Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Hidden Meaning of White Trash

The phrase “white trash” — you’ve probably heard it before — is used to describe poor white people. According to Wikipedia, the label “signifies lower social class and degraded standards of living”. So clearly, “white trash” is a derogatory term. But, what about the phrase’s other implications? Why don’t we have “Mexican trash”? Why don’t we have “Asian trash”?
I see the term “white trash” as a further elevation of the idea of being white. It has the ability to separate white people from other white people that are deemed as not meeting the standards of being “white”. So that, even if there are certain white people who are somehow not people that — how do I say this in a way that is politically correct? — one wants to associate with, or who somehow are not dignified enough, the ideal of being “white” can be kept up with the further separation from these groups. The phrase white trash is a subtle way of affirming “white”. The lack of “Mexican trash” or “Asian trash” hints at what exactly this affirming of whites means (to label a white person as white trash is like throwing them back into the pool of other labeled peoples).
In part, this same tactic is employed by Chris Rock when he does his standup bit on black people vs N words. Yes, it is a stand-up comedy joke, but it also exemplifies the meaning behind “white trash”. In this case, the N words are used as a separation so that black people can be elevated. The N words prevent black people from going out at night etc. etc. because they (N words) are the ones who do bad things and give black people a bad image. I claim this is exactly the same thing that is going on with the term “white trash”. White people are elevated by the separation of an undignified group in the same way.
Now the question is, what is to be done about this? Honestly, I don’t think this is a major problem. I don’t think it’s right to start creating terms like “Mexican trash” or “Asian trash”. In fact, it’s possible that each culture may have their own equivalent word that I don’t know. I just think it’s interesting that there is even a term like white trash — it couldn’t be a more blatantly contrived term. I’m just here to tell you its hidden meaning.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

The End of My Blog

Wow, what a year! Junior year is almost finished, and likewise my blog will be coming to an end. I had a great time in American Studies. I laughed, I thought, and I cried. I did.
Farewell, and thanks for reading my blog. I hope you enjoyed my philosophy.
And now for my all time favorite farewell-song:

We'll meet again,
Don't know where,don't know when,
But I know we'll meet again, some sunny day.
Keep smiling through,
Just like you always do,
Till the blue skies drive the dark clouds, far away.
So will you please say hello,
To the folks that I know,
Tell them I won't be long, (i wont be long)
They'll be happy to know that as you saw me go
I was singing this song.

We'll meet again...

Monday, June 1, 2015

An Antique American Value

This whole school year, I've been trying to capture American values through current events. Usually, I talk about economics, race, politics... etc. For my final blog, I'm going to talk about a genuine American value. I'm talking about selflessness, serving others without expecting a reward. That's classic, bona fide American. However, I think that as the 21st century moves on, America is moving further and further from this type of charitable "good Samaritan" behavior

The Bible's parable of The Good Samaritan also preaches the concept of selflessness.

I encountered the value of selflessness while reading the classic American novel, "The Great Gatsby". There was a moment in Gatsby (Fitzgerald page 83) when Nick Carraway, our observant narrator, was offered an opportunity to make a lot of money. The magnanimous Jay Gatsby had previously asked Nick for a favor, and he promptly offered Nick a stake in his business. Nick noticed that this offer was tactlessly for a "service to be rendered" and denied the offer. Nick knew that Gatbsy was trying to get even, to pay his debts so to speak. But, Nick wanted nothing to do with this. The fact that Nick did Gatsby a favor and did not want anything in return (except maybe a friendship) made me think that in the 1920's (during the writing of the book), selflessness was an American value.

To help someone else, to complete spontaneous and profitless good-deeds, is classically American. For example, helping an elderly woman walk across the street unmolested is a classic American idea. Similarly, paying for someone else's meal, picking up hitchhikers and donating to charities is also classically "American".  

But, in modern times, I think America does not display this value anymoreI think the increasing influence of materialism in the US has caused Americans to be a lot more selfish. I feel as though people in America are pursuing the "new" American Dream, which only values material wealth and upper class lifestyles. This new American Dream does not value service or volunteer work. It's all about making money.

I also think that because America has become more atheist, people might be losing religious morals that are crucial to America. The term "good Samaritan" actually originates in The Bible where Jesus tells a parable of a Samaritan that helps a Jew even though the two ethnic groups hate each other. A good Samaritan is someone who is helpful and charitable. Now that America is losing contact with religion, I think America has also lost some religious morals, like the concept of a good Samaritan.

What do you think, is the growing irrelevance of Religion in America causing Americans to lose moral values?

Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Drug War has Deluded America

"The only way of explaining how the Sinaloa [drug] cartel and Chapo Guzmán became so powerful is with the complicity of the government." What a provocative statement! Investigative journalist Anabel Hernandez has been researching the "War on Drugs" in Mexico, and what she has to say is much different from what Americans hear about the "War on Drugs". She turns our world upside down with the claim that the Mexican government is fueling the drug war

This grotesque depiction of the "War on Drugs" is drawn from America's viewpoint. Could it be an illusion?

Hernandez explains that the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico is often fabled for its elusiveness and its leader, el Chapo Guzmán. This man is supposedly a mastermind, carefully importing drugs into the U.S. using "747 jets, submarines, and freight trains". El Chapo allegedly "hid in the mountains" for years, fooling the U.S. and Mexican government in the process. However, reporter Anabel Hernandez really questioned the validity of these reports and did some more research.

