Saturday, January 20, 2007

Is "White trash" really a term of racist abuse?

I have seen a couple of comments recently (including on Norfolk Blogger) saying that everyone is laying into Jade for racist comments (e.g "Shilpa Poppadom" - but Jade says she said it because she couldn't remember Shilpa's real name so just thought of something Indian - oh that's all right then) but noone has taken Jermaine Jackson to task for calling Jade "White trash" which, we are told by these commenters, is a term of "racist abuse" to white people.

"White Trash". Let me see....would I be offended if anyone called me this..........nope. Is it really a term of racist abuse or just a convenient thing to throw into this argument?

Wikipedia says:

White trash is an American ethnic slur with a social class component. The term is usually considered interchangeable with trailer trash. It is comparable to "honky" in that it is targeted toward white people, but it also connotes low social status and poor prospects (i.e., downward mobility). To call someone "white trash" is to accuse that person of being culturally bankrupt. "White trash" is not a demographic group recognized by sociology.
Attitudes toward the phrase have softened somewhat in recent years, to the degree that some people describe themselves as "white trash", and there is a genre of rock music known proudly as "white-trash rock", but the phrase is still never found in polite contexts. "White trash" is usually associated with poverty; lack of education can also play a role.

Note the sentence: "The term in usually considered interchangeable with trailer trash". I have never considered "trailer trash" a particularly offensive phrase. I also note the phrase "attitudes toward the phrase have softened somewhat in recent years to the degree that some people describe themselves as "white trash"."

Yes, I know the Wikipedia entry could have been written by anyone.

So I also carry this definition from the Cambridge Online Dictionary:

An offensive way of describing poor white people who are not educated

...and this from

white trash
–noun Slang: Disparaging and Offensive.
1.a member of the class of poor whites, esp. in the southern U.S.
2.poor whites collectively.

As Norfolk Blogger said the other day, if one person thinks something is racist, then it is. So I accept that it is conceivable that some people, reportedly, were upset by the term "white trash", so therefore it appears to be racist.

I would note in closing that Ofcom has had 38,000 complaints "about racism on Celebrity Big Brother". I have not been able to find out how many, if any, of these complaints were about Jermaine Jackson's "white trash" term.


  1. Is white trash an insult directed at a particular racial group?

    Yes, therefore it's racist.

  2. Ingeneral, I agree with the arument you make. But you could argue that Shilpa is not a poppadom where Jade is a ...

  3. ...Well known reality TV celebirty?

    Shurely nothing elshe was in your mind, young man, wash it?

  4. Paul (& Norfolk)

    Your comments just reinforce the absurdity of current day "political racism".

    I, along with you, find it hard to think of any name calling or insults or such like which I would call "racist" against me. Yet, we have a growing list of words and phrases that the majority race are not allowed to utter to minority races (poppadom shortly to become one of them no doubt).

    Racism, as you well know, is to do with notions of superiority and systematic descrimination. Jade, superior, hmmm - that's a tough one.

    All that this (typical) media frenzy will achieve is to bolster the position of minorities to shout 'racist' at every opportunity to the further detriment of the majority.

    India is probably the most racist country on the planet (Aryan invaders, caste system, untouchables), so Shilpa saying a little name calling is racist is a bit rich. That's if it was all for real and not staged in any way.

    I agree with "The Mail" on this occasion: two TV programmes were shown last week, one was an entertainment show, the other was a factual investigation into the radical and anti-western teachings being carried out in mosques all over Britain.

    Which one did the media and politicians concentrate on? ....

  5. Thank you for that welcome robust contribution Arthur. Somehow I suspect that the 30,000 people who complained about CBB to Ofcom were not entirely politically correct fruitcakes egged on by the likes of me and the Norfolk Blogger.

    I don't think anyone is suggesting a change in the legal definition of racist abuse. So you can rest easy, Hertfordshire Constabulary will progress at their normal rate and they seem to be treating this, quite rightly, with their usual phlegmatic attitude (they could have arrested Goody when she stepped out of the house(or before) but didn't and I am happy with that). I am happy to leave the definition of racism as per the statute books with the Old Bill/DPP to judge against the tapes of the programme. I doubt whether any charges will arise.

    I think we need to separate what is regarded as a definition of racsim in common discussion against the actual law. I don't think anyone (certainly not me) has suggested a change in the law and/or the processes of discerning a breach of it.

    The Daily Mail eh? 1 million odd readers....and the programme was shown on national television. Hardly a case of the issue being hid under a bushel is it?

  6. I was interested to read this blog in relation to the ter "white trash." I have long found this term highly offensive and not because it is a recial slur against white people as has been debated here. I think the term itself is inherently racist against people who are not white. Let me explain. The need to specify that so called "trash" is white implies that that non-white/black people are trash in any event and that white people are letting themselves down by behaving in a trashy non-white/black way. I just do not see how the term can be read any other way, I wonder whether anyone else has ever considered the term this way. If I am correct, I believe the term, appalling as it is, should be discouraged from use.

  7. Thank you Jessica. I see your point. I have never used the term (apart from in quotation marks here) and never will.

  8. Thanks Paul. I was thinking, my point about the term white trash being inherently racist could be put more clearly by saying that you never see the term "black trash" around. Correct me if I am wrong. Glad to see the term is not in your lexicon :)

  9. Quite right, Jessica. Incidentally, this has been one of my most popular posts, which is interesting. Thanks for your comments.

  10. I have always thought the same as "Jessica" posted that the terminology is referent to other races as in specifying that the "poor white trash" are not "one of us" but rather "one of them". It is comparative in its nature and reveals intrinsic socio economic and race prejudicial sentiment.

  11. Um, the equivalent term for black people is "ghetto".

    Also, you have never considered "trailor trash" an offensive term? What, calling people "trash" because they're poor is OK because it is implied that they're white?