Rip Their Throats

White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America, by Nancy Isenberg, is not an easy read. The experience left me angry, sad, with a mouth full of screams. It made me wonder if society will ever look in the mirror, examine the horror it has spawned, and take responsibility for the destruction. If you’ve yet to read the book, do give it a go. It will not be fun, but it will be terribly real… and it might put important issues in perspective.

I chose one quote out of the gazillion I highlighted, and ripped a short poem out of it:

“Rip Their Throats”

rip their throats, dear friends,
or they’ll swallow all our air
and shit in our land.
don’t suffer a leech to breathe,
you are not bloodsucking filth

the wee notes…
– This is the rather unnerving quote that inspired the poem: “Poor whites are still taught to hate—but not to hate those who are keeping them in line. Lyndon Johnson knew this when he quipped, ‘If you can convince the lowest white man that he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.’”
– And if this poem leaves you feeling a bit sick, welcome to the discomfort club.
– Linked to Poets United (Poetry Pantry) and to my Diversity Reading List for 2017.

“Anger”, by Jelizaveta

59 thoughts on “Rip Their Throats

    • The book is about poor whites, not about universal lack of education or insensitivity. I’m sure that if the topic had been how education affects the world and its people, then the author would have discussed (and included) every other race.

  1. Reading the book really crystallized for me how insidious a thing class privilege is. People still are very reluctant to discuss it. Imagine how much change can be accomplished if we finally stopped fighting each other and realize many of our problems can be worked through by standing together.

  2. This really ties in to the documentary that My Rare One and I went to see last night, “I Am Not Your Negro.” James Baldwin’s central point was that racism in America will not be understood (and overcome) until white people acknowledge and face their own guilt about what has been done to black people (and others like indigenous people) and their fear about retribution for their historical crimes. And that’s the last thing white people want to do.

    • Some of the quotes in the book (many of them from former US presidents) crystallized all sort of feeling inside me. When I said this was not an easy read, I really meant it. The things people do to each other is unbelievable… and, often, completely appalling.

  3. I will be hunting down this book shortly, and taking a look at your diversity reading list too (thank you for makin list!)

    And we WILL do wonders, as we journey toward truly becoming one people.


  4. Indeed, the pecking order is what keeps everything in order… In Oslo there’s a a statue by Vigeland called Monoliten showing humans climbing on each other… the ones in the bottom being crushed by the one above… and yes it’s about poverty and class… but you can always convince that if there is someone below you, it’s OK.

  5. Yes, welcome to the discomfort club. Brave you, to dive into that book. Brave us, who dare to look at the history we have somehow created together. Argh. Sometimes I feel too old. All this living, and still we have so far to go.

  6. I take umbrage with Baldwin’s “until white people face their own guilt”. I feel I’m one of a multitude of (white) people who live their lives without guilt, who have friends across all color lines, who believe in the common good, and whose mantra is “Do No Harm”. I resent that he paints us all with his wide and tainted brush.

    • I think generalizations tend to be faulty. His statement would have been more true, if it had said something like, “until those still pretending that there is no guilt to admit to (a number much too high for comfort)”. But the book I quoted is not about race, but about class, more specifically about poor whites and how the status quo affects them and the world around them.

  7. Wow! That was powerful, Magaly! Sad because I’ve never felt the need to feel better than someone else, yet it’s the root of all evil. The Kardashians come to mind. So rich and powerful they are famous, for NOTHING and getting richer everyday because the common folk are buying their products, supporting them! The only way is together.

  8. You have really inspired me to look for that book, Magaly. Society does need to look in the mirror. And not society in a general way either. We each need to hold that mirror and take a look and see ourselves! Your poem captures a very strong feeling!

  9. “… give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.’” wow…that’s so powerful and rings so true, such a sad statement on the human mind. Thanks for bringing up the quote and the book Magaly, will try and read it, if I can find it here.

  10. There’s this comic joke going around, I’ve seen it in Gemran and English, I guess – three people at a table: The Usual White Guy, the Stranger (dark skin, poor-looking), and Politics. In the first picture, everyone has two cookies in front of him. Politics points at something to distract UWG, grabs his cookies, and in the last picture smirks, “Hey, the Stranger stole your cookies!” It’s not half a s fun when I describe it, and I am not sure about the number of cookies, and sometimes it’s Media instead of Politics sittint with the other guys … but you get the idea. I’m rambling.

  11. Never read that book, Magaly.
    Your Line One of the inspired poem is disturbing enough to create enough interest, if one wanted to read it

    Thanks for dropping in at my Sunday Standard this week

    much love…

  12. I am familiar with this book, though I’ve only read parts. The history of “whiteness” is divisive and ugly, from the time of its invention and so forth. It’s amazing how many ways I can read your poem. But I choose to read as white middle class (where I am, mostly) who blames “white trash” for everything they set them up to perform. Knowing the history has to change me. If not, I perpetuate the problem. Thank you for this poem.

  13. Wow! This has certainly gotten our attention. I sense the rage in your words, and frustration too. There is probably no person on earth who hasnt experienced some kind of prejudice. It’s one of the uglier human traits that many of us fight to extinguish.

  14. I saw this first hand spending my formative years in Texas. And, the author is so correct. And, yet, when I go back to visit these relatives (not often) they are upset if you point out that the things they say are racist. And, you know what? You can’t change their mind. I have tried. Lyndon Johnson was a Texan. He learned those lessons at home.

  15. Ever since the presidential election in November, I have been a member of the Discomfort Club. I keep hoping that someone will toss me out! 😉

  16. How can anyone believe they are superior because of skin colour… How ignorant… As stupid as thinking one is superior because of pay packet, hair length, suburb… What a superficial way these polititions use to band the fools together… Why not band people together by their good deeds, community spirit, empathy(?) because anger, greed, selfish elitist behaviour is so much easier a way for politicians to control the sheep… We need to move beyond that… Beyond pitting all against each other for the crumbs when in reality there is enough for all xox

    • And the day we answer all those questions, and figure out how silly we have been for letting ourselves be taken in by the ruthless, we might get a chance at fixing our mess. *fingers crossed*

Leave a Comment