Appalachia, The South, Mountain Folk...

I thought I would share something with you that perhaps you had never considered before. Specificly how we as an American culture treat those who we consider to be a (Redneck, southerner, Hill person, Hillbilly, Mountain man ect). Obviously since I am brining this up I need to share why I am doing this and why I feel its relevant to the GWJ community. In P&C topics are discussed that are the talk of the day or subjects that mean a great deal to us but are too hot to handle in other fourms. While this isnt a news item or a hotly debated topic I felt its one that is either unknown or just ignored. Thus the post....

As you have probably already guessed I fall into this classification, I was born in a southern city and raised in the Appallacha foot hills. Five generations of my family were raised in the mountains and its fair to say that a good deal of my heart is tied to those mountains and the people who live in them. I was raised with a deep love for Applachian culture, its music and its ways of living. That is why it pains me at times when I see how my fellow Americans view us. In movies, games and music we are classifed as ignorant, hatefull people who are only put in front of the camera so they can be laughted at those of other cultures who can say "at least I am not one of them". In the work place I have had to hide my identity and even my accent for me to be taken seriously. The first thing one learns if your an Appalachian working in the North is to speak like you are from Columbus Ohio (neutral accent). Some of the wonderfull things I hear at work from others who know nothing of my past are "you know they are all inbred", (when speaking about an area of town that has large number of Applachians) "Thats just GroveTucky for ya, they are all stupid down there", and on and on.

Now before I go any further in this topic I want to say I am not doing this because I want pity or because I feel its a civil rights issue. Frankly there are lots of folks who have it a heck of a lot worse than me. So I am not really complaning or whining here, I just want to present something to you that perhaps you havent thought of before. A lot of us here at GWJ have either a work background in Tech or just like Tech as a hobby, and its pretty rare to find someone like that who claims Appalachia as their home. So I think its fair to say a lot of us probably havent been exposed to Applachian culture that isnt a movie or game.

So how does America view Appalachia, well lets take a look at one of my favorite PC games Fallout 3. In Point lookout (A DLC of that game) we are introduced to "Swamp Folk" who are individuals in Virginia who were a rural people exposed to too much radiation. In this DLC we see a classic view of Appalachia, a violent stupid people who use a southern drawl that sounds mindless to the ear and have next to zero education. The swamp folk were created in a way to speak to our (the players) ignorance about those from that culture. Its done so the player feels pleasure and enjoyment as they kill these ignorant people. In Deliverance (1972) we see mountain folk who are physcially dirty and depraved. (and lets not even get into the worst parts of that movie). Growing up the only time I saw someone of my culuture on screen was when a movie needed a stupid character that could be killed off without emotion, or hated easily. You learn very quickly in Appalachia the "truth" of how the world sees you....

You are stupid.
You are worthless
You are dirty
You are uneducated
You live in a wood shack
The Way you talk is wrong \ stupid \ funny
You have no future
You will live in Poverty

The cold reality for nearly any person of skill in Appalacha is to succeed we will have to leave the home we love. And this means we will have to play the game of life the way others want us to rather than the way we believe or were raised. Thus we learn to hide our accent, hide our beliefs, hide our feelings. I spent many years saying horrible things about Appalacha right along with everyone else so I could "fit" in and make a living. I still hide my appalachian background from everyone until they get to know me.

So the next time you consume a movie or game and my culture is represented (which is thankfully rare at times) take heed that you might be consuming something that is adjusting your belief about another culture in a way that is well..... wrong

Sorry for the PSA.. Just wanted to get that off my chest

Well said, McDonis.

Thank you for posting that. My father's side of the family is from West Virginia and Ohio (East Liverpool - might as well be W. Va). What you say resonates with me even though I don't have the accent. The quality of the people in those places is amazing, and the gulf between common perception and reality is impossible for me to miss.

LouZiffer wrote:

Thank you for posting that. My father's side of the family is from West Virginia and Ohio (East Liverpool - might as well be W. Va). What you say resonates with me even though I don't have the accent. The quality of the people in those places is amazing, and the gulf between common perception and reality is impossible for me to miss.

