Tuesday, August 10, 2010

AB.com Rewind - Do Poor Whites Even Exist?!?

[Editor's DVD Commentary: This post made the rounds on a bunch of websites when it ran a year ago. I retrospect, it wasn't my best work, and comes off as incredibly judgmental. Hey, at least I'm man enough to admit it. Get (re)familiar.]

This post's title is a rhetorical question. Of course poor whites exist, but not that you'd know so if you're informed by the mainstream media. While Ronald Reagan was successful in painting urban black women as "welfare queens", whites receive nearly 2/3 of all welfare benefits administered by the federal government. Still, Shaniqua Jackson, not Samantha McMullen, is the face of American poverty.

Last Friday's edition of ABC's 20/20 tried to shed some light on the woes of dirt poor rural white Americans, a group of folks so routinely (and IMHO, intentionally) ignored they're damn near considered invisible. And while A Hidden America: Children of the Mountains is a fairly nuanced portrait of life in the hills of Kentucky, it both informs and pisses off at the same time.

The promo trailer.

A young girl discusses her Mom's drug problem.

Notice how Whoopi is literally biting her tongue as Sawyer pitches her special on The View. Peep her under the table remark about the tooth-rot. I love me some Whoopi, mane.

I'll admit, despite having grown up in an area with lots of impoverished white folks, even I didn't realize the depths of the issues in Appalachia. Children out-of-wedlock, awful graduation rates, incest, generational curses, excessive prescription drug abuse, abysmal heath statistics, rampant crime, broken families, and joblessness abound. If you closed your eyes, you'd swear they were talking about Detroit. It's all packaged together in a pretty intriguing (albeit depressing) 60 minutes.

The thing that sorta pisses you off is how the one hour story is told. ABC's Diane Sawyer, a Kentuckian (from Louisville, not the hills) herself, tells a well-rendered story of the invisible residents of her homestate with the sort of compassion and restraint seldom afforded when the media depicts poor minorities.

The drug problem is blamed on pharmaceutical companies who systematically dump OxyContin in the mountains as a catch-all pain reliever.[1] The declining coal industry leads to unemployment. Poorly-funded schools lead to high school dropouts. An epidemic of toothrot is blamed on Moutain Dew addiction.[2] A football player who feels alienated and leaves behind a college scholarship (after just 8 weeks) does so because of the pressures from back home, not because he found himself suddenly overmatched on the gridiron. These issues all accumulate and take their toll on the ties that bind the families featured. It's almost as if there's a logical explanation for why everyone's so f*cked the f*ck up. They're victims of circumstance and products of their environment. Personal responsibility isn't even discussed. The word "bootstraps" isn't uttered a single time.

Contrast this with the way poor blacks are blamed for everything. Pumping drugs into their communities. Leaving their children behind with single moms. Killing each other. Leaching off the government when they should really just get off their lazy black asses and do better. Hell, some folks are even blaming Negroes for the recent mortgage crisis. No, really.

Never mind the fact that merely 6% of all "risky" loans were given to minorities. It sounds so much better to say the gubb'ment was forced at gunpoint to hand these shifty, lazy Negroes keys to a duplex, for fear of otherwise being tabbed as racist. As if the GOP was ever concerned about being accused of racism.[3] Also never mind the fact that the Republican who presided over this nonsense was the main dude claiming that minority home ownership reaching all-time high levels in the mid 2000's was proof of his commitment to leveling the "soft bigotry of low expectations". That's right, when you're writing revisionist history, you can have it both ways. Those are the rules.

The next portrayal of blacks as "victims of circumstance" I see at the hands of the MSM will be the first. I'm not holding my breath, because that would be pointless. A similar Diane Sawyer expose about poor minorities in Camden, NJ a few years ago was pockmarked with the typical "violent, babypoppin', lazy gubb'ment leachers" nonsense. And lest anyone get it confused: inner-city poverty is hardly an exclusively black thang. If you've been to Fishtown in Philly[4], or any random backstreet from B-More or Beantown, you'll know exactly what I mean. You can attempt to marginalize it to your liking, but white poverty isn't just some epidemic confined to a handfulla' folks up in dem' dar' hills. Lets change that tired narrative for once and for all, please.

Just so nobody gets it confused, I'm emphatically not saying black folks don't need to claim personal responsibility for their own destiny. Of course I agree with that, this blog more or less says so everyday! The problem is, when that very same set of expectations isn't extended to poor whites, we've got a really big disconnect. And I don't know bout' ya'll, but I smell a Grand Hu$tle here.

Question: Did you see ABC's A Hidden America: Children of the Mountains? Why do you think the MSM portrays poor blacks as shiftless and lazy, yet chooses to completely deny the existence of whites living in even more dire situations?

Watch ABC News 20/20 A Hidden America: Children of the Mountains [ABC.com]

[1] Hmmm, but saying the gubb'ment might could have something to do with the crack epidemic in inner cities is batshit crazy?!?

[2] No, seriously. They more or less blamed toothlessness on the soft drink industry.

[3] Barack The Magic Negro CD's anyone?

[4] I had the misfortune of taking a couple of wrong turns off I-95 once. That sh*t looked like Beirut with white people. I had no idea this sorta thing even existed before then.

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