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Is ‘White Trash’ finally taboo?

Is white trash finally taboo?

Last week, a dean at Yale University was placed on leave for using the term in a Yelp review. Critiquing a Japanese restaurant, June Chu wrote[1], If you are white trash, this is the perfect night out for you! This establishment is definitely not authentic and perfect for those low class folks who believe this is a real night out. Chu, who identified herself as Chinese-American, has apologized for being insensitive.

A phrase uttered by the rich and poor, liberal and conservative, white trash is the last racist thing you can say and get away with, film maker John Waters once said. Maybe not anymore. Chu s punishment may be proof that, while not as toxic as the n-word, white trash 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 $300 a week in a trailer park on Route 322 in Honey Brook, Chester County. My family grew up in mobile homes, and people just associate it as being where all the drug people with bad clothes are.

‘Oh, you re just white trash, they say. You don t live up to my expectations.

Expectations are at the core of the denigration.

People who are called white trash are poor folks who seek the benefit of whiteness but don t have the means to live it in a substantive way, said Eddie Glaude, chairman of the Center for African-American Studies at Princeton University. In other words, if you re white, you re supposed to make it in this world.

We understand barriers to black advancement in America, said Matt Wray, Temple University sociologist and author of Not Quite White: White Trash and the Boundaries of Whiteness. We don t understand barriers to white advancement. That s why even liberals feel like they can use the term with impunity: Poor whites have only themselves to blame for not making it.

‘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.

The phrase conveys a sense of superiority in evidence during the election, when Trump voters were dismissed by elites as white trash, said Temple sociologist Judith Levine. A famously leaked memo from Sen. Marco Rubio s campaign staff referred to Trump followers by that very term. Unlike slurs about Irish or Jewish people, white trash seems to be saying more about class than ethnicity.

That s why people don t rally to oppose the phrase, said Wray: There is no hillbilly anti-defamation league. To be sure, some embrace the pejorative, proudly calling themselves white trash or the more popular redneck thus owning the term and defusing its sting. That s happened with the n-word, as well as the word queer, Glaude said.

I wore it like a badge of honor when someone called me ‘white trash,’ said Chris Terilla, 43, a recovering heroin addict from Kensington who works for a snack food manufacturer. I ve been white trash in my life [the] emotionally and financially hurting people. Up in Kensington, you can hear people call others white trash all the time, said Karen Pushaw, a staff member of St. Francis Inn Soup Kitchen under the El. Kensington residents, she said, refer to the neighborhood as a kind of Appalachia in the city.

While whites throw around the term often enough, usually up here, I hear it used more by black people, Pushaw said. There s precedent for that, Wray said. The term white trash originates from the 1820s in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. area, where it was uttered by free blacks as an aspersion against poor whites, he said.

By the 1930s, he added, white trash was a useful phrase for American eugenicists, who promulgated an ideology of white supremacy. The thinking was, blacks and Asians are inferior, so why are there stupid, lazy, alcoholic white people? Wray said. These imbeciles, as they were called, were defective and needed to be eliminated. American doctors sterilized as many as 100,000 people considered white trash in the early 20th Century, Wray said. A leading proponent of sterilization was H.H. Goddard, a Haverford College graduate who taught in West Chester, then moved to Vineland where he ran the New Jersey Training School for Feeble-Minded Girls and Boys. He coined the term moron.

During the Nuremburg trials to hold the Nazis accountable for World War II atrocities, defenders of the Germans said their ideas for creating a master race derived from the U.S. sterilization programs, and American aversion to so-called white trash, Wray said.

The term carries with it a disgust, said Yitzhak Nates, a Narberth rabbi. It s so ripe with a raw and unjustified judgment that it makes me want to cry. Bill Rumig, 64, who lives at Valley View Trailer Park in Honey Brook, said he s too old to weep over harmful words. But that doesn t mean he s immune to their sting.

After falling on hard times six years ago, Rumig moved to a mobile home. It shocked a long-time friend who d only known Rumig as a homeowner in town. The friend stopped speaking to him.

He had old money and couldn t be associated with a trailer-park person, said Rumig, a widower three times over who held 38 jobs in his life. He thought I must be white trash.

Rumig paused to re-consider the term.

Everybody has a right to be a person, he said. Not trash.

More Coverage

Is 'White Trash' Finally Taboo? Published: May 22, 2017 3:01 AM EDT | Updated: May 22, 2017 12:25 PM EDT
The Philadelphia Inquirer

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Is 'White Trash' Finally Taboo?

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LeBron struggles, exchanges words with fan after Game 3 loss

LeBron James’ frustrating night kept going after one of the worst playoff games of his splendid career. James exchanged words with a fan late Sunday night after the Boston Celtics stormed back from a 21-point deficit in the third quarter and shocked the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals. As he walked down a hallway inside Quicken Loans Arena to the postgame news conference, James, who scored just 11 points and only one in the final 18 minutes, was heckled by the fan for his sub-par outing. James spun around and asked the man to repeat himself.

Security ushered the fan away from James, who then went to the podium and was blunt in assessing a very uncharacteristic game for the NBA’s best all-around player.

“I had a tough game, period,” he said. “Not just in the second half. Me, personally, I didn’t have it. My teammates did a great job of keeping us in the game, building that lead. But me, personally, I didn’t have it. That’s all I’ve got to say about my performance.”