Your welcome...

I wish the world could see them as I see them. A rugged honest hard working people who would shed their blood in a second for others. Not to mention make a mean sweetened Ice tea.

mcdonis wrote:
LouZiffer wrote:

Thank you for posting that. My father's side of the family is from West Virginia and Ohio (East Liverpool - might as well be W. Va). What you say resonates with me even though I don't have the accent. The quality of the people in those places is amazing, and the gulf between common perception and reality is impossible for me to miss.

Your welcome...

I wish the world could see them as I see them. A rugged honest hard working people who would shed their blood in a second for others. Not to mention make a mean sweetened Ice tea.

I wonder if you're making the mirror-image mistake that you complain about in the OP. I wonder if Appalachia contains just as many lazy, self-obsessed assholes as the rest of the world and your rose-tinted nostlgia is causing you to selectively forget that.

Sweetened ice tea? Don't you mean sweet tea?

I love West Virginia and its peoples. I'm pretty big into bluegrass and have been to plenty of festivals throughout that state. I made some great friends from those concerts and they're all beautiful people.

Then again, when I was rafting in WV one time we did hear a noise as were going down the river. It was getting louder and we started looking around because something was getting closer. All of the sudden a truck burst into view loaded to the brim with people. They were flying down some dirt road. It was quite noisy and they were having a good time and just as suddenly as they appeared they were gone.

Jonman wrote:

I wonder if you're making the mirror-image mistake that you complain about in the OP. I wonder if Appalachia contains just as many lazy, self-obsessed assholes as the rest of the world and your rose-tinted nostlgia is causing you to selectively forget that.

There are the usual share of bigots for sure in such geographically insular places. However, I've never met so many hard working, selfless (in a good way) people as I have on my trips there. The type to take a bullet for a stranger, happily do backbreaking work all day for a friend, and accept "thanks" as their only reward. Self-obsession doesn't work in places where you depend on each other.

There was a really good documentary that Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) narrated called Born Fighting that pretty well transformed my whole understanding of Appalachia.

Jonman wrote:
mcdonis wrote:
LouZiffer wrote:

Thank you for posting that. My father's side of the family is from West Virginia and Ohio (East Liverpool - might as well be W. Va). What you say resonates with me even though I don't have the accent. The quality of the people in those places is amazing, and the gulf between common perception and reality is impossible for me to miss.

Your welcome...

I wish the world could see them as I see them. A rugged honest hard working people who would shed their blood in a second for others. Not to mention make a mean sweetened Ice tea.

I wonder if you're making the mirror-image mistake that you complain about in the OP. I wonder if Appalachia contains just as many lazy, self-obsessed assholes as the rest of the world and your rose-tinted nostlgia is causing you to selectively forget that.

Sure we have them but I choose to point out what the Appalachian culuture honors most rather than what others think. Our culture would view someone you just mentioned as a shame to our culuture. Does that make our culture better no its just something we choose to focus on and honor.

I measure my culture as a whole by those who lived in it, generations of family and friends. By my measure they are a people worthy of honor and respect. I think I would rather people take a similar evaluation of my people rather than just accepting an easy and usefull characterization and using it to feel better about themselves at the expense of those from another culture.

McDonis, that sounds like a really tough way to live. I personally can't relate but I do have one thing I'm curious about. Your post is mainly talking about how the stereotypes of the Appalachian people are negative. As someone who knows almost nothing about the Appalachia region(the bit I do know is I just finished a book about the Hatfield/McCoy feud and I watched the documentary "The Wild and Wonderful Whites"), I was hoping you would disprove those stereotypes with some facts. Or is it more the case that the people of the Appalachia's do have those negatives but they also have some amazing cultural traits that everyone else ignores?

mcdonis wrote:

how does America view Appalachia

I grew up in Spokane, WA. I'd never even considered the Appalachia was a place until I read [em]John the Balladeer[/em] by Manly Wade Wellman. When I saw anything you'd consider "hicks" in the media, the primary place I thought of was the Aryan Nations compound over the border in northern Idaho.

