Sunday, November 4, 2012

Shelving: What's the Matter With White People? by Joan Walsh

When I voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democratic Primary, I told no one. To some progressives, a vote for Clinton meant you were a prole, and if you were a woman, it meant you were tethered to your mother's brand of feminism and guilty of voting with your uterus. To others, it meant you represented the worst of white, working-class racism.

I think that may have been my first real taste of progressive classism. In certain liberal circles, classism is not only acceptable, it's encouraged. I'm thankful Joan Walsh's book, What's the Matter With White People , brings classism and the chasm between college educated and working-class democrats into the open, but she kind of stops short. Instead, what she's written is her own personal, political narrative, which is fine, but the title is a little misleading. The bad? Tt's a little too self-congratulatory at times (even the cheekily titled chapter, "All My Best Presidents Are Black," felt a slightly less than ironic.) Plus I think she makes the mistake of too-often confusing white privilege with white economic privilege.

Still, there's a lot that's worthwhile, particularly her first-hand account of the Nixon and Reagan-era, and her on-air relationship with her "sparring partner" Pat Buchanan (whom I thought she treated a bit too nicely). But if you're looking for a dry academic tome about working-class ideology, this isn't it.

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