By Lavern Merriweather
With the advent of TV shows such as “Party Down South”, “Chrisley Knows Best”, “Way Out West” and “Hollywood Hillbillies”, it appears that being a white trash redneck is currently very trendy, following the success of Honey Boo Boo, a show that features a cute precocious little 8 year-old blond girl from the backwoods of Georgia. She and her extremely eccentric, loud, vulgar family have made quite a name for themselves – as well as millions – by behaving exactly as the stereotype that middle to upper class white people expect them to be.
Although I feel that it’s really cool seeing someone get over on how the other half lives by playing up their given clichés, it’s still is a cringe worthy premise. The bottom line is that the producers and network who air these shows as well as the audience who watch are not laughing with these people; they are laughing at them. For a long time, poor white folks who don’t have a proper education or speaking dialect have been the butt of some cruel jokes.
There are countless movies that show white people who don’t have a certain pedigree or social status as stupid, inbred bumpkins. Of course, it doesn’t matter if that mindset is grounded in reality or not. If it’s cool to laugh at a certain group of people, stereotypes are easily and eagerly justified, which is no surprise seeing how many arrogant white males in the media need to find someone to make feel inferior to exemplify their own sense of superiority. Even members of their own race, white people that haven’t been able to obtain the same wealth or prestige as their more prosperous brethren. They are deemed the black sheep of the white populace, much in the same way that Italians are as evidence by the success of that foolishness “Jersey Shore”.
Those people would not get all that attention or adulation if they were articulate, smart, charming and college educated. However, because they speak with a typical East Coast Italian dialect and engage in a moronic, destructive lifestyle, they are ripe for the plucking.
I find it strangely ironic that Honey Boo Boo, whose real name is Alana Thompson, first came to prominence on the TLC show “Toddlers &Tiaras”. She was a beauty pageant standout who earned herself a TV show despite that it is an activity normally reserved for rich, white suburbanites. You rarely, if at all, see someone from the trailer park crowd making a name for themselves in such a prominent world.
You may ask yourself, why it is that a black woman from the city would care about how a bunch of white folks from the South are being treated. But I would ask you to look at the bigger picture. This isn’t just about being white and poor. This is about keeping those deemed less-than by the dominant society in their place.
Another thing is that bigotry/prejudice/discrimination often times goes beyond race. Although young Miss Alana is doing well now, as I would imagine most of the white people on those programs are. What I find troubling is what happens when the honeymoon is over and the novelty wears off. As anyone who has tried and failed at a career in the limelight can tell you, Hollywood is not a compassionate or sympathetic business. That’s because it’s a business first and foremost. So, those in power make sure that they stay there by striking while the iron is hot. This little girl won’t be a girl forever, and one day, she might find herself 25 years old with no education, no money and will end up right back where she and her family started. And the only person the joke will be on then is her.
I could very easily go there with snap judgments about Southern white folks and assume that her and her family are moronic racist fools who utter racial slurs at the drop of the hat when the cameras are off. However, I don’t believe in or agree with generalizing others. In any case, a lot of negative mindset bestowed on those not thought of fondly in the white community isn’t only directed at people of color.
Popular Chicago radio shock jock Steve Dahl made a number of disparaging comments about disgraced former security guard Richard Jewel. Mr. Jewel was the main suspect for a bombing in Atlanta during the summer Olympics in 2006 that killed a few people. Mr. Jewel was later cleared of all charges. Then, he eventually sued many news outlets in America that painted him as public enemy number one.
Despite the overwhelming evidence of his innocence, Dahl still felt the need to be malicious. He complained about the fact that Mr. Jewel owned two homes saying that Mr. Jewel shouldn’t be allowed to do such a thing, because he, Mr. Dahl, had two homes.
While I know that’s not a racist sentiment, it still comes from an attitude of ‘If I know I’m better then you, you’d better not have what I have’, a feeling that plenty of white males in the media express when it comes to black men that are rich, famous and successful. They don’t even try to hide their obnoxious jealousy. It’s like that old saying “if there’s one thing a white male with a nickel hates to see it’s a n*gger with a dime”. I believe truer words were never spoken.
That’s why I feel the word ‘entitlement’ gets bandied about most of the time when they are discussing black male athletes. But that word never crosses their lips when it’s another white man. No, he has every right to be financially secure in the best way possible, unless they are white people already considered inferior because of how they talk, where they live or their economic status. Sometimes not even that will make any difference seeing how although Alana and her family are now millionaires, they aren’t thought of any more highly than if they were dirt poor with ten rusty cars in the driveway, which is how the dominant supremacist society treats all those not viewed as equal to them.
I hope that little Alana wises up enough and saves her money to have a more secure future. Otherwise the prejudice she faces right now is going to make it that much harder on her when she is older.