Dispatches from the Empire

The truth about ‘white rural rage’

Instead of threats to democracy, or rebellious politics, or reflexive anger, we keep finding something different: pride in rural living, a sense of communal belonging, a shared fate that intertwines the economic well-being of rich and poor in rural communities. Yes, there are resentments, especially towards government officials and experts. But resentment is not a stereotype. It’s a motivation, a story.

Still, rageful stereotypes sell better than complex backstories. And they’re easier for our political and media ecosystems to make sense of. Reference some data point about QAnon conspiracies in the heartlands, and you’ll raise more money from nervous liberals in the city (who just so happen to live next to three times as many conspiracy believers). Lash out against the xenophobia in small towns, and you’ll mobilise your city voters to the polls. Rage draws clicks. It makes a splash.

However, unlike rage, which is explosive and directed towards immediate targets, scholars have shown that resentment in rural areas emanates from a sense of enduring injustice and marginalisation. It is not primarily about anger towards specific groups such as black Americans, immigrants, or LGBT individuals. Instead, resentment or grievance is a deeper, more persistent feeling that arises from real and perceived slights against rural communities. These include economic policies that have devastated local industries, a lack of investment in rural infrastructure and education, and a sense of cultural dismissal from urban-centric media and politics.

I’m currently reading White Rural Rage and boy, do I have thoughts. It’s clearly written by two people who do not live in rural spaces, but about people that do.

Thoughts to come.