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Just wanted to let you all know that Tipper's really sick with a bad case of the flu. We're hoping she'll be better soon. She wishes she could be posting and visiting with you. She'll have the Blind Pig back up and running as soon as she can.
Posted at 06:25 PM in Blog | Permalink
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See below for my "essay" response to Bill O'Reilly's recent rant against "ignorant Appalachian hillbillies" that has caused a lot of boil to boil. Please feel to run this if you are so inclined, and pass it on to anyone else who might be interested in protesting such negative stereotypes about our culture.
Betty Cloer Wallace
Hillbilly stereotypes: picking up pine knots and going to war
By Betty Cloer Wallace
Bill O’Reilly’s recent contemptible rant against Appalachian Americans is only the latest example of the widespread and multigenerational problem of Appalachian hillbilly stereotypes. Quite simply, O’Reilly reminded the world once again that people of the Appalachian Mountains are still the only cultural group in America that many people have the audacity to ridicule publicly as being of low intelligence, and worse.
Can you imagine if O'Reilly had made the same despicable statements about ________ in _________, or ________ in ________, or _______ in ________. (Fill in the blanks with any racial or ethnic or cultural slurs you can imagine, the more insensitive the better.)
How can we as a people ever overcome this pervasive hillbilly stereotype? Why do we continue to pull in our heads like turtles and pretend we don't care and that we will survive regardless of the outside world? Well, I do care—for myself, my family and friends, and my culture—and I don't believe that we are surviving very well or will survive in the future as a culture with a shred of honor and dignity if we do not rise up, en masse, and protest at every opportunity this kind of insensitive abuse.
We continue to loll about in our insular Snuffy Smith, Lil Abner, Mammy Yokum, Jed Clampett, grits-and-possum stereotype as if the opinion of the rest of the world does not matter, even while we are being brutalized every time someone laughs at our dialect or accent, or asks WHERE are you from, or rejects us for a job, or does not publish our writing because how could an ignorant hillbilly possibly have something to say.
A professor at the University of Colorado once said to our own Charles Frazier, "Imagine that! A hillbilly with a Ph.D.!" Even worse than the professor thinking such a misbegotten thought was that she felt entitled to publicly say it right to his face. Can you imagine her making that statement to a person of any other racial or ethnic or cultural group? "Imagine that! A ______ with a Ph.D.!"
As much as I love COLD MOUNTAIN, both book and movie, I hated the "Young Mammy Yokum" portrayal of Ruby by Renee Zellweger who won an Academy Award for it. (Frazier’s Ruby in the book had a quiet strength and wisdom, as do most native Appalachian people.) As much as I love our bluegrass music, I hated the stereotypical portrayal of ignorance in "O Brother, Where Art Thou?"
And, when I worked in the Alaskan Arctic, an Eskimo woman who had seen a "Songcatcher" DVD asked me why hillbillies don't fix up their houses. She thought the stage-set ramshackle buildings in that movie were really the kind in which we actually live—rather like us stereotyping Eskimos as living in ice-block igloos, the difference being that we are stereotyped as being too dumb or lazy to fix up our houses while Eskimos are stereotyped as being intelligent enough to survive in an extreme place.
In the age of global communication, this debilitating hillbilly stereotype is pervasive even internationally, and it affects us negatively on so many levels.
For the past century, companies that have considered our region for placing new enterprises have looked for local "hands" to do their low-level jobs, while bringing in management and executives (the “brains”) from outside; and now no one even considers Appalachia as a place where management would want to bring their own families to live or where intelligent local people might be available for employment.
Further compounding the problem, too many of our local governments are now made up of second-tier pseudo-leaders who are interested primarily in promoting tourism; but who, we should ask ourselves, will own the new hotels and mountaintop second-homes and assorted eateries the appointed tourist boards and self-serving chambers of commerce say we need—and who will be paying increased taxes for infrastructure to support them, and cleaning their rooms and waiting their tables and manicuring their lawns?
The local "hands," of course, are expected to do those low-level jobs. This servant mentality is deeply embedded in our history and culture and language, and all of us have perpetuated it simply by not rising up and fighting it. “He/she is a good hand to_____," we say.
