In a colloquial sense, white trash is a pejorative term often used to describe relatively uneducated white Americans with untidy personal habits in (typically) lower socio-economic classes. The term is often directed at those who are not necessarily content with their economic status, but do not attempt to better their status through education or hard work. The term implies a lack of education and social refinement, and some might argue that the term belongs to a category of insults focusing on behavioral characteristics (e.g., mannerisms, lifestyle) rather than overt racial characteristics (e.g., nigger, kike, etc.).
The term is probably most used in the South of the United States (i.e., the southeast part of the country), which has a sizeable population rural whites. By way of example, one might be considered "white trash" if one:
- chains the hound in the front yard instead of the back yard
- works on ones vehicles in the front yard instead of a garage
- burns the trash (or not) in the front yard instead of taking it to a dump
Note that these are subjective and stereotypical criteria, they are only meant as examples not uncommon to people that could be referred to as "white trash" by others (subjective people employing stereotypes) in their own communities.
In the American popular media, white trash are stereotyped as uneducated, lazy, base, vulgar, and showing little respect for authority or social norms. They are often though not always portrayed as politically conservative. Males are perceived to be interested in stereotypically "manly" things, such as sports, especially hunting and motor sports, guns, tobacco smoked and chewed, alcohol, (mostly beer) and sex. They tend to avoid anything that could be considered girlish or effeminate, such as fine art, ballet, or even fine food. Females are portrayed as unrefined, either very submissive or overtly agressive in their social behavior. During the 1980s and 1990s, a number of situational comedies were developed featuring "white trash" families or characters. Some of these included The Simpsons, Married with Children, Karla and Woody from Cheers, Roseanne, Grace under fire, Unhappily ever after, King of the Hill, Grounded for life, Mimi from The Drew Carey Show, and Titus.
As an epithet, "white trash", or the more extended "poor white trash" first came into common use in the 1830s. The Oxford English Dictionary identifies it in its earliest usage as an American pejorative used by the slaves of gentlemen against poor whites who worked in the field. The essential distinction was that while a black man might be slave, to be a house slave was better than any menial job, even if that job was held by a white person.
The nature of the term "white trash", the people to whom the has been applied, and the people and motivation applying the term is studied in connection to racism and politics. The definition above is colloquial in the sense of how the term is used in contemporary American english. In full historical context, the term is much more difficult to define, and any definition must be considered with respect to the context in which the epithet was applied. For example, the racial meaning of "white" has changed. 150 years ago, immigrants from mediterranean Europe would not have been considered "white". At present, the U.S. census would consider these same people, such as Italians and Italian Americans to be "white".
For general racism debate that was in talk section, see: racism/Talk--racial and ethnic slurs
/context is bit verbose, but contains material that may eventually filter up.