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JUDY WOODRUFF: Now: a look at the history of poor white Americans. Arguably, the most important is the one we as a people have trouble embracing, the pervasiveness of a class hierarchy in the United States.” That line comes from a new book with the provocative title “White Trash,” which makes a provocative argument that, from the nation’s earliest history to now, ideals such as opportunity and upward mobility haven’t characterized the lives of many Americans.That’s the focus of the latest addition to the “News Hour” Bookshelf. Author Nancy Isenberg is a professor of history at Louisiana State University. NANCY ISENBERG, Author, “White Trash”: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America”: Well, thanks for having me.“We understand barriers to black advancement in America,” said Matt Wray, Temple University sociologist and author of .“We don’t understand barriers to white advancement.” That’s why even liberals believe that they can use the term with impunity: Poor whites have only themselves to blame for not making it.And it goes all the way back to British ideas, because, in the colonial period and well throughout the 19th century, the mark of being a successful American was being a property owner.And what we have forgotten is that large numbers of Americans didn’t own property.“White trash," Wray said, gets dropped into polite conversation all the time by highly educated people as if it were not a term of abuse.
So, white trash really comes out of notions of rural poverty.Critiquing a Japanese restaurant, June Chu wrote, “If you are white trash, this is the perfect night out for you! and perfect for those low class folks who believe this is a real night out.” is potent enough to wound.“I’ve heard people call me 'white trash' since I was young — always other white people, and it’s so hurtful,” said Nancy Horton, 63, a retired security guard, who lives on 0 a week in a trailer park on Route 322 in Honey Brook, Chester County.Unlike slurs about Irish or Jewish people, “white trash” seems to be saying more about class than ethnicity.Gary Campbell The first track off of "Black Trash/White House" ends with this beautiful statement of truth: "I promise that I'm honest, and I promise I'm sincere, and I'm fucked up in the head and I am fat and I am queer, and I am poor and black and may even be ugly, but I'm here." There's a bit of Nikki Minaj in her multiple personality rapping style, used to full effect on songs like "Brown Recluse." This record concludes with "Paloma," an unexpectedly sweet, soft acoustic guitar ballad.