Ranking #317 on Amazon is "White Trash" by Nancy Isenberg.
Well-researched and with a sophisticated tone, the book documents how class-obsessed America has been, right from the get-go.
The founding fathers were the biggest snobs. They could be. After all, they were members of the elite. And since then, those labeled as "lower class" - or, horrors, "white trash" - have been as much victims of prejudice as have been African-Americans
Lawyers, of course, always knew that.
It's standard procedure to make over the lower-class defendant to simulate the appearance and behavior of the middle class. That has been almost cartoonish. When I was being screened for jury duty in a murder trial in Tucson, Arizona, until everyone was identified, there was no way of telling who was the defendant, who was the defense lawyer and who was the prosecutor.
Back in the late 1940s, there emerged an exit ramp out of "white trash." Baby Boomers were the first generation with access to higher education en masse.
But to participate in that new rite of passage we were coached in the language and ways of the middle and even upper class. That all came our in our personal essays to college. The tone had to be sophisticated. The content aspirational. We were focused on middle class professional roles. It was bye-bye to our roots.
Entrepreneurship wasn't hot. So, the newly minted college graduates had to go off to further education or Corporate America. It would have been career suicide not to take on the protective coloring of the ruling class. That is, the professional and corporate elite. They were the lawyers, doctors, engineers and executives/managers.
That was then.
As career paths blow up, what had been imprinted about making it economically in America frequently is proving to be actual obstacles to survival. The lawyer or corporate manager who loses a job may have never known how to scramble economically the way "white trash" had. And still does. A classic example: It may never dawn on those displaced professional to bunk in a rented trailer until they can fix their worsening financial situation.
Author Isenberg brings out that the medium of television in its early days presented the middle class lifestyle of "Ozzie and Harriet" as the template for Americana. The lower class characters of "The Honeymooners" provided comic relief. The message was: Let us laugh at the bus driver and sewer worker.
With economic status in play throughout America, there could be emerging respect for the creativity and cunning of "white trash." But, likely the legal system will forever superimpose classism on how participants present themselves in courtrooms, to probation officers and for jobs in law enforcement.
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