Based on my experience, I think it's safe to say: at least 50% of the US thinks [em]nothing at all[/em] about Appalachia.

Well, then there's this.

Sounds like you're describing the world of Justified.

I think this is a little more complicated than you're making it out to be.

You're conflating at least three different groups in this summary: Appalachians, Southerners and, in the case of "The Swamp People", Cajuns. I'm completely with you on Appalachia and Cajuns and other specific groups. But I'm a little more conflicted about "the redneck", which is more of a subset of the majority population, and can be a somewhat deserved stand-in for ignorance in our society.

And incidentally, you should check out Tucker and Dale vs. Evil if you haven't already. Takes the scary-backwoods-redneck stereotype and flips it on its head.

Elliottx wrote:

McDonis, that sounds like a really tough way to live. I personally can't relate but I do have one thing I'm curious about. Your post is mainly talking about how the stereotypes of the Appalachian people are negative. As someone who knows almost nothing about the Appalachia region(the bit I do know is I just finished a book about the Hatfield/McCoy feud and I watched the documentary "The Wild and Wonderful Whites"), I was hoping you would disprove those stereotypes with some facts. Or is it more the case that the people of the Appalachia's do have those negatives but they also have some amazing cultural traits that everyone else ignores?

That one is hard to explain in a thread post....

One thing you have to understand about Appalacha is that its not like your normal town or state. Like any other region we have our share of gifted students and workers. The problem is we dont have the jobs that the others do, we only supply the talent, thus every year the lion share of our most gifted and talented citizens are taken to work in Columbus, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, ect. Individuals who should be building a better place for the citizens of Huntington, Ashland, Logan are doing so for the citizens of northern cities. For those that stay the opporuntites are rare and controled by the few. This can engender behavior that re-enforces the worlds view of us.

To be blunt having a people that is backward (in the eyes of outsiders) is a valuable thing to the media. Thus the hatfield/mccoy story is legend because its tells one narritave that sells books\movies\ect. I think a better example of the heart of my people can be told in the war that was fought in Appalacha. Lets see if you have ever heard this story before....

At the turn of the 19/20th century West Virigina was still by and large unchanged from when it was settled in the early 19th century by the Scots\Irish. When it was discovered that Coal was in abundence large interests from out of state (big money) formed large companies and set up operation. Because of the nature of the mountains getting access was extremely difficult, thus they built railroads and at the end of the line build a city completely owned and operated by the mining company. This was a small city that didnt exist in any form before they arrived, they built and owned the houses and every business in the town. They went out to the local mountains and got locals to sign up to work for them, over a short period of time and in an effort to do better for their famlies mountain folk migrated to these small towns to make a living. However unlike the town you live in EVERYTHING was owned by the company, nothing operated that wasnt controled by them. Pay was issued in company script, that is to say non US currency that was printed by the mine company. The mine worker earned a wage paid in mine script, took those scripts and purchased everything from food to medicne with it in the company store. Usually the miner was paid slightly less than their cost of living so they were usually endebted to the company for life. Should the miner or his family do something that displeased the mine they would lose their job, home and all their bellongings. In the early part of the 20th century miners decided to fight for basic human rights and form unions to protect their heath, their property and their children. Mine owners used murder, rape, and intimidation to continue their slavery of the people. As miners begain to voice discent the mine owners hired armed men to kill miners. In one instance they took a train with a flat car and mounted a machinegun on it. They drove the train near a strker encampment outside of town. The encampment was filled with the women and children of miners who had been evicted from their homes for dare speaking against the mine owners. The men on the train walked machine gun fire up and down the encampment trying to murder as many as they could. Finally it all came to a head when union organisers were killed by gunmen on their way to trial on the Courthouse steps of town. Men of Appalacha rose up and took up arms against the mine owners and marched on Logan County the mine owners hired mercs and airplanes armed with bombs. Finally after days of the killings the federal govement acted and sent the US army to Logan County to put down the violence. They arrested and tried the miners for crimes and did nothing to the mine owners. However it forced change in Appalacha, the mine owners had their bluff called and began to slowly treat their miners as men. It took decades but eventually miners began to get basic human rights.

