Thursday, January 05, 2006

Note to miner's wife: You are not stupid-the media is

"This is a sad story, the lady they interviewed overnight. I feel sorry for and when she said we are West Virginia and not very smart is an indication that the question their self worth.

I will go on record that I would choose a West Virginia Coal Miner to be on my side than some others that I know."

Brian Hornback is certainly right about that, as I can attest.

I saw the interview he alluded to in these comments, and the dear lady actually said “pray for us, we are West Virginians, not very smart.”

Brian is right that such comments indicate a feeling of low self-worth, but beyond that, such a comment would seem to indicate that entire communities feel this way in some subconscious fashion. Why is this?

It isn’t just a West Virginia problem. Many Appalachian people from the Blue Ridge all the way to North Georgia have subconsciously accepted the idea that they are not as intelligent or as sophisticated as their lowland countrymen. People have always made fun of “hillbillies,” even in the early days of the Republic, but the period of Reconstruction has been said by some to be at the root of the current problem.

Appalachian people were bitterly divided during the War Between the States. A significant number supported the Federal cause out of opposition to the low country planter class, as well as the traditional dislike of being ruled by a state capital so far away from them. The Unionists had no clue, however, that the Feds they were helping during the war would turn on them when it was over.

Yankee treatment of mountain people after the war was so bad that in many cases, whole families that had supported the Union denied taking sides in the war. Still others made the false claim that they had supported the Confederacy. Occupation forces believed that the mountaineers needed to be reconstructed just like everyone else-they were still Southerners, after all, and Southerners couldn’t be Southern anymore. Among my ancestors, it could justly be claimed that our family fought for the Confederacy-we have the enlistment papers for many of them. I only know of one who supported the Union. Appalachian families who were bona fide Confederates were envied in some circles because they never accepted the presence or the motives of the Federals to begin with (hindsight is 20/20).

Outsiders have always come to Appalachia believing they could educate the “poor ignorant mountain people” and make them “sophisticated.” In that vein, the media has always managed to portray Appalachian people as a bunch of ignorant hillbilly crackers with no brains and narrow ways, and who all live in run-down shacks and eat black-eyed peas and cornbread (Author freely admits to loving black-eyed peas with greasy fatback, cornbread, and cooked cabbage). Even Charles Kurault, great journalist that he was, contributed to the negative image in his 1964 special Christmas in Appalachia…nothing positive was shown about Appalachian culture, even though the intent was to bring attention to the great poverty of the region. That show re-enforced cultural stereotypes and did more to perpetuate an image of poverty and ignorance than spur positive action to eliminate those scourges.

The modern media has done little to portray the truth: Yes, there is great poverty in the Southern Appalachians. Appalachian culture, however, has contributed more to the nation’s cultural heritage than perhaps any other group, from traditional music, to dance, to art, to beverages, to chapter upon chapter of early American history. People like the lady in that news footage aren’t told that reality by the New York-based press.

Perhaps it is time that highlanders are told that they aren’t dumb, they ARE cultured, and they have more common horse sense than all those damn Yankees put together.


At Tuesday, January 10, 2006 11:54:00 PM, Blogger Elvis Drinkmo said...

Interesting post. We may disagree on other things, but I think you've got some real valid points here.



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