“The Untouchables,” From Our June 4, 1997 Edition

Portland 'zine publisher Jim Goad delves into the culture of America's white underclass.


What does a white trash girl say when she loses her virginity? "Git off me, paw, yer crushin' mah smokes!"

Since there are laws against smacking that grin off your face, Jim Goad wrote The Redneck Manifesto instead. If you think you're not a racist, if you're the sort of person who'd never discriminate against a "person of color," the sort who recoils at the word "nigger," if you consider yourself a cut on the evolutionary ladder above the racist excesses of inbred trailer trash, Goad's got a message for you: White niggers have feelings, too.

In his first non-self-published work. Goad (whose previous claim to fame was his controversial ANSWER Me! 'zine) systematically, intractably and with diabolical wit exposes the class-driven cruelty behind America's last racist punching clown, white trash. Admit it: You've told white trash jokes. And your polite urbanite friends tittered along with you at the toothless, slack-jawed, dirt-eating, banjo-picking, trailer-dwelling Elvis-worshipping, pig-humping Jethroes and Daisy Maes of America.

So why is it considered urbane to dredge up the, uh, "science" of eugenics, calling poor whites inbred defectives, when a similar accusation leveled at blacks would have you pilloried for hate speech? Well, of course, as we all know, whites came to America of their own free will, while blacks came here in chains. White trash are deserving failures, while blacks are inheritors of a legacy of oppression, perennially victimized by a phalanx of colluding, hyper-privileged palefaces.

This conventional wisdom is false, however, as Goad meticulously documents. His research shows that many, if not most white immigrants to America were hauled over in shackles as well. Tracking his family tree, he identifies early Goads as the origi- nal Eurotrash: serfs (a euphemism for "slaves"), prisoners (ditto) and sundry social dregs from the Emerald Isles. Under another polite term for slavery, "indentured servitude," these luckless ur-Goads, along with millions upon hapless millions of others, were flushed from their homes by the European aristocracy into America, "a verdant new toilet in which to dump their social feces."

These white slaves, Goad writes, often got an even worse deal than black ones. White slaves were worked harder, frequently to death, and if they survived to freedom, were priced out of the labor market by fresh slaves of all hues of the rainbow. "The reason for this," Goad writes, "was nothing so retardedly ethereal as human hatred. It was the same reason that people beat the shit out of a rent-a-car more readily than a car they own in toto."

Against this historic backdrop, Goad describes white trash's natural enemy—not blacks, but the same folks who screwed 'em back in Europe, white cash. In hating the American white peasant caste (both rural and urban), whites can enjoy the straight-out racist pleasure of feeling superior to someone, with none of the guilt. From their lily-white towers of privilege, urban sophisticates can inveigh against born-poor whites who somehow deserve their low standing because of their sloth, their ill manners and (lest we forget) their racism. Despite only a passing sneer at Marx, Goad does more to deconstruct bourgeois self-delusion and to advance class-consciousness than any left- wing academic ever could, with a bracing directness sure to inform rednecks and yobs alike.

In addition to its trenchant and biting sociopolitical analysis, The Redneck Manifesto is an intensely personal, and thus powerful, work. Goad sits with evident discomfort on the boundary between the working poor and the urban elite. The spawn of "urban Philly garbage and rural Vermont scum," he worked his way through journalism school among the pampered collegians he so obviously despises. By the time he penned this book, Goad had hung up his Mandarin pretensions, "come out of the trailer" and moved to St. Johns to "wallow piglike and palefaced in a landfill of my peers."

Having enumerated the origins of white-trash culture, and its undeniable relationship to white-cash profits, Goad sheds light on the legendary excesses of redneck living: brutal toil punctuated by fits of blood sport, bizarre religion and extreme political beliefs. Before concluding with a chapter entitled "Several Compelling Arguments for the Enslavement of All White Liberals," Goad wades into the traditional conflict between poor whites and poor blacks. It's this chapter, "Me and the Blacks," that will cause the most stir, despite its lucidity and ample historic citations.

But I suspect that Goad's brutally candid critique of American race relations will offend more white liberals and their hired mouthpieces than it will blacks. Paradoxically, the more they puff, the more they'll both advance this book's sales and demonstrate its veracity. Goad is a forthrightly, honestly spiteful man, but his Irish-trash candor pales against the crimes and hypocrisies of our Aspen-tanned oligarchs. The Redneck Manifesto is dangerous. Read it.

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