stephanie jones

White Trash

In anti-bias teaching, class-sensitive teaching, classism, discourse, identity, language, poverty, social class, Standing up for Kids on January 19, 2012 at 3:39 am

I love this post and wanted it on my blog! Using the term white trash is as racist and classist as you can get. When I hear people use the term…and I regularly do…I ask, “what do you mean?” and when the response is, “oh, you know…” I push them: “No, I don’t know what that means. Tell me what it means…”

When we force people to be explicit about the code words and phrases they use to position themselves as better than others – to create hierarchies of value and worth – we force them to face the racist and classist inside them. And when we ask simple questions that get at the meanings of those code words and phrases, we mark ourselves as people who disagree with their view…and that is important work since they wouldn’t have said it in front of us if they didn’t think we had the same perspective as them to begin with.

Out with classism and the systemic dehumanizing of people with language! A person cannot be trash…what could be more harmful than calling someone this?


Cooperative Catalyst

A boy from New Orleans shows up a week and a half after Hurricane Katrina. Being one of only a handful of white kids at our school, he is a little edgy and approaches another white student cautiously.

“I’ve never been at a school with so many Hispanics,” he whispers.

“It’s Latino. Only the government uses Hispanic.”


“Yeah, and if I were you, I would tell everyone that you’re half-Mexican. It’s what I did. There’s a lot of really light Latinos out there, so people will believe you.”

“But I’m not.”

“Nobody knows that. Do you live with just your mom?”

He shakes his head affirmatively.

“Then say that your dad is Mexican. They’ll just thing that your a guero instead of a gringo. You don’t want people to think you’re white trash.”

“They use that term out here, too?” he asks with a look of shock.

His new…

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  1. Hi Stephanie! Thanks for sharing this. I’m gonna have my students in my 1st college literacy class read it. It’ll be a good complement to the discussions we’re having around the book the Glass Castle by Jeannete Walls.

    –Deborah Sanchez

  2. I often think back, and actually have shared with others, the “what do you mean?” response that you shared with us in class this summer. What a great way to illuminate the “unspoken” implications of speech. Yet what I found to be equally effective was the WAY that you said it…so gentle…and even kind.

    It really point out to me that being defensive or accusatory, which I too often can be, simply stops or aggregates the conversation. Yet, approaching the other person with a gentle probe…”what do you mean” can allow an opening for thought or conversation that otherwise would have been closed down.

  3. Whoops..I meant aggravate the conversation…

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