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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (March 8, 1993)
White trash ignored by society
Poverty. Visualize the word.
What, or better yet, who do
More than likely it’s shades of
brown people living in the heart of
America’s cities amid crime and mis
ery. Peculiar how the image of pov
erty is chained to race.
How about white trash or poor
white trash—ever heard these terms?
A white dude I know said this to me
“Will you look at that white trash,”
he said about a family he saw in a
“What in the hell docs that mean!”
I asked, puzzled and slightly angry.
“You know,” he said. “Dirty, poor
white people. They’re a disgrace.”
What did he mean by that last part
of his already elitist remark? A dis
grace? Ah! I get it now. America’s
truly invisiblecitizens. Poor and down
trodden white folks.
Arc they invisible because
America’s image of itself is a facade
of affluence and proper moral eti
• While America is well-off. Other
America is not. White America is
intelligent and rational. Other America
is destined for hapless emotion and
In reality, however, a profile of
American poverty looks like this: In
1990 there were about 34 m il I ion poor
people in America, according to the
federal definition of poverty which is
based on family size and income.
Two-thirds of America’s poor arc
A disgrace, he called them. A dis
grace to whom?
As if he were saying poverty is a
disgrace to the white race, but it’s OK
for people of color to be poor and
hopeless because that’s just the way
Or, as one of my friends said so
So what that dude
was that it’s not
enough to just have
white skin in
like saying our trash is equal to every
one else’s normal existence or
Consequently, • mainstream
America disposes of this trash in ob
vious ways. Seldom do we sec images
of white poverty in mainstream maga
zines or on the popular television
In the media and among the con
versations of life, there’s an absence
of “those kind of people” — white
people, only a different social and
economic flavor of white people.
Even though people of color are
typecast and stereotyped in the me
dia, unfortunately they arc visible.
But the white ones, many who are
often poorer than the poor people of
color are, where are they?
Closer to our own lives, on this
campus. Look around. Where arc they?
They aren’t. The way they dress, the
way they talk and the way they think
disallows them to enter this enlight
They don’t fit in. Can you believe
it—saying a white person in America
does not fit in?
So what that dude said, uncon
sciously, was that it’s not enough just
to have white skin in America. In
addition, you have to either be toiling
hard in the dirty jobs that cement the
nation’s Foundation or you have to be
well-off, working hard mentally at |
thankless jobs. And on top of all of
that, you have to know the narrow
Ooooops. I’ve gotten this far and
forgot myself. How dare I say some
thing so Marxist as that America is a
class-based society. A society where
by design the most “accepting” class
is the middle because it doesn’t have
to compete socially or economically
with the underclass and can’t com
pete with the upper class.
All the while, the upper class is
largely oblivious to the other classes,
which leaves the underclass to bicker
and harbor hate for each other. The
They arc all in the same line wait
ing for acceptance into their own so
ciety. And while they wait, bicker and
cheat each other about who’s to go
first, the other higher classes arc al
ready inside going about their busi
If you look at America’s tiered
while society, you’ll find that sym
bolically it ends at the respectable
white working class, the laborers. Not
If you look deep, you’ll see that
one level below arc the white women
who use food stamps to feed their
families. Or the white families who
live in tattered trailer homes with no
heal and little food. Two-thirds of
They arc the pliant ones who have
failed to live up to the ideal of them
selves. Their punishment: invisibil
ity. Larger society hides its shame.
Moss is a graduate student in anthropol
ogy and a Daily Nebraskan columnist.
-tr .p> r _ » ~ _
Learn from Magic’s mistake
Who could forget the 1982
NBA finals, when Kareem
Abdul-Jabbar was benched
with an injury, Earvin Johnson —
normally a point guard — stepped in
to play center and, in the greatest
individual performance in the history
of basketball, led the Lakers to a
Just a few years earlier this won
der-kid with a flashy smile and a
catchy nickname single-handedly
made basketball a TV sport, saving
the NBA from financial ruin. He was
larger than life — a good-guy giant
right out of an American fairy tale.
Perhaps most tragic, then, was that
fateful press conference about a year
ago when Magic announced his re
tirement. Very few of us could really
hope that he mighichampion his most
formidable foe, AIDS. He had saved
the Lakers; he had saved the NBA.
