The Coding Of 'White Trash' In Academia
Publisher: The Establishment
Date Written: 27/11/2016
Year Published: 2016
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX20512
As an academic from the U.S. Deep South, Holly Genovese has found herself between two worlds, not accepted in academia because of her background, and yet unable to 'go home again.'
I bought The Professor Is In by Karen Kelsky, a terrifying book full of blunt (and much needed) advice about navigating the academic job market. While the author gives outspoken advice about the struggles of the job market, particularly for women, she also implicitly argues for the importance of hiding one's class. She wrote about clothing and makeup and speaking patterns in women. Around the time I read this book, I realized that I, for a lack of a better term, code "white trash." I have bad teeth, frequently say "ya'll" and "how come," and have a habit of running around South Philadelphia in a Dale Earnhardt Jr. t-shirt. It is one thing to have your hometown judged by your peers, but it is quite another to realize that qualities you possess, habits born of a lifetime that you dont even realize you have, make you read as unqualified or unfit for your chosen profession.
But you can't go home either, as they say. The more formal education I acquired, the larger the gap between my family and I became. My parents are incredibly proud of me and have never been anything other than supportive. But everyone from cousins to former employers have insinuated that I am arrogant because I left my small town for the city and enrolled in a Ph.D program. Why couldn't I get a real job in the Harley Factory? What could you even do with a history Ph.D anyway? And most common of all, was I ever coming home? Slowly I realized the answer to that question had to be no.