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Complicating “White Privilege”: Race, Poverty, and the Nature of the Knapsack

In my favorite photograph of my Grandma Wilma, taken during her early teens, she stands outside her Kitzmiller, Maryland, house. The house’s exterior, cracking and worn, hints at the working poor life she and her family are living in Appalachia. Evidence, too, is her attire: full-length overalls, dusty and stained, hang over a plain white tshirt. The tips of dirty shoes peek out from the bottoms of pant legs that appear too long for her short frame. The scenery, Grandma’s house and clothes, exude working poor humility, the kind Doris Ulmann captured in her 1930’s Appalachian photodocumentaries. The casual do-gooder might look at the photo and think, I don’t know how people lived like that, in those dirty clothes and broken-down houses, not realizing that poverty continues to wreak havoc in Appalachia and other parts of the United States today

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