Cornbread in milk was my favorite dessert growing up. It was a staple in my home. My mother enjoyed her cornbread in buttermilk, but I prefer to crumble up my cornbread in sweet milk and eat it with a spoon. I can still taste the amazing flavor of my mother's warm, homemade cornbread combined with ice cold milk. It makes my mouth water even today.
This delicacy was also responsible for my first exposure to classicism. Classicism is defined as a prejudice or discrimination on the basis of social class.
My experience happened when I was 8 years old and having dinner at my best friend "Tom's" house. We had just finished our pork chops, mashed potatoes and cornbread when Tom's mother asked me what I would like for dessert. I said I would just like a glass of milk. Tom's mother retreated to the kitchen and brought back a nice tall glass of milk. I began to crumble some cornbread into the milk when the entire family appeared to be shocked and Tom asked me what I was doing. I said I was having some cornbread in milk and that it was my favorite dessert.
My statement was met with uproarious laughter from everyone at the table. Tom then made a statement which lives with me until this day. Tom said, "You eat that stuff because you are white trash."
I honestly had never heard that term before and I asked Tom what was white trash? Tom then asked his mother to explain to me what white trash was. Tom's mother said that it was a term Tom should have not said. I then asked was it a bad word. She said no it wasn't a bad word, it was just a term to describe people who were poor and uneducated. I continued eating my cornbread in milk and let the incident pass without further discussion.
I was reminded of this conversation from my past this week when I was at a local resale shop and heard a child ask her mother if she could buy a pair of sparkly gold tennis shoes. The child looked to me to be around 10 years old. Her mother said no. The girl asked her mother why she couldn't have the shoes and her mother said, "You would look like white trash in those." I looked at the girl's face and could see the same level of confusion that I felt when I first heard the term.
Wikipedia defines white trash as "a derogatory American English predominantly class slur referring to poor white people, especially in the rural southern United States. The label signifies lower social class inside the white population and especially a degraded standard of living."
Words have an impact on us all. Especially words that are meant to cast some doubt on a person's individual worth and self-esteem.
To think that as a society we will one day wake up and realize that we shouldn't use words that degrade is unrealistic. Some people will always use terms to hurt and demean because it makes the user of those words feel better about themselves.
But what we can do as a society is teach our children to be themselves no matter what other people think. No two people are the same and if a person wants to wear something or do something that "normal" society would view as unusual, it is OK. As long as that activity doesn't do harm to another human being it is all right.
We are too caught up in making sure that we can make everyone fit into a comfortable and familiar box. Our forefathers were not "normal" thinkers. Neither were the Wright brothers or Steve Jobs. All great Americans who changed the world forever.
So enjoy your cornbread or your sparkly shoes or your green hair or your tattoos or your political beliefs. It is OK to be different.
"To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment."
-- Ralph Waldo EmersonEditorial on 09/09/2018
Print Headline: Words have an impact