Racism is fueling the 24 hour news cycle right now. White on black violence has its place on television everyday and every night. The racism debate is as volatile as it has been since the the 60’s, and it is reaching a fever pitch. Everyone is writing, blogging, inserting their opinion wherever they can find a crack to stick it. Just as long as that crack fits the mold of socially acceptable racism.
By socially acceptable racism, I mean discrimination towards a socially acceptable target. If a derogatory remark is used towards the African American community, outrage ensues. Same with the LGBT community, Religious communities, Latino community, and so on and so forth…. But, there is one community that has a derogatory target graciously tattooed across its culture, but apparently done so in invisible ink…Appalachia. The socially acceptable stereotype.
Never does the entertainment industry, cable, or national news circuit miss an opportunity to take a shot at our poverty stricken culture like it’s inception was brought upon strictly so the rest of the country would have a collective place to make horribly insensitive jokes towards. This type of immature and intolerant behavior has been thrust upon this region without even the slightest sigh of sympathy, or accountability from any collective or major civil rights organization in the US. From Jon Stewart to Dennis Miller, celebrity information correspondents take their turns laughing and mocking the deplorable economic and social situations that manage to make it to a national audience with an insensitivity that would make Simon Cowell cringe. In early 2014 when 200, 000 West Virginians were without clean drinking water because of a chemical spill on the Elk River, the national media reported along with Stewart and some of his counterparts on the terrible misfortunes of the people of Kanawha County and surrounding area’s with a smug look of “I told you so” like if West Virginian’s had the choice we would have chosen to drink poisoned water. This was a legitimate environmental crisis. The water is still poisoned and our legislature just passed laws to deregulate the holding tanks responsible for the disaster. Government corruption runs rampant here and the ageless beauty of the Appalchian Mountains is being systematically destroyed. Now don’t get me wrong, I like Jon Stewart and Dennis Miller for that matter, I respect their wit and for the most part how they portray their sardonic nature to lighten serious social problems, like I said… I get it. But, after years and years of people from Ohio referring to you home state as “oh is that near Richmond?” or “oh , you mean West Virginia, where men are men and goats are afraid…right?”. The sarcasm has lost its luster. And at some point the laughter has to stop. West Virginia and the rest of the rural east coast are tired of the jokes, we are tired being exploited for beliefs and our heritage. We are tired of being nice.
It is not ok to dismiss the struggle of the Appalachian culture anymore. Our state and other states that harbor our same problems need the national media to see that underneath our drug issues, our obesity crisis, and underneath our fledgling academic records, this problem has been perpetuated by one thing and only one thing…poverty. West Virginia has been home to some the most resource rich geography in the world, yet it seems that none of that wealth has made its way to the communities and classrooms in which it was attained.
In southern West Virginia, coal is king. But, when you drive through a vast majority of McDowell County West Virginia, you would never know a king of any sorts lived there. Building after building in ruin from a time where coal barrens came in made their billions and left a whole region to burn. No social program in the world can rehabilitate an area if the education and skills given via such a program have no place to blossom. No jobs = No Ambition. No ambition to rise above the environment from which you came, and yet this deplorable condition is constantly mocked by the ones seemingly more fortunate. I am not asking for sympathy anymore, I am asking for outrage, because guess what… it’s coming to a town and suburb near you. and when we continue to be divided and completely apathetic to everything and everyone around us, you wont know its’s there until it’s too late. It’s like a cancer, it can never happen to you, then it does. Then it’s too late.
Hate and apathy are the antithesis of progress. Appalachian’s help each other, we are, for all our faults crafty, intelligent, and tougher than pine knots. If we weren’t we would have given up a long time ago. Montani Semper Liberi “Mountaineers are Always Free” and when the shit house comes down, Jon Stewart and the rest of the disillusioned have’s will come asking for our help. The apocalypse happened here long ago, and we made it. Remember that the next time you go to make fun of that slow talker from just west of Richmond.