White Privilege?

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said white people don’t understand what it’s like to be poor and live in the ghetto, in response to a question about the candidates’ racial blind spots.  – Huffington Post.

Fact: Most poor people in the United States are white.

According to Census figures in 2013, 18.9 million whites are poor. That’s 8 million more poor white people than poor black people, and more than 5 million more than those who identify as Latino. A majority of those benefiting from programs like food stamps and Medicaid are white, too. – The Root.

The racial privilege status of white trash makes them unattractive to the media because being penurious and pale-skinned is not respectable. While poor minorities are viewed with dignity and sympathy (as they should be), the same doesn’t apply to Caucasians. The white working class is, as Baptist minister Will Campbell put it, “the last, the only minority left that is fair game for ethnic slurs from people who would consider themselves good liberals.” Since the Progressive Era, the U.S. government has made it a goal to forcefully equalize society between races, classes, income scales, and gender. But to Campbell, “poor whites have seen government try to make peace between various warring factions but they have not been brought to the bargaining table.”

The result is pockets of despair in many parts of the country, most predominantly the South. And while it’s true that poor whites have always existed in America, the callous disregard for their difficulty we see by blue bloods in the Acela corridor is new. People like Kim Konzny have been stripped of dignity and left to fend for themselves without the assistance of the media or Washington elites. Unlike impoverished blacks who hold tight to faith and community, they are without an honorable sense of identity. If they cling to the Bible, they are seen as brainless, flat-earth bumpkins. If they somehow succeed in getting out of the trailer, they are demonized and told they’ve earned nothing because of “white privilege.” If they try to stick with their own kind, they are called neo-segregationists.

It’s a lose-lose for poverty-stricken whites searching for solidarity. So instead they anchor their life to cigarettes and booze. They are taught to hate themselves, to think that life in a dirty, dented trailer is all they should expect, and to not have a stake in their future because the rest of the country doesn’t want them. – from an article by Rod Dreher in the American Conservative.

So. I’ve posted parts of article from both the left and the right.

But, let’s look at it from where I came from.

I was born to a poor dirt farmer. Jimmy Rowe subsisted on a 63 acre piece of land of which about only 15 acres was farming land. His dad Colie had probably the same ration of total acreage and farm land. My uncle next to us had less than that. My mom’s dad was a preacher. He didn’t own land. He was given a place to live most of the time and moved often.

I didn’t see running water from a pipe unless I went to town and on a regular basis till I started school. I didn’t live in a house with running water till I was ten years old. That’s right. No bathroom. We had an outhouse and a johnny pot for the cold nights of winter when we dared sit on its cold rim in the back room by the back door. There was no privacy. Dad had enough ingenuity to drive a pipe down through the kitchen floor next to the wall for a shallow well and built a cabinet around it and put a hand pump on it. We kept a quart jar of water on the counter to prime the pump so we didn’t have to go to the well like my grandmother did on my mother’s side.

Poverty 3This woman was a hard working woman who raised seven children and lost another to an accident with a horse. She did things that most people likely wouldn’t do today. Living a simple life with little or no money, because preachers didn’t make the big bucks you see being pulled down by the mega ministries today.

My granddad was a simple preacher who knew what it was to do the Will of God. He wasn’t in it for the money and I don’t think most honest preachers are.

Moms parentsI heard talk of how he would spend his own money on gas to go a long distance to preach and get only enough of an offering to maybe get him back home. He never complained that I knew of in the open. It wasn’t something to talk about.

The house I grew up in was a two bedroom with kitchen, living room and a back room that led out the back door. Washing was done in a tub washer with a wringer that I can tell you about from personal experience. It’s pretty rough on tiny five year old hands. I got my fingers caught in it and by the time my mom got it stopped it had almost eaten my arm up to my elbow.   I was skinned up pretty bad. But we couldn’t afford a doctor so we doctored it up with mecuricrome, gauze and tape.   My brother caught his thumb in the car door one time and instead of waiting for mom to open the door back up he jerked his finger out and pulled the end of his tiny thumb almost completely off. What did we do for medical care? Washed it off and stuck the end of his thumb back on, wrapped it up in gauze and antiseptic and believe it or not it had enough attached to grow back on. Now a days if a kid so much as sniffles we’re off to the ER.

In the sixities my dad branched out and leased farm land to increase his income on tobacco. What did it get him? A trip to the hospital from exhaustion and some of those summers drowned crops from too much rain or scorched dried crops from the lack of rain. But he did perservere and built us a house with running water and a fuel heater instead of the wood burning stove we used in the old house to heat all of it.

I woke up many mornings in that old house during those cold winter mornings with my eyes glued shut from the oozing goo that came from my eyes in the cold. I almost went deaf from a mastoid infection, but thanks to my mom she saw to it come hell or high water I went to a specialist and got my ear drums punctured to drain the infection. We didn’t have tubes back then. I don’t know how it got paid.

