I was driving today, and the question popped into my head – "Where did all this fascination with 'white trash' come from, anyway?" I had lunch with a girlfriend last week, and she told me that one of her African-American friends heard her drop the term "white trash," and she was offended by it. I thought that was odd; how in the world would that offend anyone, especially if they're not white to begin with? I guess color words are still loaded guns in our society.
Anyway, I digress. I can remember as far back as being a small child hearing my mother utter the declaration, "I didn't raise you to act like white trash." We'd get that gem of wisdom if we were doing something inappropriate, like spitting at each other in the mall or eating with our elbows on the table or not washing behind our ears. In my mind, "white trash" was a species of creature, not sure if it was human, but it epitomized slovenly, inappropriate, rude and sometimes disgusting behavior.
And of course, I always swore that I'd never use that term when correcting my children. Sadly I fell far short of that goal, as it became a running joke in our household that everyone who behaved inappropriately was "white trash." My kids even worked up a little singing and dancing routine that ended with all of them framing their darling little faces with spirit fingers and belting out "WHITE TRASH" with big grins on their faces.
I guess what I'm trying to say, and I address this in the book also, is that calling someone "white trash" is only offensive if that person is anything but white trash. True white trash is as proud as punch to be called exactly that. They strive to perfect the art of white-trash-dom. The ones I know are succeeding, by the way.