The goal of this paper was to try and make sense of why working class whites in America have the beliefs and prejudices that they do. I attempted to do this without insulting or vilifying them, though I’m not sure if I succeeded. While I’m overall content with the essay, I find that I repeat myself a little too often and that my analysis is quite long-winded.
March 9, 2018
The election of Donald Trump has ignited the discussion of a very important question: how did this happen? The answer lies in many places, but one key factor in his victory lies in a previously unexpected region of the United States. Known sometimes as the “silent majority”, America’s rural communities are rarely regarded when considering massive social and political change. This past election, they proved to be a driving force behind Trump’s seemingly out of nowhere victory. Trump, or rather his campaign staff, manipulated these people by exploiting their fear and their inner rage against the “urban elite”.
The best way to manipulate people is through fear and rural, working-class whites have a lot to fear. Their main source of livelihood, mostly low-skill manufacturing jobs, have been on the decline as more and more companies ship their business overseas where labor costs are cheaper. They believe to have been passed over by their government, left with no representation. They’re led to believe that other races of people receive “special treatment” while they’re seemingly forced to fend for themselves. This leads to them creating extremely insulated communities where everyone shares a similar mindset. Without any new ideas coming into the community, they continue the same way they always have, which only serves to worsen their problem. The typical conservative viewpoint tends to come from a place of ignorance. Racism, xenophobia, pro-gun beliefs, anti-abortion beliefs, and so-called “conservative family values” are harder to find in more densely populated urban environments because there is a far greater concentration of people with different beliefs from different backgrounds. This exposure to different ideas makes one more accepting of change and more open to new concepts. In a place where everyone is the same race, has the same worldview, has access to the same limited information, and have all lived there for generations, progressive opinions are hard to find. This creates an echo chamber where misinformation is repeated from source to source until it becomes fact.
That’s not to say that these people are monsters. A part of their fear and hatred stems from wanting what’s best for their communities. People who live in rural areas pride themselves on their resourcefulness, their grit, their status as American citizens, and the strength of their communities. They believe that most problems can be solved with determination and hard work. This leads them to perceiving other oppressed groups as lazy. They don’t understand the effects of systematic oppression because they don’t experience it, at least not obviously, nor do they know anyone who has because minority groups are regularly regarded with contempt and mistrust. These people have been fed misinformation for generations and are so steeped in their own way of life that they fail to see the world from any other viewpoint aside from their own extremely limited perspective.
In a USA Today interview with several Trump supporters, a man named Zach Broullire gives his reasons for supporting such a candidate. “Right now, our immigration system is not working for the American people, and our trade isn’t working for the American people. Really, I support Trump because our government is not necessarily working for the American people and more for their agenda, whatever that may be. I want American first policy; any American citizen, that’s who our immigration policy, our trade policy and every other policy should be working for is American people.” This is how people like Donald Trump get elected. Working-class whites feel ignored by the government and are looking for anyone willing to speak to their beliefs. They are willing to ignore and excuse a great deal of problems because they are desperate for representation. Any politician claiming to have an “America first” policy has an easy time gaining their favor.
Instead of looking for ways to help these people, politicians abuse their predictable responses and generally limited educations to garner support for their campaigns. As Adolf Hitler stated in Mein Kampf, “All propaganda must be popular and its intellectual level must be adjusted to the most limited intelligence among those it is addressed to. Propaganda must be limited to a few simple themes and these must be represented again and again. Here, as in innumerable other cases, perseverance is the first and most important condition of success.” One can observe these tactics used time and time again. By utilizing a limited vocabulary and catchy phrases like “America first” and “drain the swamp”, propaganda appeals to these people’s identities as Americans and gives them a clear and simple goal to fight for.
It is important to remember that these are still people. They may say horrible things, they may commit horrible acts, and sometimes it’s impossible to forgive them, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t hope for change. If the root of the problem here is caused by ignorance and the manipulation of said ignorance, than the education of these people is of utmost importance. If we ignore the white working class, they will only withdraw further into their isolation, and the situation will only get worse.
Capehart, Jonathan. “Opinion | Working-Class whites can't handle their status as 'the new minority'.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 20 Apr. 2017, www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-partisan/wp/2017/04/20/working-class-whites-cant-handle-their-status-as-the-new-minority/?utm_term=.b8e5c6c1f1d6.