In all of this the spirit of Appalacha is on display, the people hardy and tough experienced harship after hardship in this struggle. From a media prespective its easy to tell a story about stupid backward people rather than tough folks who work and fight hard for their families.

One number I would like to point out is the state of West Virginia. Considering the goverment sent troops to put down the rights of miners, and generally ignored anything that had to do with our betterment Apppalacha still showed its allegiance to our nation. I have said in other posts about how Military Service is extremly common, well here are some numbers.

According to the VA 30% of the male population of West Virginia used VA benefits last year. That means 30% of the entire male population of West Virginia used their vet's benefits to seek medical care. Now if that number is correct and I know my people a lot of them either didnt need health care (or didnt want) health care from the VA. So my previous guess of 40-50% of the population being in the service is probably not too far from being true.

Now I feel like I have to give a short pedigree so that I can give my opinion. I've lived in north/central Alabama my entire life and have a good bit of family from the foothills of the Appalachians. My dad was a mechanic, my grandfather was an illiterate factory worker who didn't attend school after the 2nd grade and my great grandfather was a trapper and moonshiner.

So please, bear all of that in mind when I say this... the stereotype is a stereotype for a reason. No, not everyone from this area is a Deliverance extra but there are also a ton, and I mean a ton, of uneducated, small-minded, racist people here. That being said, I certainly don't think it's just some genetic defect from being born in this area, rather I view it as a consequence of rampant poverty, poor-to-no local governments and that fact that most of these communities have essentially been abandoned by the rest of the country.

To me, I've always thought of this in the same way I think of the urban ghettos. Both are areas that have poor education and no real job prospects with the primary difference being how close you are to your neighbors. Just replace gang with family and you've even got the "we take care of our own" comparison between both groups.

And yeah, I'd probably have an easier time walking into a bar out in the country than I would in certain parts of the city but I dare say that would have more to do with the color of my skin than the naturally accepting nature of the people patronizing the bar. Heck, I've even been warned away from a few bars out in the country because I'm not from that area. Turf wars don't end once you leave the city limits.

So while I agree that it gets old being confronted with the Southern/Mountain Folk/Appalachian stereotypes when I visit other parts of the country, I also can't make the argument that we're all just salt of the earth people down here being kept down by the man. It may sound cliche' but a lot of the South was in rough shape even before the Civil War and afterwards large chunks were just left to wither and die or fend for themselves. Again, just like we've abandoned areas of our cities. When you don't bother to educate the people of an area and the job options you have are low paying back breaking labor or unemployment, you can't expect to have the people who live in that area act like the stereotypical American suburban professional.

kazooka wrote:

I think this is a little more complicated than you're making it out to be.

You're conflating at least three different groups in this summary: Appalachians, Southerners and, in the case of "The Swamp People", Cajuns. I'm completely with you on Appalachia and Cajuns and other specific groups. But I'm a little more conflicted about "the redneck", which is more of a subset of the majority population, and can be a somewhat deserved stand-in for ignorance in our society.

And incidentally, you should check out Tucker and Dale vs. Evil if you haven't already. Takes the scary-backwoods-redneck stereotype and flips it on its head.

It is complicated. Its hard for anyone who doesnt belong to one of those groups to tell them apart. Most folks I think hear some sort of variation of the southern accent and then some or all of those things get applied.

As for Redneck the term has a much different meaning, it just depends on who you ask.

From Wiki

"The United Mine Workers of America (UMW) and rival miners' unions appropriated both the term redneck and its literal manifestation, the red bandana, in order to build multiracial unions of white, black, and immigrant miners in the strike-ridden coalfields of northern and central Appalachia between 1912 and 1936. The origin of redneck to mean "a union man" or "a striker" remains uncertain, but according to linguist David W. Maurer, the former definition of the word probably dates at least to the 1910s, if not earlier. The use of redneck to designate "a union member" was especially popular during the 1920s and 1930s in the coal-producing regions of southern West Virginia, eastern Kentucky, and western Pennsylvania, where the word came to be specifically applied to a miner who belonged to a union."

