It almost sounds like a riddle or a koan. What is white but not white? For Annalee Newitz and Matthew Wray, the answer is so-called white trash.

In their contribution to the field-defining collection Whiteness: A Critical Reader, Newitz and Wray (1997: 169) asserted that “‘white trash,’ in many ways, is the white Other.” Yet the discipline of whiteness studies, Newitz and Wray charged, had failed to account for this otherness. It had mistakenly assumed that there was only one form of whiteness, and that all whites shared equally in the “social power and privilege” of whiteness. Instead, they argued, critics should attend to “the differences”—especially the class differences—“within whiteness” (169).

To do so would require two things. First, that scholars examine “whether or not . . . stereotypical images of white trash as violent, incestuous, and criminal are true” (171). (They are not.) And second, that...

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