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Rural America [After the Recession]


2012-10-12_trailer-usa-ga-2_0059

2012-10-12_trailer-usa-ga-2_0059

USA, Cartersville.
Empty trailer home.

USA, Cartersville.<br />
Empty trailer home.

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2012-11-07-laworder-usa-glennville_0157_52

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2012-10-13_trailer-usa-ga-3_0173

USA, Georgia. Winder.

USA, Georgia. Winder.

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2012-10-13_trailer-usa-ga-3_0087103

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2012-10-14_trailer-usa-ga-4_0005_17

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2012-10-15_trailer-usa-ga-5_0044_21

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2012-10-15_trailer-usa-ga-5_0051_22

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2012-10-15_trailer-usa-ga-5_0095_25

USA, GA, Cartersville

USA, GA, Cartersville

USA, GA, Cartersville, Tina Litton in her tax preparation firm.

USA, GA, Cartersville, Tina Litton in her tax preparation firm.

USA, GA, Pizzeria, Monticello.

USA, GA, Pizzeria, Monticello.

USA, GA, Fort Gaines.

USA, GA, Fort Gaines.

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2012-11-07-laworder-usa-glennville_0153_51

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Reporting by James Swift.
Photography by Jan Banning.

EVEN AS A child, I knew I was so-called “poor white trash.” It wasn’t necessarily because I lived in a trailer, or I wore shoes purchased at the Family Dollar, or even because the other kids at school told me I was. Rather, it just felt like something that was a part of my DNA, like some sort of mutated codon that just made me what I am. Being “poor white trash” had nothing to do with being trashy, or white, or even poor — it was your biological fortune, and there was very little one could do to surmount it.

USA, Georgia. Winder.

USA, Georgia. Winder.

Cartersville, USA. Photo by Jan Banning.

USA, Cartersville.Mr. Lee, James' stephfather, in his trailer.

USA, Cartersville.Mr. Lee, James' stephfather, in his trailer.

Mr. Lee, the author's stepfather. Cartersville, USA. Photo by Jan Banning.

USA, Kingston GA.Mom and Pop shop.

USA, Kingston GA.Mom and Pop shop.

Cartersville, USA. Photo by Jan Banning.

USA, Cartersville.Desterted trailer home near James' stephfather's place.

USA, Cartersville.Desterted trailer home near James' stephfather's place.

Deserted trailer near the author's stepfather's home. Cartersville, USA. Photo by Jan Banning.

I grew up poor, but it was a different kind of poor. In the late 1990s, everybody in the neighborhood had jobs, and some of them were even paraprofessionals who earned wages way higher than the national average. My neighbors were nurses and construction workers, licensed technicians and certified mechanics. They may have lived in mobile homes and had crabgrass-choked lawns, but they were making payments on their cars, their electricity was on and they were living lives of, relative, comfort and safety.
But they still had those “poor white trash” tendencies. Most of them drank, and drank heavily. It was around the end of Clinton’s second term that a new menace — crystal meth — managed to sneak its way into the hinterlands, wreaking a substantial amount of havoc for just about everybody. If you didn’t have someone in your family on crank, you knew somebody a few houses over who was: Soon, cars and houses started getting broken into, and what was once a fairly peaceful community turned into a place where everybody was suspicious and paranoid.

2012-10-13_Trailer USA GA-3_0169

2012-10-13_Trailer USA GA-3_0169

Photo by Jan Banning.

USA, Cartersville.Desterted trailer home near James' stephfather's place.

USA, Cartersville.Desterted trailer home near James' stephfather's place.

Inside a deserted Trailer. Photo by Jan Banning.

USA.James' grandmother and his mother's sister.

USA.James' grandmother and his mother's sister.

The author's grandmother and aunt. Photo by Jan Banning.

2012-10-12_Trailer USA GA-2_0059

2012-10-12_Trailer USA GA-2_0059

Photo by Jan Banning.

But the greatest “poor white trash” tendency of them all, of course, was the mismanagement of money. We had cash coming in, but we had it going out of our wallets just as quickly. Instead of investing in things with long-term potential — college education, property, small businesses and the like — we were investing them in unnecessary things, like cars, big-screen televisions, and lots and lots of alcohol and tobacco. And in the process, we racked up an astronomical amount of credit card debt, setting into motion a series of events that almost drove us into oblivion.

Read the rest of the article, and more, in the Youth Today Special Report: Rural America After the Recession, below:

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