There wasn’t much to gush about, that’s for sure. James didn’t score in the fourth quarter and went only 1 for 8 from the field with one rebound and one assist in the second half. It was James’ lowest point total in the playoffs since he scored seven for Miami in the 2014 conference finals against Indiana, and before Boston’s comeback, James was 49-0 in playoff games his team led by at last 20 points.

Making it more staggering is that James has been so brilliant in this postseason, taking his exquisite game to an even higher level. He had scored at least 30 points in eight consecutive playoff games, the first player to do that since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1970, and there didn’t seem to be anything the Celtics could do to stop him. But James went just 4 of 13 from the field, missing all four 3-pointers. He had six rebounds and six assists, but also committed six turnovers, including a costly miscue down the stretch when his pass was stolen by Jae Crowder.

“He’s human, so he’s going to have a night like this,” said Cavs coach Tyronn Lue. “He didn’t shoot the ball well, and we still had a 20-point lead. A game we should have won, but they played hard. They scrapped. They have a scrappy team. We knew that coming into tonight. We knew it wouldn’t be easy, but we got some things we can correct and come back ready to go on Tuesday (in Game 4).”

The Celtics, who were blown out by 44 points at home in Game 2, won despite being without star guard Isaiah Thomas. His season is over because of a hip injury, and although he’s not around, his presence was felt by his teammates who rallied to keep their season alive. James was eager to break down film of the game on Monday, but he was able to recall much of what Boston did right.

“They moved the ball, and they kept us at bay,” he said. “We couldn’t get stops. We couldn’t get out in transition a lot. Those guys made plays. They made a lot of plays. They got some second-chance points. We only had two fast-break points, so they neutralized what we wanted to do.”

The loss snapped Cleveland’s 10-game winning streak in this postseason and a 13-game run dating to Game 4 of last year’s Finals. James, who is trying to win his seventh consecutive conference title, tried to find a silver lining on an otherwise forgettable night.

“Some adversity is all part of the postseason,” he said. “I feel like you have to have some type of adversity in order to be successful. If it was going to happen, let it happen now; let us regroup. Let us regroup and all the narrative and everything that was going on, let’s regroup and let’s get back to playing desperate basketball, which they did tonight. So we’ve got to be a lot better, for sure.”

N.J. woman says Turkey president’s bodyguards beat her during D.C. protest (VIDEO)

A 26-year-old New Jersey woman alleges she was beaten in Washington, D.C by Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s bodyguards[1] during what began as a peaceful protest Tuesday, according to a BuzzFeed report. Ceren Borazan, who lives in East Rutherford, says a security officer put her in a headlock and threatened to kill her during a large altercation between protesters and Turkish security outside the embassy on Wednesday. The Turkish president had just returned to the embassy after meeting with President Donald Trump at the White House when violence broke out as Turkish security pushed past police to confront protesters.

PLEASE JOIN ME by asking 4 justice for those of us who were attacked yesterday by Erdogan’s bodyguards. #ArrestErdogansBodyguards[2][3]

— Ceren Borazan (@CerenBorazan) May 17, 2017[4]

Borazan, a Kurd who emigrated to the U.S in 2013, was also thrown to the ground, punched and kicked by a bodyguard, a police report states. She said she escaped when a stranger let her into his car. Twelve people, including a police officer were hurt during the melee.

“My Kurdish friends and allies were protesting peacefully against Erdogan being in Washington when were suddenly attacked by a group of Erdogan’s official bodyguards and secret police,” Borazan wrote on Facebook. “They attacked women, children and elderly with reckless abandon. U.S. officials strongly criticized the Turkish government.

“Violence is never an appropriate response to free speech, and we support the rights of people everywhere to free expression and peaceful protest,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement. “We are communicating our concern to the Turkish government in the strongest possible terms.”

Attacking the small group of protesters with their fists and feet, men in dark suits and others were recorded repeatedly kicking a different woman as she lay curled on a sidewalk. A man with a bullhorn is repeatedly kicked in the face. Video shows people pushing past police to confront a small group of protesters across the street in Sheridan Circle. Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency labeled the protesters Kurdish “supporters of terror.” It said they chanted anti-Erdogan slogans, and that Erdogan’s team moved in to disperse them because “police did not heed to Turkish demands to intervene.”

In a statement, the Turkish Embassy blamed the violence on the demonstrators, saying they were “aggressively provoking Turkish-American citizens who had peacefully assembled to greet the President. The Turkish-Americans responded in self-defense and one of them was seriously injured.”

.@TasneemN spoke to the woman in this photo about what Erdogan’s goon told her[5][6][7]

— Ben Smith (@BuzzFeedBen) May 18, 2017[8]

Ayten Necmi, 49, of Woodside, N.Y., was charged with aggravated assault, police said, after a woman who was thrown to the ground and kicked identified Necmi as her attacker.

Jalal Kheirabadi, 42, of Fairfax, Virginia, charged with assaulting a police officer, refused treatment for cuts to his face.

The man who attacked Borazan has not been identified.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


  1. ^ beaten in Washington, D.C by Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s bodyguards (
  2. ^ #ArrestErdogansBodyguards (
  3. ^ (
  4. ^ May 17, 2017 (
  5. ^ @TasneemN (
  6. ^ (
  7. ^ (
  8. ^ May 18, 2017 (
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