I will not genuflect at the altar of the white working class. I will not pray to this new god.
For I am the daughter of a woman who at age 14 strapped on high heels and slapped on lipstick so she could appear older and find work in New York City. I am the daughter of a man who bought the bulldog edition of the newspaper at 11 p.m. so he could get a jumpstart on the next day’s employment classifieds. So he could work in a box factory and other lines of thrilling work. Day after day.
People like me know what it’s like to be laid off. We keep going. It’s not just about the white working class. Ain’t we deserving, too? Had the drug and employment crises hit black and Latino communities hardest, would the response be the same?
Oh wait, these problems usually hit us hardest. “Get back on your feet” and “Pull yourselves up” are the common responses.
Each time someone utters this new mantra about the white working class I hear, “Get to the back of the bus.” Or, “Get back to where you once belonged.” Or, “We’ve been paying too much attention to you.” Or, “It’s time to move on.”
Do you hear what I hear?
That’s a lie. A big, boldfaced lie. Let LL Cool J tell it:
I’m sick and tired of the stories that you always tell
Shakespeare couldn’t tell a story that well
See, you’re the largest liar that was ever created
You and Pinocchio are brotherly related
Full of criss-crossed fits, you lie all the time
Your tongue should be embarrassed, you’re a threat to mankind
That’s a lie
I cannot help construct this new altar for the coalition of the know-nothings who think they can explain it all after the fact, except they cannot because they still know nada. They suffer from a poverty of ideas and cannot contain the thought of you and me in their heads at the same time.
The Poorest Counties
Empathy has its rightful place in a society of thinking and feeling people. Where’s everybody been? It’s not like the white working class lacks political capital or representation at local, state and federal levels.
The poorest counties in the United States in median household income are nearly all in the ascendant South, growing in population and Republicans. Surely, there is power in that.
They are counties like Wilcox County, Ala., population 11,000, 72 percent is black. Half the population reports household income either above or below $23,750, according to the census. It has 0 percent foreign born. Republicans Jeff Sessions (nominated to be attorney general) and Richard Shelby represent Wilcox in the Senate. In the House, that responsibility falls to Democrat Terri Sewell. Where have they been?
Kentucky, in particular, dominates the list of poor counties, claiming three of the top five. Owsley County is the third poorest in the nation. Population 4,460. Median household income $20,985. It’s 98 percent non Hispanic white, foreign born 0.3 percent. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Rand Paul, both Republicans, represent Owsley in the Senate. Its Congressman Hal Rogers is the “longest serving Kentucky Republican ever elected” – currently in his 18th term. What’s he been doing all?
In the 2016 elections, Kentucky “became a Republican trifecta” or single-party government, much like Florida, according to Ballotpedia.
Closer to home, Putnam appears to be the poorest county in Florida – over 72,000 people, 77 percent non Hispanic white, 4 percent foreign born. Median income: $31,700. Senators Bill Nelson (D) and Marco Rubio (R) represent Putnam, while Ron DeSantis, a Republican who was just re-elected by 63 percent of the vote, speaks for Putnam in Congress.
Why haven’t elected officials advocated for their voters? They are not blind but they may be blinded by politics and cultural wars that place only scraps on the table. They have been busy raising money so they can win re-election or run for another elected office.
Help for the White Working Class
Now we hear, “Oh, snap! We have to help the white working class.”
If I hear that from the lips of a person I helped elect, I will never vote for that person again.
And to you whom I hardly know – and who hardly knows me: Go ahead. Build your altar.
I am going to save the wear and tear my knees.
˜˜Maria T. Padilla, Editor