Glasser, Susan B. and Thrush, Glenn, et al. “What's Going on With America's White People?” POLITICO Magazine, www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/09/problems-white-people-america-society-class-race-214227.
“Trump Nation.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, www.usatoday.com/pages/interactives/trump-nation/#/?_k=4y2pq5.Hitler, Adolf. Mein Kampf. Createspace Independent Publishing Platform, 2017.
Literacy, specifically in terms of the ability to read and write, is an essential part of one’s education. Reading is especially important as without being able able to read, one cannot hope to be able to write. One’s ability to read determines one’s ability to better perceive the world around them as the vast majority of our information is presented in a written format. Thus, the sooner one learns to read, the sooner one can begin to truly learn about the world they live in.
I was a rather fortunate child in this regard as I learned to read at a notably early age compared to most children. From as early as I could remember, my parents had been reading me stories which I would listen to with a sort of obsessive focus, which says a lot as I can rarely focus on any one thing for an extended period of time. By the time I was three years old, I was attending a preschool at which I was being taught how to read and write. We started with basic subjects like pronouncing letters and writing our names. While the teaching was effective, it seemed to move too slowly for young me as I craved more. As I was an ambitious child, I decided to teach myself to read. First, I had to find the right book. It had to have enough words to be challenging, while still being a relatively light read. I settled on one of my favorite dinosaur books. It was quite large with full page illustrations and a few sentences per page. It was perfect.
I set about my task in secret, not wanting to risk my parents offering their assistance. This was something that I knew had to be done entirely on my own. Each night, after going to bed, I would stay up for several minutes attempting to decipher the pages. I sat hunched over the book under my covers with a flashlight as to not disturb my brother nearby. The process was slow and arduous as each page took me several minutes to complete and I was constantly sidetracked by the illustrations. Still, I pressed onward, each page becoming slightly easier than the last. By the end of the fourth night, the book was finished. From then on, my reading quickly improved as I seemed to outpace the rest of the class. While others would play, I would find a spot to sit and read. Since then, I have always been at an advanced reading level. I don’t mean to brag, but this was extremely helpful in the earlier years of school.
Literacy is one of, if not the most valuable forms of cultural capital. The ability to read is necessary in society for finding and absorbing information. It allows one to learn independently as they can seek out information without the need for someone to explain it to them. However, if one is deprived of this ability, than they lose a great deal of their independence and makes them much easier to control. For example, slaves were absolutely forbidden from reading or writing as keeping them illiterate made them incapable of arguing for their rights. While a slave could find evidence of the wrongfulness and immorality of their enslavement, they would never be able to because they weren’t capable of obtaining that information. All they knew was what was told to them by their masters, who used this to better control them. This is how Frederick Douglas managed to escape slavery because he taught himself how to read and write. Similarly, in the segregation era, black schools were deprived of resources in order to better control the students. Without being told about the importance of literacy, many of these children never pursued it later in life and so never developed the skill further. In The Apartheid of Children’s Literature, Christopher Myers states “As for children of color, they recognize the boundaries being imposed upon their imaginations, and are certain to imagine themselves well within the borders they are offered, to color themselves inside the lines.” When it comes to children’s literature, books for children of color simply aren’t published. This indirectly deprives them of a way to improve their own literacy skills and, by extension, their knowledge of the world around them.
While literacy has always been an essential life skill, its importance hasn’t been stressed until quite recently. People are only just beginning to realize how much one’s literacy skill determines and what they can do to improve. Hopefully, people can have more access to literacy instruction in order to close a gap that has existed in society for centuries.
Works CitedMeyers, Christopher. "The Apartheid of Children’s Literature." New York Times. N.p., 15 Mar. 2014. Web.
The goal of this paper was to attempt to analyze the causes of fear and how different people experience it. Fear is a big part of my life and I wanted the reader to really consider how they deal with their own fears. I'm most proud of my descriptive language. It provides a nice cover up for the actual writing and analysis, which I feel needs a great deal of improvement.