But who could believe that this 32
year-old miracle worker could save
All good stories have a moral, and
in the Wake of the announcement that
Magic had AIDS, there has been heart
felt and fearful concern over how to
deal with this awful menace. Are we
at risk? How do we protect ourselves?
There have been essentially two
responses to thcprotcciion question,
both with powerful advocates. Magic
began to spread the word about “safe
sex.” On the other hand, Bill Cosby
followed him up voicing less com
mon advice: abstinence.
Many within the media and educa
tional elite have long presented the
first option, while the second has been
advocated by the more marginalized
voices in our culture, including the
chinch. On talk shows, in advice col
umns, on radio and TV, interviews
with the so-called experts without fail
urge that abstinence is too unrealistic.
But reflect for just a moment on the
abstinence argument and its weight.
Simply put: If you don’t have AIDS
and you don’t have sex or use intrave
nous drugs, you will not contract HI V.
Freedom as license
has already cost us
our most valuable
Surely our culture
has the good sense
to learn the moral of
the story of Magic
In the face of such a powerful
threat, it is striking that some do not
have the courage to even speak the
option that everyone — conservative
or liberal — admits is the most effec
tive way of preventing the spread of
In aculture that rightly advises and
enforces abstinence from cigarettes
and alcohol until a certain age, it
seems odd that we cannot make simi
lar exhortations against youthful sex.
Ccrtainl v we would all think it strange
to Find that, in the face of escalating
youth gun use, our public school teach
ers would resign to saying, “Well,
they’re going to do it anyway’’ and
begin teaching handgun safety.
Expecting high schoolers,
collegiates and other unmarrieds to
abstain from intercourse may in fact
be unrealistic. Casual sex apparently
goes without saying. But the two fac
tors in this equation — young people
and unbridled sexuality — do not
There must be a hidden premise.
Recognizing it forces us into some
uncomfortable reckoning with a seri
ous flaw in the emerging American
We increasingly cannot resist our
impulses. Our appetites reign. Re
straint and self-control are more and
more, as one “Nightline” pundit put
it, almost triumphantly, fictions of
our Victorian past.
But with the benefits of that past
well in hand, America has taken to
redrawing traditional notions of “free
dom” in favor of “freedom to.” We
have ignored the importance of “free
dom from.” Dynamic freedom has
given way to simple license.
Ironically, we find that by satisfy
ing our appetites continually through
exercising our “freedom to,” we un
wittingly increase our threshold for
satisfaction. Not unlike the poor soul
addicted to drugs, our flesh craves
Life according to appetite is in
creasingly impoverished. Looking
back up the slope of increasing de
mands, we find that while we claim
freedom, we are evermore enslaved.
only valuable within boundaries. Law
lessness is no panacea against re
straint. If we liberate ourselves from
tyranny, our new autonomy risks a
more insidious oppression from
As First Things magazine editor
Richard John Neuhaus has written:
“Autonomy alone, thought of the un
qualified fulfillment of the self, is a
new oppression. Beyond autonomy is
the free acknowledgement of that by
which we are bound_And we are
bound to be free in the sense that our
freedom is only actualized fh the free
acceptance of that which authorita
tively claims our assent and obedi
Freedom as license has already
cost us our most valuable basketball
player. Surely our culture has the
good sense to learn the moral of the
story of Magic Johnson. More doubt
ful is our courage to act on it.
Young la a first year law student and i
Dally NobraUtan columnist.
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The Computing Resource Center is offering free
microcomputer seminars to UNL students. The seminars will
feature an introduction to Microsoft Word for the Macin
tosh and WordPerfect for IBM machines. No reservations
Lab Location Dates Times
Introduction to Microsoft Word for Macintosh
Andrews Tuesday. March 9 4:00 - 5:00 p.m.
Advanced Microsoft Word for the Macintosh
Andrews Tuesday, March 16 4:00 - 5:00 p.m.
Introduction to WordPerfect 5.1 for IBM
Sandoz(IBM) Wednesday. March 10 3:00 - 4:30 p.m.
Advanced WordPerfect 5.1 for IBM
Sandoz (IBM) Wednesday. March 17 3:00 - 4:30 p.m.
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