The story that Elvis stole his music from African Americans as told by, for example, my now-deceased, uber-leftie, America-hating, and otherwise wonderful aunt, turned rock-and-roll into a mostly white child miraculously born to a purely black family. It was a way of saying that cool and correct white people could love rock-and-roll—white music with roots in the South—but dodge the sense that they had any affinities with white southerners; they could imagine them as wholly other and hate them with ease, with a fervor and disdain that spilled over pretty easily to all blue-collar rural people, to the white American peasantry, basically. That hate had and has wide currency. Ask Dick.
The story that racism belongs to poor people in the South is a little too easy, though. Just as not everybody up here, geographically and economically, is on the right side of the line, so not everyone down there is on the wrong side. But the story allows middle-class people to hate poor people in general while claiming to be on the side of truth, justice, and everything else good.
I grew up surrounded by liberals and leftists who liked to play the idiot in fake southern accents, make jokes about white trash and trailer trash, and, like the Canadian enviros, made gagging noises whenever they heard Dolly Parton or anything like her. If Okies from Muskogee thought they were being mocked, they were right, in part. This mockery was particularly common during the 1970s and 1980s, but it has yet to evaporate altogether—after all, Dick, who judging by his typewriter was around then, wrote me only last summer. My aged mother continues to make liberal use of the term “redneck” to describe the people I grew up among (though they were just suburban conservatives), and last summer I met a twentysomething from New York at a Nevada campout who told me he too was raised to hate country music. He was happily learning to love it, but late, like me.