Fear is an extremely powerful force. It can motivate people to do things that they never thought they could. It can be used to manipulate people into acting against their own self interest. People tend to think of fear as something negative. They see it as an obstacle to overcome. These people want to control their fear, which can lead to them taking massive risks. Other people use their fear as a crutch. They allow their fear to control them. Ideally, people should find a healthy balance between these two extremes. However, everyone has unique experiences with fear that constantly evolve over time, causing their perspective to change.
When I was younger, I was quite an adventurous child. I would spend most of my days outside or running around with friends. I was also quite accident-prone and would injure myself on a pretty regular basis, amassing a marvelous collection of bruises and scrapes. But, it never stopped me. One day, while playing with two friends in my backyard, one of them proposed that we climb the massive pine tree that sits at the back of the yard. This, of course, was a horrible idea. I had climbed plenty of trees before but never one this tall, mainly due a strong dislike of heights. However, on this occasion I decided to “face my fear” and I followed my friends up. That, of course, was a horrible idea. The ascent was long and arduous. Needles clawed at my face while sap adhered itself to every available surface. Undeterred, I pressed on. I was doing surprisingly well until I reached a large gap in the branches. As I paused, I made a fatal error. I looked down. I froze as my legs locked and my hands attempted to asphyxiate the branch upon which all of my hopes lay. I slipped suddenly, hanging from one hand. For a moment, all was still. Unfortunately, my hand betrayed me, sending me plummeting towards the ground.
I would never even think of doing something like this today. I am terrified of heights and it’s just not worth it. Honestly, I wouldn’t have done it then unless my friends were there to encourage me. People in general are afraid of being left out. It’s in our nature as social creatures,
and that can cause us to do ridiculous things like climb giant trees or more dangerous things with more severe consequences. These opposing fears are at constant war with one another. On one hand, one is afraid of the risk. On the other, one fears missing out.
Despite this, facing one’s fears is sometimes beneficial. Fears can be irrational, such as a fear of public spaces or a fear of birds. They don’t have much of a basis in reality and more in our own suspicions. However, we have them anyway because our brains concoct these odd fantasies to rationalize our suspicions and to reinforce them. That bird isn’t going to fly down and peck your eyes out, so you make up a scenario in which it does and convince yourself that it’s true. These fears are shaped by one’s personal experiences. In my experience, I don’t like leaving the house. However, it’s kind of unavoidable. So I try and face this fear by going for long walks in the woods alone.
One chilly winter afternoon, I was on another walk. I had been out for a while, exploring the meandering trails. I was so absorbed in my own thoughts, that I didn’t notice, the sudden lack of light until it was too late. Sometime during my walk, the sun decided to clock out early. I quickly turned around and tried to outrun the dark, to no avail. The night closed in and I was lost in the darkness. I stumbled blindly down what I thought was the path for what seemed like an eternity until the ground fell out from under me and slid down into oblivion, only just avoiding the half frozen river and a guaranteed case of hypothermia. At this point, the path didn’t even exist. I sat next to the water to pick up the pieces of my brain, eventually finding the will to use my legs again. With no other options, I followed the faint reflection of the moon on the water and hoped the current would take me in the right direction.
As if it isn’t obvious, I made it out alright. Even though this happened, even though I already didn’t want to go out in the first place, I still walk in the woods. An important aspect of fear is that there are two different kinds of fear. There are rational fears, like heights or bears, and there are irrational fears, like leaving the house or staircases. One must recognize that some fears are to be faced and others are to be acknowledged and respected. Bravery is not a complete disregard for fear, it’s the ability to tell the difference between a rational and irrational fear. I’m not saying I’m brave for walking in the woods a few times a week, but that is my own way of facing an irrational fear. When one finds the middle ground between blatant ignorance and crippling neurosis, then one can move on.
We watched Frontline
1) The show was about teenagers and parents dealing with the internet.
2) I think the most memorable thing was that girl with anorexia and all those pro-anorexia sites. I found that a little disturbing.
3) I don't know if it's important or not. This specific documentary only interviews the people who've experienced the negative parts of the internet. I don't know if all internet related documentaries are like this. It’s important to make sure that the documentary isn’t biased first.
4) I’ll inform them the positives and negatives of internet usage.
5) It’s important because the internet is everywhere so people who use it should have thorough knowledge of it.
6) I would tell them to just talk to their kid without seeming like they’re prying too much.