There’s a King of the Hill gag I’m particularly fond of. In the first season, in one of the first episodes, when the character Kahn is introduced, the white Texan characters ask if he’s Chinese or Japanese. He’s Laotian . The other characters’ casual and ignorant  (if affable, oddly) racism annoys him. The white guys decide he’s Japanese, which will mean trouble when one guy’s father, a WWII vet, shows up.
When the veteran, Cotton, finally appears, the other characters tell him that Kahn is Japanese. Cotton looks him up and down, and says, “Nope. He’s Laotian. Ain’t you, Mr. Kahn?”
Kahn, worried, mugs at the camera .
I love the scene because it’s a terse, profound, ambiguous commentary on the nature of racism .
But I don’t want to talk about that here, exactly . I want to talk about a term one might use for the white characters. They’re from Texas; they drive pickup trucks; they drink beer while they stand on the side of the street. They follow NASCAR. They hunt.
I’ll just pause for a moment here while you come up with a term. There are no wrong answers.
OK. I hope you came up with redneck, since that’s the only correct answer.
It’s what we  usually call white folks who like and do these things. There’s usually an implication of racism against nonwhites in the term, too (though I’ve heard nonwhites described as and self-described as rednecks, too).
Despite the possible application to the cartoon characters above, who all have jobs, the term often seems to connote joblessness and shiftlessness.
I mention all of this stuff because the term redneck was originally denotative as well as connotative. It was literally true, as the kids say these days . Insults used in the US for white people in general (rather than specific ethnic groups of white people) tend to originate as insults used for poor white people . A redneck was somebody who worked in a field, with his head down, someone who got sunburned: a tenant farmer, a migrant or seasonal worker , something along those lines. Somewhere between the original use and now, it took on just the connotative meanings: someone who is provincial and bigoted, as the OED puts it , but also someone who doesn’t work. It became almost the opposite: a paleneck.
I’d ended this piece just above, with paleneck , but then I used the word villain in another context, and realized I should probably work a bit of discussion in about that, as well. A villain is a bad guy, an evildoer, an adversary. Maybe it’s the chief adversary .
The word looks like villa, right? We’ll start there. A villa was originally a country house. In English, through that use, it ended up being sort of a swanky country house, in cost if not in appointments. A villein (in Old French) was a particular kind of serf who’d work on a country estate. So villain was originally a slang term meaning redneck, more or less: low-born dirty  thievin’ rube .
And it became the word for an evil person, the evil person. It’s an interesting development.
1. A couple sentences in, and I’m already into a verbal swamp, viz: Kahn’s also an American citizen, and a Texan. He was born in Laos, and describes himself as Laotian. There’s not (yet?) a good way to solve the various problems raised by using any single term, alas. I figure the best bet is to acknowledge that fact, and riff a bit in the footnotes.
2. In the classical sense, and in the sense that shows up in lots of American dialects: they don’t know, and they’re being ign’ant.
3. Technically true, but he’s a cartoon character, so the phrasing seems odd.
4. In the original final draft, I belabored the explanation, and then included a footnote expressing my hope that I was going to cut that section. I fulfilled our dream, little footnote, but you had to go, too. This footnote is in memory of that footnote.
5. Sort of like the throwaway story at the beginning of a Simpsons episode.
6. “Who are you calling we?”
8. There’s only one term that makes white people want to fight you if you say it, and that one depends on worry about said phrase.
9. The shift in who does this sort of work is interesting, too.
10. There’s a bit of complication in that some religious groups were called rednecks, but it seems to boil down to sunburns in those cases, too.
11. The struts are showing. POSTMODERNISM.
12. The OED notes that when it’s used with the, it means “the antagonist,” and not just “an antagonist.”
13. At my high school, at least when I was there, instead of saying redneck, people said dirty, as a substantive: That guy is a dirty. Maybe it’s because redneck had already become a term of pride, and people needed something more insulting or more recent. Maybe it’s just because kids make up slang. Mean slang.
14. The etymology on rube is great: it’s short for Ruben, the idea being that Ruben is the sort of name a bumpkin has. (Jebidiah is the current iteration, maybe. Poindexter for nerds.)