Thursday, January 21, 2010

reading The Redneck Manifesto

The dumb white bumpkin has always been a stock figure in the American dramatis personae. But fifty years ago the depictions tended toward the benign and comical, from Li'l Abner to Ma and Pa Kettle. As our perceptions of a lily-fisted white hegemony started to fracture, the caricatures became meaner, yieldging the murderous crackers in Easy Rider and the ass-fucking genetic disasters from Deliverance.

Cartoon people. These days, we hardly ever see the redneck as anything but a caricature. A whole vein of human experience, of potential literature, is dismissed as a joke, much as America's popular notions of black culture were relegated to lawn jockeys and Sambo caricatures of a generation or two ago. The redneck is the only cardboard figure left standing in our ethnic shooting gallery. All other targets have been quietly removed in deference to unwritten laws of cultural sensitivity. Instead of Amos-n-Andy, we have Beavis and Butthead. The trailer park has become the media's cultural toilet, the only acceptable place to dump one's racist inclinations.
—Jim Goad, The Redneck Manifesto
I dunno if Goad will address this later, but this reminds me that the redneck is white America's scapegoat. For centuries, rich whites promoted racism, first to separate slaves and indentured servants, then to separate workers. Jim Crow laws were not a demand of poor whites—they were promoted and enacted by the South's defeated rich who still wanted to justify the "peculiar institution" and thereby escape their responsibility for the nature of their wealth.