any discussion of class within whiteness.
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I'm from a middle-class New England background. "Cracker" to me was always associated almost 1:1 with "redneck", aka "hilbillies who are dumber and poorer than us."

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"Thinking they would show white folks what it’s like to “be in their shoes” and experience the objectification of being a team icon, indigenous members of an intramural basketball team renamed themselves the “Fightin’ Whiteys,” and donned t-shirts with the team mascot: a 1950’s-style caricature of a suburban, middle class white guy, next to the phrase “every thang’s gonna be all white.” "

This made me nearly wet myself laughing...until I read what happened after that, which was a huge let-down, and really emphasizes how incredibly annoying it is when people don't have their sense of humors tuned to distinguish between "haha silly" and "haha PAY ATTENTION".

I too would have liked to have seen more emphasis on where the term "cracker" came from. I think it would have made Wise's point even stronger to note that "cracker" is a direct reference to the power whites had over blacks.
I think that class is too often avoided in discussions of power and oppression because many people who are willing to acknowledge racism and talk about that are unwilling to discuss classism and the negative impact of capitalism on all vulnerable populations.

This isn't about white people hating black people inherently. This is about a system of exploitation that is based in wanting to accumulate wealth and power at the expense of those around you. Black people were an historically easy target because they didn't share language and cultural upbringing with the white europeans who wanted to be in power in America. Not only did white oppressors not have to experience empathy toward black people because of their different upbringings ("oh, those Africans are just savages, they're not real, cultured humans like us"), but there was no common language--and language is major power. Even though the poor European indentured servants came from different classes (sometimes) than the people who were holding the deeds to their lives, they looked basically like their oppressors and had grown up in basically the same environment and shared language, so they could at least figure out how to stand up for their rights and know that their oppressors knew that what they were doing was wrong. The people who started america were like the little kid who got beaten by his father and then goes out and kicks the dog. They were hypocritical and I doubt that they were so unconscious that they didn't know damn well that they were hypocrites.

The nature of capitalism/capitalists is to exploit the fuck out of whatever and whomever they can until that resource has been sucked dry and it's time to throw it in the trash heap for something younger and (in this day and age) more naked. The people who put this country together knew goddamned well that Africans were people and they knew slavery was wrong. But the Black folks were a vulnerable group that could be oppressed since they needed not to ostracize other white men by making them do the grunt work to make some people rich. But when given the opportunity, rich white men will exploit far more than just people of color. During the industrial revolution, primarily white women and children were given the most dangerous factory jobs and made to work long hours for virtually no pay, communities were exploited for their labor and then abandoned when the plants moved on somewhere else, and toxins and trash of wide array were left in their wake. Migrant farm workers weren't always primarily from Mexico and Central America--at one time they were poor white people.

(to be continued...)
Poor white trash were hated by black and white alike. We're supposed to follow the american dream, so a black family that keeps its domestic violence silent and its children clean and tries to "improve" itself is a lot more likely to be accepted by the dominant culture than a white trash family with a shiftless, lazy man lying on the couch drinking beer all day and huge uproarious fights and a skinny woman working at a diner or as a hooker or not at all with five filthy kids running barefoot squabbling very publically in the yard and "getting into mischief." Wise says, Poor whites are rarely typified as pathological, dangerous, lazy or shiftless the way poor blacks are, for example. I would say that this is exactly the stereotype of poor white trash, and agree with sanikleen, who says He forgot to include "cousin-screwing..."

I also think that his comment about Appalachia was really low. Appalachians are about the lowest of the low when it comes to white people; they are seen as backward and animalistic, partly because they held so tightly to their beliefs and "folk medicine" and "folk wisdom," partly because they didn't want to be exploited by the capitalists and stayed isolated as much as possible in the mountains, partly because many of them were exploited and then abandoned with no resources and no education during the 19th and 20th centuries, etc.

I'm not trying to discount racism or make a comparison between slavery and exploitive working conditions for white laborers. What I want to do is widen the discussion for a moment to look at why we're here talking about racism and class to begin with. There's something fundamentally wrong with the way our society is set up, and limiting the discussion only to racism is one way of allowing that to remain unchecked and invisible. Unfortunately, most people still believe in the american dream and capitalism and any discussion of this is far too threatening to engage.

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What do you mean?

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Ok. Thanks for that.