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Why You Should Trash the Term White Trash

Some people tire of more don'ts to add to the so-called politically correct list of things not to say. For me, I think it's important to be aware of what the language you use implies — what it means, who it might hurt, the power behind words. Political correctness (for lack of a better term) is just etiquette on a larger social scale.

Which brings me to the term "white trash." This has always bugged me, and many have weighed in on why it's an awful term.

On the most basic level, calling anyone trash is just plain cruel and dehumanizing. When you think of it from a racial perspective, there's the implication that it's such an unusual event for white people to be "trash" that there needs to be a special category. Political theorist bell hooks, in her book Black Looks, says that white trash is basically a code term meaning, "as low as black people." To hear more thoughts on the term white trash,


Then there's the class discrimination involved. People considered white trash are almost always poor, or from poor backgrounds. I don't need to explain how messed up it is to trash people for being poor. That, I think, is classless.

White trash has become so casually tossed around, in spite of attempts by critics to call attention to it — even Heidi Klum and Seal had a white trash-themed wedding when they renewed their vows recently, and I bet they didn't intend it to be offensive.

Have you ever casually used the term white trash? Does it bother you when you hear it?


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