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elexus jionde. @Lexual__
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Poor White Loyalty to Wealthy Whites: A Thread
Have you ever wondered why so many poor white southerners endear themselves to wealthy whites under a perceived shared pride of race? Even when many wealthy whites see them as poor white trash, or just pawns to a political victory?
The ‘poor white trash’ moniker has been around since at least 1821, an evolution of the 17th-century “wastepeople” (europe), 18th-century labels “squatter” (North) & “cracker” (South), or landless, migrant, poor, and lawless white folks. Remember, land ownership meant everything!
But in the years leading up to the Civil War, those terms were replaced more frequently with ‘poor white trash”. Supposed characteristics included tallow skin, inbreeding, alcohol and drug addictions, eating dirt, and occupying poor land.
Throughout the south poor whites were also known to engage in crime and smuggling, along with consorting with free blacks & slaves, something wealthy southern whites didn’t like. So of course southern aristocrats claimed to be the destined commanders of white and black inferiors.
Breeding was important. These elite white critics considered poor whites to be a “race” that passed on bad traits, even worse than slaves in terms of humanity. They feared that these people would spread west like a disease and ruin America’s ability to be a great nation.
As you all know, slavery in the South created an elite class of concentrated wealth and power. In states that seceded from the union, an average 38% of white families owned slaves. The only thing more valuable than slaves was the land. White trash owned neither.
Poor southerners aspired to own slaves as status symbols, to achieve class mobility. Keep in mind that an average slave cost $40K in today’s money, not including upkeep. They were told to scrimp & save to buy one, the same way modern ppl are told to save for college or a home.
But how was saving possible when most jobs were reserved for slaves, whose labor was free? Most of the money being made in the south stayed in the hands of slave-owners and traders.
White northerners believed the existence of “poor white trash” was proof that slavery was toxic. Even though white elites restricted poor white access to resources, they defended the class structure as normal and argued class mobility was destroying the North.
They said the presence of slavery “eliminated conflict between labor and capital”, making poor whites manageable and happy because they were superior to blacks. They said poor northern whites were jealous of the rich and had “unwarranted political privileges.”
THAT is the premise that the confederate leaders fought on- preserving slavery AND the class structure. Maintaining a class of slaves *and* a class of poor whites.
This explains disagreements between poor whites and slaveowners when the south seceded & the civil war kicked off. AFTER ALL... 300K white southerners fought for the union!
JSYK: Why Do Poor White People Love The Confederate Flag, Anyways?
BTW, in South Carolina, some slaveholders even organized into a vigilante society called “Minute Men” to intimidate unruly whites who threatened the confederacy with talks of abolition. Wild similar to the role of the KKK intimidating blacks out of voting years down the line
Jefferson Davis rallied most poor whites along the notion of homogeneous racial pride, saying “no white man, in a slaveholding community, was the menial servant of anyone.” Poor whites were sold the dream of equality to their rich white oppressors.
But the class structure directly contradicted this idea. For example, southern planters continued planting white gold (cotton) rather than food (which previously came shipped from the north) and there was a food shortage among the poor.
So willing were they to defend slavery and the abhorrent class structure at any costs that countless poor whites starved or died in battle! Keep waving that confederate flag, though!
So let's fast forward to the 1960s....
JSYK: Racism & The Rebirth of the Republican Party
Since the New Deal, white people had been the largest recipients of welfare-- pushing many into the middle class. The New Deal was essentially the first time the federal government had stepped in to alleviate poverty. It helped that whites were the face of said poverty.
BTW, welfare was seen as charity by some, something ugly (not a return or taxes or earned benefits), and there are more than a few cases of dust bowl farmers refusing help from the government.
In the 50s and early 60s, poor white coal miners in Appalachia were the center of the poverty debate. But by 1965 a new trend emerged that has continued even into the present day.
JSYK: Turning Black People Into The Face of Poverty
“Dog whistles” are coded language terms that appeal to racial fears without mentioning race like “law & order” (black people are associated with crime), or defending “states rights” or attacking “big government” (the ability to segregate and discriminate, federal laws be damned)
It was through media bias and dog whistle politics in the 70s and 80s that bound poor whites more than ever before to wealthy white ones- and also to the Republican Party. In 1981 Reagan campaign consultant Lee Atwater said:
But appealing to the racism of poor whites wasn’t just utilized by Reagan. Bill Clinton, who won in part to being a “moderate” democrat (read: a “liberal” conservative or neoliberal), attacked welfare and bragged about being tough on crime.
Blinded by racism, poor whites often couldn’t see (and still don’t in the present) how they were (and are) being manipulated to maintain the class system.
JSYK: How The Racist War on Welfare Impacts ALL Poor Americans
Another “fun” fact about Mississippi?: In Oregon, (84% white, 1.8% black), a single-parent of three gets on average $506 a month in TANF benefits. In Mississippi, the state with the largest proportion of blacks, a single parent family of three gets just $170 a month. 🤨
Sidenote: did you catch the two black women dutifully positioned for a photo opp gutting welfare?! 😒
Anyways, all of this is important to keep in mind as the Trump administration advocates cutting back on welfare. (AND YES THIS INCLUDES HOUSING, HEALTHCARE, THE WORKS!)
Sources:
White Trash: The 400 Year Untold History of Class in America (Isenberg)
Putting a Black Face on Welfare (Schram)
Race & Poverty in America: Public Misperceptions & the American News Media (Gilens)

10 More Sources Here: bit.ly/2worzta
If you liked this thread, check this out:
& here are all my FREE lessons! (Videos, essays, & threads) twitter.com/i/moments/9952…
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