Joe Bageant on race, class, and poverty in the US.
There’s a bizarre conceit in the US that we are somehow classless. Bageant knows that’s not true, and wrote about it in Deer Hunting With Jesus, which explores his redneck roots and the small Virginia town he grew up in and where he moved back to for a while. The white underclass gets exploited by politicians, shafted by most everyone, and studiously ignored by the far left, too many of whom appear to think that only people of color can be genuinely exploited and that poor whites just aren’t, y’know, worthy of being organized. Bageant doesn’t make that mistake. Among the reasons, they are his tribe. And he is an astute observer about race and class.
For all practical purposes and to most Americans, regardless of race, the term “middle class” means “white.” Plain and simple. We all know that, even members of the “black middle class.”
I can see that social scientists dislike plural nouns, and thus shun the word losers. So they call this the “educational underclass.” Either way, it comes down to folks too wooly and uncurried for office water cooler society. Nobody is denying that they all should have jobs, of course, just nowhere near the water cooler.
The unwed mothers come in two varieties. There are those who decide they want children, but are choosy about the husband that traditionally comes with the deal. And there are those who are so young and naïve due to cultural circumstance and environment they do not know what this country does to, not for, single mothers
Armchair sociologist that I am, I have a theory about this: Millions of American women are in poverty because they are paid poverty wages. I could be wrong, I often am, but there seems to be a connection between poverty and money. I started developing this theory last year when I was in a Melbourne, Australia hotel and learned from a single mother hotel housekeeper there that she made $19 an hour, had government assisted childcare and was going to college at night toward becoming a medical technician. Hmmm… Over here we tell single mothers, “Get a six dollar an hour job or get married bitch! Workfare, baby, workfare.”
Believe me from personal experience, a Southern accent in America is no ticket to the top. But even with a Southern accent, if you talk like a college grad, don’t wear bib overhauls or gang banger gear, and appear to know where South America is on a map, Americans will deem you middle class.
America needs to have a good discussion about class.