I was scrolling through my Facebook feed the other day and came across a video of the Blade Games from the Blade show held each year in Atlanta. The video was posted with a comment referencing the meme of “white people have no culture”.
The meme pokes fun at the idea a homogeneous white culture and “white” as one culture. But the meme isn’t the point. The video and comments it generated reference the idea of “redneck America” and the issues that can be associated with these demographics by those focused on social justice and equity.The idea of the associations of rednecks with racism, sexism and misogyny and more recently the election of Trump.
And I am the first to admit, I make these jokes and commentary, I give rednecks a hard time and I make judgements. But I am also willing to discuss rednecks/white trash/hillbillies and whatever else you might want to call them with more nuance. Because I am one.
However, what I found most frustrating about the discourse of the issues of redneck America, is that while rednecks can be racist and misogynistic, so can urban elites. Dismissing rednecks as racist and/or misogynistic can eliminate many allies to progressive folks in rural regions where they may in fact be needed the most. When we ignore the potential for allyship within certain demographics, such as the rural working class, we ignore some of the folks who can do some of the most effective ground work.
Many rural communities and regions are suffering from changing economies and the impacts of class. My community for example, is known to have a lack of access to healthcare and in particular mental health care. To the point in which the main source of mental health care is a clinic open by a family in memory of their son who died by suicide. Imagine a world where in instead of dismissing my rural redneck community of being backward, stigma-supporting, aggressive, toxic-masculinity promoting folks, we tapped into the needs the community knows they have and supported their grassroots methods to defeat stigma and form partnerships with urban communities with more resources.
While some rednecks are all of these things stated before, not all are. Just as in any demographic, there is a plurality of opinions and perspectives. As folks working in social justice fields, we need to recognize the possibility for allyship in the places we don’t expect. And this include the rural working class. We need to look beyond our comfort zones of social justice and seek out allies from other ways of life. We cannot afford to dismiss allyship wherever we can find it.