In my own unique way, I am attempting to rehabilitate the term “redneck”. On Tuesday, 2018-04-17, my wife, Patricia, made me a red bandanna. She also made herself a blue headscarf. These do not indicate political differences between us, but rather personal colour preferences.
Because the red cotton material is heavy, and identical to that used on my labcoat, it was difficult to knot. Thus, rather than tying it, I constructed a Turk’s Head woggle that was ready on Saturday, 2018-04-21. It is made out of 4mm white parachute cord.
One of the earliest recorded uses of Redneck dates from the 1890’s. It refers to “poorer inhabitants of the rural districts…men who work in the field, as a matter of course, generally have their skin burned red by the sun, and especially is this true of the back of their necks”.
In 1921, the term became synonymous with armed insurrection against the state, as members of the United Mine Workers of America tied red bandannas around their necks during the Battle of Blair Mountain, a two week long armed multi-racial labor uprising in the coalfields of West Virginia. This has been noted in an earlier blog post.
From the mid-1950s, and forward to today, the term has become increasingly demeaning. This is one way in which an economic elite can “divide and conquer”. They not only dehumanize the working class poor, they try to create ethnic and racial divides. “Redneck” is part of a trilogy of degrading names to describe rural poor, the others being “white trash” and “hillbilly”.
In much the same way that the term “queer” was rehabilitated by homosexuals, “redneck” is meeting its own renaissance. Redneck Revolt was founded in 2016 as an armed, anti-racist, anti-fascist community. Personally, I won’t be joining this revolt, if only for two reasons. First, the term “anti-” creates unnecessary divisions; second, my commitment to pacifism means that I won’t be carrying a weapon.