Playing Chicken: Discovering a Diverse Working Class in Trump Country
Publisher: Working-Class Perspectives
Date Written: 21/03/2017
Year Published: 2017
Resource Type: Article
Cx Number: CX20580
Since the election of 2016, much has been written about rural working-class voters who helped elect Donald J. Trump to the presidency. Most of those stories have assumed that the rural working class is overwhelmingly white. But if we look at one of the most significant parts of the rural economy the poultry industry we get a different picture. Not only do we see more workers of color, we also see more exploitation and greater potential for resistance.
Focusing on places like McDowell perpetuates the image of rural America as populated primarily by people of white Western European origins, a narrative that fit the medias interest in white rural working-class voters. But while the economic suffering in McDowell might reflect the experiences of many working-class people outside of major metropolitan areas in the Trump era, McDowell's whiteness is less representative. In the ten U.S. counties with the lowest per capita income as of the 2010 census, whites constitute more than 61 percent of the population in only three. Whites are the minority in four of these counties.
In these rural communities, unemployment has never returned to pre-2008 levels, even though urban employment has grown significantly. In an effort to alleviate continuing high unemployment, governors and state legislatures have offered considerable financial incentives to achieve the dubious boon of luring new poultry plants to their state or to help upgrade and keep existing facilities open.