What she found was that the Sinaloa Cartel "enjoyed government protection (mexican gov.) since the Vicente Fox [2000-'06] administration, and that protection continued through the government of Felipe Calderón [2006-'12]".  She claims that the Sinaloa was attacked the least and had the least arrests. She even said that the DEA cooperated with the cartel in order to take down enemy cartels. It
 is really shocking that a cartel had friendly contact with the government, especially the US goverment. The result of this government protection was an increase in amphetamine, marijuana, and opium production in Mexico.  

In reality, the War on Drugs is perpetuating itself. The US and Mexican government are only catalyzing the process. While Mexico might somehow benefit from the running of cartels, the US government has no reason to support drug cartels. America is trying to rid itself of drugs (hopefully), and not trying to further production for some maniacal, monetary benefit. We should not be supporting drug cartels, and I'm sure most Americans would agree. Right now I am really questioning the role of the media in the US. Why has the American public not heard about this earlier? Is there a reason this information has been hidden from the public? 

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Wage Away our Dreams: America's High Gap and Low Morale

Get this: America's wages have actually decreased if not stayed the same while the National Gross Domestic Product has increased! This is a huge problem in America that is commonly known as the income gap. I think in order to fix this nationwide problem, America needs to change its economics from top to bottom. 

Displaying FullSizeRender.jpg
A graphic from American Studies class taken from Robert Reich's Inequality for All.

As you can see from the graphic, the overall GDP increased in the last 40 years in a linear fashion. The problem is, since 1970, the average worker's wage (adjusted for inflation) is relatively stagnant. So where does that gap between GDP and wages go? That money goes into the pockets of CEO's

These CEO's make on average 15.2 million a year according to the Economic Policy Institute. To add to that, the government taxes the top 1% less than the middle class! This is shocking. The reason for this is the economic theory of "Trickle Down Economics".  This is a theory where the CEO's essentially say that they should be allowed to have more of the wealth because they will be able to spend it and create more jobs for the lower classes and benefit the whole economy. Well, this has downsides because each CEO can only spend so much for the things they need. They can only buy so many cars, houses, etc. Plus, the places they spend their money are usually not benefiting the economy, but rather just themselves. The rich are essentially getting richer while the rest of America does not advance. This has detrimental effects to the overall American morale and social mobility. 

Americans are raised with the mentality that anyone can move up in socioeconomic status. This is essentially the American Dream. However, it is becoming a little jaded. Americans are working longer hours to account for the stagnant wages, and this causes Americans to have very little time for recreation or other self-building activities. The American mindset is especially focused on improving oneself, but if Americans don't have time to improve themselves let alone make enough money to do so, the American Dream is impossibly far away. 

How can America reinvigorate its citizens if the American Dream is a fallacy? Will America eventually have no social mobility? 

Class Identity Crisis

Recently, Americans have changed their viewpoint of their social class significantly. According to a recent 2015 poll from Gallup, 51% of Americans identify as middle class. That is down from 63% in 2008. This may be because of the growing income gap and the problems of trickle down economics.

Social Class Identification
Gallup Chart on Class Identification
The chart shows an overall decrease in the percent of middle class identification in from 2001 to 2015. Less people are identifying as middle class, however, it is not because upper class self-identification has increased, but because lower class identification has increased. 

What this says about America is that people feel even less wealthy than they used to. This is probably because of longer working hours in America as well as lower pay. We learned from Robert Reich that the wage gap is increasing because CEO's increase their pay while keeping worker wages the same. This gap in wealth may lead many Americans to think that they are not middle class anymore. This is most likely because they cannot purchase much material wealth and therefore don't feel middle class. Material wealth is what defines wealth for many Americans and when wages are stagnant, people cannot buy as much and as a result think that they are not even middle class. Longer working hours are symptoms of low class labor and since people have to work longer hours to earn more, they begin to think they are low class. Americans are currently suffering from an identity crisis that really takes its roots in the lack of social mobility in the U.S.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Bare Minimum Wage

This just in, Americans everywhere struggle to live on the minimum wage. No, it's not news. The inadequacy of the minimum wage is something that every American knows about. It drives Americans to work harder so that they might be able to avoid the struggles of the poor. For those of you that are quite well off economically, indulge me. The struggle is real.

The Federal minimum wage is $7.25. Americans working the federal minimum wage are far below the poverty line. For the record, the "poor" are defined as having an income below $15,930 a year for a family of TWO

Persons in family/household
Poverty guideline
For families/households with more than 8 persons, add $4,160 for each additional person.

However, the minimum wage only pays $15,080 a year at 40 hours a week! Often people work minimum wage jobs to support families of MORE than two people. This puts those families even further below the poverty line in America, as shown in the table above. 

America's poor struggle to make it by every day. A Forbes interview with a minimum wage mother of 4 gives us greater insight. Carmen Iverson has four kids and works 20-27 hours a week, making only $400-$600 a month after taxes. When asked whether she could work for the government standard of 40 hours a week, she said "I couldn't do it". Living in Kansas, her rent alone is $650 a month. It seems impossible for her to live. Remember, there are millions of Americans that work for the minimum wage and most likely suffer a similar fate.

I think the plight of the minimum wage worker is best explained by a quote from the documentary Hoop Dreams. In the movie, Sheila Agee courageously worked for the minimum wage to feed her family of four. After being cut off of welfare, Sheila asks us (the audience),"Do you all wonder sometime, how I am living? How my children survive, and how they're living? It's enough to really make people want to go out there and just lash out and hurt somebody.''

Yes, we all wonder how it's possible for someone to live on the minimum wage. That's why I think that the federal minimum wage should be raised to a more ethical $10/hour (of course if m.w. is higher in certain states it shouldn't be reduced to $10/hour). After reading about the minimum wage, I became very frustrated. I hope you have too.