SagaciousHillbilly's Hillbilly Review Board series is well worth reading. His latest post has really got me thinking. Actually, it's probably that he has found a way to help me organize my thoughts that were taking root like the doggone locusts that I just pulled out of my yard. Try to pull them out by the roots and they grow from a piece of root you've missed.
He's referring to the blog initiative that a Better West Virginia spearheaded to replace WV stereotypes with something more positive. I was all over that idea. Personally, I'm tired of the stereotypes. I guess I'm one of those educated folks that he describes as "white urbane pseudo sophisticates who want WV to be some socially hip mixture of urbane and rural culture. . . bluegrass and REM, pulled pork with demi-glace, corporate board rooms and ramp festivals. . . you get the idea." I've done some time in board rooms, I live for ramp season, and I listen to both REM and bluegrass. But you can hold the demi-glace on my pork. I prefer that straight up and mixed with beans of some kind.
I guess I'm what my parents hoped I'd be. I'm educated, much more than they hoped for. Take that for good or for ill...there's both there. I'm damned smart. I lost my accent. I'm fine in my field. Not one of the top, but not scraping the bottom either. But then again, I'm young and there's a lot of time for me to rise, or to find the place where I'm comfy. Whichever.
But that brings to mind my major grief. While I love West Virginia, I just get tired of the misconceptions. The "oh, that's where they don't wear shoes." The "how interesting that you live so close to the land and to your family." The "I have cousins in Richmond." The "haven't you heard of Deliverance" jokes. The "isn't it great that you have overcome so much to be successful." I grew up pretty middle class. Aside of the huge garden Dad and Grandma raised, my high school days would be pretty indistinguishable from anyone else's. I guess I get tired of the fact that when I mention where I'm from, everyone thinks that they know everything about my life and who I am. I get tired of seeing the Hatfields and McCoy commercials. I get tired of hearing how friggin racist everyone in WV is because Hillary Clinton won. I get tired of hearing folks react to atrocities such as the Megan Williams case with "what can you expect from a bunch of hillbillies?" And believe me I heard a lot of that.
SH also mentions his annoyance with Appalachian folks claiming prejudice: "If you had any fucking clue about what prejudice is like for people who REALLY have to fight it on a day-to-day basis, you’d shut your fucking pie holes." He's right. I think I have felt a tiny little bit of it from some of the shit folks have said. BUT I think that on my worst day, I experience maybe one percent of the racism and prejudicial attitudes that a black person experiences on a good day. So maybe I have one iota. Probably not even that much.
His solution to this "image problem" is that we need to foster it. We don't want everyone knowing what paradise we live in because we don't want the turkeys here anyway. For many turkeys he's right. We'd rather they not come. WE don't want endless suburbia. We've got enough of that as it is. We don't want crime. But we do want to be respected as individuals. As people, not as a hillbilly label.