My brother Danny was born with a cleft palate. He had no roof in his mouth. Thanks to our local doctor we got into a study at Duke and they took him in as a subject for experimental surgery to repair his mouth for free if we agreed to allow them to use his progress with the medical community. Elsewise he would have been a young boy that was bullied and picked on probably on through his entire life. He couldn’t talk otherwise.

This picture is one of my granddad and his family. My dad is the young man to his right Poverty 1with his two sisters to his left. Grandmother here is wearing her typical gardening hat. The picture was in their “money crop”, tobacco.

It was the once a year thing at the market when we had money to spend. Most of the year it wasn’t much of a time you could have a dime to spend. Budgeting was something of a laughable word. There was nothing to budget. We lived on the tobacco money to pay up the bills that were created during the off season. The rest of the year was hog killings for meat, deer hunting for more meat. Gardening was a major effort to have vegetables to can. Freezing food? Are you kidding? If it couldn’t be cured, stuck in a salt barrel or dried in a smoke house we didn’t have meat. The only fresh meat would have been at the time the hog or deer was killed for we could spare a chicken from the coop. Vegetables were put in quart jars. Beans, beets, peas and anything else that could be put in a jar and sealed up for later was done with care. Grandmother milked the cow and made butter from the fat skimmed off the milk. I watched her many times making butter. She had a mold that she would pour the butter in that had a flower carved in the inside so that when it hardened and you pulled the cup off of it there would be that little flower on top. Oh, by this time we had a Fridgedaire. My grandmother had also traded in her wood burning stove for a gas burning one.

You wonder about grandmother and granddaddy’s home?

Colie and Elsies HouseThis is what my dad’s family grew up in. It was still being lived in at the time of this picture. It had a big bedroom that the sisters slept in, granddaddy and grandmother slept in a small room and dad’s room was a built on barely big enough to put a bed. It was heated by a wood stove, but it did have afterthought power. That means it didn’t come built for electricity. It was added in when power became available. The drop line from the pole looked more like an extension cord than a full fledge power line like we see today.

But you know. There I am squating down in the yard with a great big grin, not knowing what Poverty 2poor meant. White privilege was not a consideration. It was called pulling up your boot straps and getting on with life.

I’m so tired of sniveling people today complaining about somebody having it better than them. We grew up knowing where we were and if we wanted better we went out and worked for it. We didn’t ask for hand-outs.

You want to know something? Back then there were Corvettes. They were for what we called rich people. I saw my first one when I was about twelve or thirteen. I fell in love with the car. I knew then I could only dream about it. Now, this is only for example. You want something back enough. Create a dream. Live that dream. Make that dream something you consider a goal. Feel it.

Finally at the age of 56 years old, I finally saw that dream become a reality. I never lost the dream. Through my walk with God first and foremost, a failed marriage, loss of faith, rekindling of faith and now a wife I can walk hand in hand with who loves to be close to me and touch me and call me her own and not tell people she married me because she felt sorry for me.

White privilege. There may be such a thing for someone, but not most Americans. There are a multitude of Americans out there within our borders that still suffer from poverty. Bernie Sanders, you’ll go to hell for that statement. I do understand my place. I earned it. It wasn’t given to me. I came from poverty and I know what it is. It’s detestable, yet at the same time I didn’t know I was poor. I still had a smile on my face as a young child, because that’s all I knew. When I grew up and had my own children I worked long hard hours to see that they didn’t have to live like I did. Privilege? No. What we have was earned. Bernie Sanders, what you want to do is falsely reward people with something that’s mine that they never earned nor learned the value of.

About Jim

I'm a 72 yr old guy, who had worked in Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune for 28 yrs and now retired as of 31 Dec 16. I've worked in medical records, Health Benefits Department, Billing, the IT department and retired as the Personnel Security Manager for the hospital. I'm a musician and Corvette enthusiast. Yes, I have had two. I traded my second Corvette for a Harley Davidson Fat Boy mid-summer 2019. I've already ridden about seven thousand miles. I'm also searching for a fresh new outlook on life with new spiritual insight among other things. I was ordained a minister on 20190202. I've become certified with the American Chaplaincy Association through Aidan University in June '21. I've found that with the unconditional love of my companion, Libby Rowe life is complete through God. She's a beautiful, vibrant, giving woman who gives her all in everything she puts her mind to do. She and I married on 24 July 2015. She was ordained in February 2022. She has a blog too called Under a Carolina Moon. Give it a visit.
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2 Responses to White Privilege?

  1. Kathryn Simmons Wells says:

    You are an amazing writer…its great because it comes from your heart and the life we lived. Thank you so much for writing what so many of us are thinking. Our teachers at AHS would smile and b proud of your writings!! Bless you

  2. Jim says:

    Thanks Kathryn. Mrs Julia Galloway told me once I could be a writer and I took that to heart. Never made a dollar off of it, but surely enjoy doing it.

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