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Response to xocet (Reply #9)

Sun Jun 1, 2014, 09:59 AM

11. From Hawai'i to western Iowa

Talk about a culture shock! That must be a story unto itself.

About eight years ago I posted a thread about the origins of the term "redneck" and tucked it away in my journal:

There are others who contend that the term "redneck" came about as an identifier of the rural working classes, whose necks were burned from working out in the sun. I think both definitions are plausible and could have arisen independently of one another but either way, it was a derogatory term to define a person of coarse ways, backward, ignorant, of the working classes.

Now where the two pejoratives "hillbilly" and "redneck" differ in usage depends on who you ask; these days folks seem to use them interchangeably (which they are not) though to me there are recognizable applications. For instance, a farm boy from western Iowa might be taunted with calls of "redneck" but he's no hillbilly, which is yet another rung down on the ladder of insults. Redneck is of class origins, whereas hillbilly found its origins in both region and class. It's the American version of a caste system. Am I making any sense here?

It's my hope that by discussing the topic of class-based language on DU we can rethink just how freely we sprinkle our posts with insults that denigrate by class. The irony is that the easy use of these terms as insults seems in direct contradiction to how we as progressives and Democrats define ourselves. I don't understand how folks can claim to be a champion of the poor, the working class, the union worker with one breath and insult someone as a hillbilly or redneck with the next. Is Sarah Palin really "the Wasilla Hillbilly"? Are the wealthy, Connecticut-born Bushes truly the "Texas hillbillies"? Is that really the best we can do?

I'm of a mind that one the best ways to combat this class war is to reclaim those terms in a positive way, thereby stripping those words of the power to hurt the very people we claim to champion. As I wrote in yet another thread those eight years ago, "The poor are not our enemies, the powerless are not our enemies, the hungry or uneducated are not our enemies. The ones pulling the strings in this country can be found among the uber rich and their corporate allies. They can have Ivy-League educations. They live in the best homes. They're still scumbags. I'll proudly take my poor hillbilly neighbors any day over their kind of trash." And until we fully embrace that concept, even mindful of the language we use and why, we'll never truly appreciate how we progressives and Democrats have been manipulated to point an accusing finger at the already disenfranchised. Neat trick, that -- and it seems to have worked.

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