Winchester is anything but ‘white trash’

Published 9:00 am Thursday, July 20, 2017

If you use social media, and maybe if you don’t, you might have heard that Winchester recently made it on a Top 10 list for the state of Kentucky.

The list? The “10 most white trash cities in Kentucky.” The list was described as “the places in Kentucky with the most drug-addicted, violent, welfare-receiving, white populations in the Bluegrass State,” and was published on July 7.

“Essentially, White trash is everywhere,” the article reads. “While calling someone white trash might be a mean-spirited way of ridiculing or poking fun at a particular demographic, it can also serve as a way to express disdain about the way someone lives their life.”

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The author allegedly did some “data crunching” to measure the more white trash communities in our state. That research included “publicly available government data, as well as Google Maps.”

The designations were determined using criteria called “white trash metrics” including, “cities where there are lots of white people, cities where residents are poorer than average, cities where a high number of residents are high school dropouts, cities with a high number of single parents, high drug use, higher than average payday loan offices, violence (measured in aggravated assaults) and cities with a high number of residents on welfare.

Winchester ranked seventh on the list. Somerset was first and London was 10th. Among the ranks were also Hazard, Williamsburg, Dayton, Campbellsville, Elizabethtown, Bowling Green and Glasgow.

We’ll spare you the description of Winchester, but we did read the fine print: “This article is an opinion based on facts and is meant as infotainment. Don’t freak out.”

However, many people who read and subsequently shared this article online did just the opposite. They freaked out. Some thought the designation funny. Others were, rightfully, offended by Winchester’s designation on a list set to degrade the community and its residents.

“White trash” is defined as a derogatory American English racial slur referring to poor white people, especially in the rural southern U.S.

The label signifies lower social class inside the white population and especially a degraded standard of living. The term has been adopted for people living on the fringes of the social order, who are seen as dangerous because they may be criminal, unpredictable, and without respect for authority whether it be political, legal or moral.

First and foremost, we can acknowledge that Winchester-Clark County faces its challenges: drugs, poverty, high numbers of single parent households, crime and others. 

Those negative statistics and others could be listed and noted all day long. The truth of the matter is, every community faces these issues, albeit to different extents.

But for every bad statistic, there is a good one that we could note as well. Things like a decreasing unemployment rate, a high graduation rate, proficient-rated public schools, among others.

As journalists, we understand the value in statistics. They help us measure and quantify and cite sources of reliable research. But we can also appreciate that statistics and whatever other reliable “data crunching” the author of this article did can’t a hold a candle to the more tangible things that make our community anything but “white trash.”

We have a flourishing downtown district, new businesses and more coming on Lexington Avenue, a thriving Chamber of Commerce and a growing tourism industry. Clark County boasts a plethora of volunteers devoted to addressing community issues from homelessness and hunger to empowering youth and beautifying the community.

The point is, if we allow negative narratives about our community like a “white trash” designation gain footing, we risk taking for granted all the good we have to offer. Derogatory and racial slurs do nothing but divide communities and create even more barriers to success.

It’s not about ignoring the problems, but more about how you address them. Rather than take a designation of this sort and find it humorous, entertaining or even be offended by it, let us look deeper at the facts and the figures and find ways that we can address these issues.

Ways to make a difference in the community would be a list worth reading.