White Trash, by Nancy Isenberg

White Trash – The 400 Year Untold Story of Class in America is an important book in today’s environment. The book can be hard to read at times as it leans toward academic prose and style. The ideas and history are critical to learn nonetheless and I found it worth the effort required by the prose. For me, this was in the impact genre of Zinn’s A People’s History – though Trash is much narrower in scope.

Three things really strike me as i look back over my reading. 1. Colonization could have been as much about cultural cleansing (sending the undesirable as far away as possible) as it was about rape and pillage; 2. Different colonies in the south began with opposing views on slavery; 3. Class manipulation (pitching one class, especially the poor white class, against another more lowly class) is as alive today as it was in any other time of our history.

A few quotes:

“When you turn an election into a three-ring circus, there’s always a chance that the dancing bear will win.” 

“We know, for instance, that Americans have forcefully resisted extending the right to vote; those in power have disenfranchised blacks, women, and the poor in myriad ways. We know, too, that women historically have had fewer civil protections than corporations. Instead of a thoroughgoing democracy, Americans have settled for democratic stagecraft: high-sounding rhetoric, magnified, and political leaders dressing down at barbecues or heading out to hunt game.” 

“If this book accomplishes anything it will be to have exposed a number of myths about the American dream, to have disabused readers of the notion that upward mobility is a function of the founders’ ingenious plan, or that Jacksonian democracy was liberating, or that the Confederacy was about states’ rights rather than preserving class and racial distinctions.” 

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