Defining Underclass Up


Reviewing Norah Vincent's cross-dressing memoir, Self-Made Man, in yesterday's New York Times, Vanity Fair writer David Kamp praises her for "as tender and unpatronizing a portrait of America's 'white trash' underclass as I've ever read." He is talking about the bowling team that Vincent's male alter ego, Ned, joined during her year impersonating a man. Her teammates were "a plumber, an appliance repairman and a construction worker." Since when are gainfully employed men who support families "white trash" or part of the "underclass"? In 2004, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, average annual wages for plumbers, appliance repairmen, and carpenters were about $44,000, $41,000, and $37,000, respectively. Using "white trash" as a synonym for "blue collar" (even with scare quotes) seems neither tender nor unpatronizing.