Race Critical Theories Book Response:

Culture, in Bucks point-of-view, and the construction of race, thus had a greater importance upon the creation of modern Kentucky than a logical evaluation of individuals real interests. This is why both whites and blacks have been worked to the bone.

Discrimination against poor whites still abounds in present-day Kentucky in the form of stereotypes. Poor whites are often characterized as supposed rednecks who deserve their economic fate because their days are devoted to “drinking, incest,” and “family violence,” and living lives of “general backwardness, bare-footedness, improvidence, and red-necked cussedness (7). “The actions of coal mine owners, of corporate tobacco buyers, or of manufacturing executives are irrelevant in explaining Kentuckys bony fingers if they can be explained by the problems in Kentuckys culture instead,” not by bad corporate behavior (7).

In defending her thesis, Buck begins with evidence from her own life, as she opens with her struggles opening and operating a plumbing business with her husband. She even uses the metaphor of plumbing to describe class exploitation — she strives, she writes, to provide a view from under the sink of hard work, and describes upper-class white privilege as never trickling down to poorer whites except in sweat. Like a sink, the privilege system of Kentucky can never trickle up from the bottom, and Jim Crow is a kind of drainage system, where poor white resistance to their fate is systemically diverted into hatred of blacks. Buck combines historical evidence stretching back to the earliest colonial times, as well as books, newspapers, and statistics available from contemporary sources, and her anthropological and anecdotal evidence.

Particularly unique is her use of literary and musical sources, to metaphorically reinforce what her research and participatory observation has yielded.

Buck ultimately asks a simple question: why do people like the impoverished whites of Kentucky support government and economic policies and cultural, racial alliances that are actually against their material interests? The idea that racial ideology can be negative to whites as well as blacks is not new, of course. Still, Buck advances her idea in a unique fashion. Buck argues that there are two types of whiteness, based on class, in Kentucky. Poor whites refuse to see this because it would mean a psychological loss of their status as white, the only cultural privilege many poor whites possess. Bucks thesis, though, does not take into account the fact that although race is a social construction, it is so potent that it still may remain easier for a poor white person to socially advance. If a poor white person in racially stratified Kentucky can assume the manner and appearance of the upper class, surely he or she can more easily assume upper class white privileges through social mobility and education in a way that would be denied to a black person, perhaps even an educated black person from the middle class. Still, Bucks work is an important contribution to literature about racial construction in America, and it is particularly interesting because it is told from the point-of-view of whites,.

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