In Appalacha the term is worn with pride by a lot of folks, less and less for the reasons above (as that generation has mostly left us) and more and more for how the outside world curses us. In other words if that is how the city folks want to curse us then lets use that term and wear it with pride. So while urban America would see Appalacha and southerners and equate hate with the term, those in the region wouldnt by and large.

I think small town people are small town people everywhere, with a myopic view of the world. I get that Appalachia has its own thing going, but so does Smithville, Missouri or Evansville, Indiana or Perth Amboy, New Jersey.

I would posit that most people in this country are hard working and basically decent people, but this whole celebration of ignorance that we see in "redneck pride" pretty much justifies any stereotype "city folk" have about small town people.

Mind you, I grew up in small town Missouri, so I am not just a yankee talking trash:)

Spoiler:

Full disclosure, I was born in New Jersey and spent a lot of my childhood in northern Jersey.

garion333 wrote:

Well, then there's this.

youtube link

HEY NOW! Honey Boo Boo stands up for the rights of GLBTs of ALL species so you leave her alone!

mcdonis wrote:

To be blunt having a people that is backward (in the eyes of outsiders) is a valuable thing to the media. Thus the hatfield/mccoy story is legend because its tells one narritave that sells booksmoviesect. I think a better example of the heart of my people can be told in the war that was fought in Appalacha. Lets see if you have ever heard this story before....

...

Men of Appalacha rose up and took up arms against the mine owners and marched on Logan County the mine owners hired mercs and airplanes armed with bombs. Finally after days of the killings the federal govement acted and sent the US army to Logan County to put down the violence. They arrested and tried the miners for crimes and did nothing to the mine owners. However it forced change in Appalacha, the mine owners had their bluff called and began to slowly treat their miners as men. It took decades but eventually miners began to get basic human rights.

Heh, believe it or not, we have!

We've had a couple of threads/posts touch on the distinctiveness of Appalacha--was able to find these two:

http://www.gamerswithjobs.com/node/1...
http://www.gamerswithjobs.com/node/1...

I'm a lifelong New Yorker, but my mom and godfather are both from Appalachian stock; in my mom's case, going back a few hundred years. I can also say that 99.99% of New Yorkers just don't think about Appalachia as a culturally distinct region. It just isn't someplace we think about; the first time many of us had to wrap our brains around it was in reference to the 2008 election, when there was a swath of race-based voting against Obama that directly correlated to Appalachia.

Tanglebones wrote:

I'm a lifelong New Yorker, but my mom and godfather are both from Appalachian stock; in my mom's case, going back a few hundred years. I can also say that 99.99% of New Yorkers just don't think about Appalachia as a culturally distinct region. It just isn't someplace we think about; the first time many of us had to wrap our brains around it was in reference to the 2008 election, when there was a swath of race-based voting against Obama that directly correlated to Appalachia.

That kinda surprises me because in the last 15 years or so New Yorkers have been retiring to the region (I never quite understood why). Granted in the region I am from we arent talking about massive numbers (prob just a few hundred) but enough that its noticed. When I was working for Morgan Stanely in Eastern Kentucky back in the 90's I worked with a guy from queens who came to the region to raise his kids and have a place for his parents to retire to.

SallyNasty wrote:

Mind you, I grew up in small town Missouri, so I am not just a yankee talking trash:)

Spoiler:

Full disclosure, I was born in New Jersey and spent a lot of my childhood in northern Jersey.

lol... Since you grew up in Missouri you can claim Southern and Northern just depends on which one you favor.

I couldn't help but notice while reading this story that if you replace the word Appalachian with gay, it's pretty much the same thing! Except for all the hate, and lack of rights, and giant organizations dedicated to making sure discrimination against you is put into law.

It sucks to have giant faceless groups of people dislike you and wrongly assume you are stupid/wrong/evil or whatever just because of who you are.

EDIT: I realized I used "you" a lot in my post, it's generic you, not you mcdonis!

SallyNasty wrote:

I think small town people are small town people everywhere, with a myopic view of the world. I get that Appalachia has its own thing going, but so does Smithville, Missouri or Evansville, Indiana or Perth Amboy, New Jersey.

I would posit that most people in this country are hard working and basically decent people, but this whole celebration of ignorance that we see in "redneck pride" pretty much justifies any stereotype "city folk" have about small town people.

Mind you, I grew up in small town Missouri, so I am not just a yankee talking trash:)

Spoiler:

Full disclosure, I was born in New Jersey and spent a lot of my childhood in northern Jersey.

I grew up in a small lobstering town in Maine, and there was an awful lot of "redneck pride" up here as well.

One thing you have to understand about Appalacha is that its not like your normal town or state. Like any other region we have our share of gifted students and workers. The problem is we dont have the jobs that the others do, we only supply the talent, thus every year the lion share of our most gifted and talented citizens are taken to work in Columbus, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, ect. Individuals who should be building a better place for the citizens of Huntington, Ashland, Logan are doing so for the citizens of northern cities. For those that stay the opporuntites are rare and controled by the few. This can engender behavior that re-enforces the worlds view of us.

This mindset is also shared, that the cities were "taking" our best & brightest instead of returning home to make things better for those left behind. Instead of realizing that the small-town culture has nothing to offer them, they prefer to play the victim instead of figuring out how to make returning home worthwhile.

An example from my home area is that there was, at one point, quite a bit of talk of getting a professional voice over studio set up.Several other v/o actors (including Jonathan Frakes) lived in the area, and were tired of having to go down to Boston or beyond to do their work, so they looked at starting up a studio closer to home. It met quite a bit of resistance, mainly that it would be too "Hollywood" or corrupt the small town image the area had. In the end it was abandoned because none of the towns nor the state was interested in making it work financially, and those that wanted it ended up moving to places closer to v/o studios.

Yes, I'm still bitter about it ending the Star Trek events he used to do.

mcdonis wrote:
Tanglebones wrote:

I'm a lifelong New Yorker, but my mom and godfather are both from Appalachian stock; in my mom's case, going back a few hundred years. I can also say that 99.99% of New Yorkers just don't think about Appalachia as a culturally distinct region. It just isn't someplace we think about; the first time many of us had to wrap our brains around it was in reference to the 2008 election, when there was a swath of race-based voting against Obama that directly correlated to Appalachia.

That kinda surprises me because in the last 15 years or so New Yorkers have been retiring to the region (I never quite understood why). Granted in the region I am from we arent talking about massive numbers (prob just a few hundred) but enough that its noticed. When I was working for Morgan Stanely in Eastern Kentucky back in the 90's I worked with a guy from queens who came to the region to raise his kids and have a place for his parents to retire to.

SallyNasty wrote:

Mind you, I grew up in small town Missouri, so I am not just a yankee talking trash:)

Spoiler:

Full disclosure, I was born in New Jersey and spent a lot of my childhood in northern Jersey.

lol... Since you grew up in Missouri you can claim Southern and Northern just depends on which one you favor.

a few hundred New Yorkers is a drop in the bucket - there's 22 million of us in the metro area

Tanglebones wrote:

a few hundred New Yorkers is a drop in the bucket - there's 22 million of us in the metro area :)

lol, to us thats an invasion.

There are probably more people who visit Penn Station in NY in a day then live in all of WVA.

Double post.... sorry

Most Native New Yorker City folks don't really think about any area of the world outside of New York City unless they are absolutely forced to. ;p

absurddoctor wrote:

Most Native New Yorker City folks

Wait, those exist?

CheezePavilion wrote:
absurddoctor wrote:

Most Native New Yorker City folks

Wait, those exist?

They're the ones you step over when walking on the sidewalk.

CheezePavilion wrote:
absurddoctor wrote:

Most Native New Yorker City folks

Wait, those exist?

Much like the fabled ponycorn of old, there are a few (million) of us

absurddoctor wrote:

Most Native New Yorker City folks don't really think about any area of the world outside of New York City unless they are absolutely forced to. ;p

Lawrence Fishburn wrote:

Trust me. When you leave Manhattan. You go nowhere.