Zell Miller of Georgia is the only well-known person who has ever stood up publicly to try to end this crippling multigenerational Appalachian stereotype. He single-handedly created enough flak several years ago to prevent television producers from creating a Beverly Hillbillies Reality Show that would have placed an Appalachian family in a Beverly Hills mansion and ridiculed them for a year. Can you imagine if the producers had even suggested doing the same with a Beverly _____ Reality Show? (You fill in the blank with the most insensitive racial or ethnic or cultural slur you can think of.)
The reality show producers even advertised in our local newspapers for an ignorant mountain family, all expenses paid. Can you imagine the justifiable outrage if they had placed such advertisements in the Atlanta or Birmingham or New York papers for an ignorant _____ family to send out to Beverly Hills and ridicule for a year.
While some racial and ethnic and cultural groups recently tried to get a newspaper cartoonist fired, and rightfully so, for depicting the shooting of a "stimulus plan gorilla,” O'Reilly was shooting down the future of an entire culture by perpetuating a century-old stereotype in the most egregious and offensive manner—and we ought to be outraged. We ought to care, and care deeply, because the issue is infinitely larger and more far-reaching than simply our own personal irritation with O’Reilly.
Actually, O'Reilly is small potatoes when one considers what we as a culture are up against. This negative stereotyping of our culture is becoming more focused and pronounced than ever before, simply because it has become politically incorrect to target other groups. Think of all the other minorities in this country who are discriminated against. Are any of them summarily and publicly declared to be ignorant and of low IQ? Can you name any other such group?
Other minorities may be insidiously stereotyped and discriminated against for assorted other reasons, but they are not blatantly and openly ridiculed as ignorant. And now, O'Reilly has added "immoral" and "drug-addicted" to our litany of Appalachian stereotypes, as well as our being unworthy to live in our own mountain homeland. Our children should move to Miami, he says. Oh, my.
Even "rednecks," who are everywhere and are a social class rather than a culture, are not dismissed as ignorant and inferior to other people because of intelligence. In fact, rednecks are often praised for their many independent and self-sufficient attributes, except for those rednecks who also happen to be classified as ignorant hillbillies in one-gallused overalls sleeping with their sisters and the farm animals.
Fortunately some "outlanders" do "get it" and are embarrassed by the likes of O’Reilly, but the fact remains that no one outside of an abused group can truly "feel" it without having "felt" it. No one without minority physical characteristics or other personal differences can truly "feel" that discrimination. No one outside someone with a mountain accent (or any other accent or dialect outside the prevailing norm) can "feel" a job interviewer lose interest when you open your mouth to answer a question.
O'Reilly is hate-filled, but he is not a fool. He has built an empire by spouting the poisonous hatred that millions of people want to hear. They do listen to him and are influenced by him. While he himself is not fully the issue, he is a flash point for bigotry and intolerance, and that is why he is dangerous.
Yes, O’Reilly is a catalyst, but he is not the source of our problem. We are. We are to blame for not doing everything we can to root out such ignorant O’Reilly-type bigotry, to expose it for what it is, and then to replace it by honoring who we really are—by honoring our centuries-old heritage of persistence, perseverance, courage, loyalty, and love of freedom nourished for generations by our Scottish, English, Irish, German, Welsh, and Cherokee ancestors.
Why can we not pick up our pine knots and go to war against this blatant, insidious destruction of our culture? It will not take care of itself, and no one else is going to do it for us.
For the past 125 years, especially during wars and periods of economic depression, people have come into our mountains to exploit us as easy targets as they irreversibly destroy our forests, scalp our mountaintops, pollute our rivers, turn our community schools into mega-institutions, raise our taxes, rape our land with roads and airports and cookie-cutter shopping malls, and ultimately pollute our DNA.
It becomes increasingly harder to identify real native mountaineers, and within a few more generations our real culture, like that of the Melungeons, may fade into oblivion long before the stereotypes disappear. Our centuries-old physical characteristics will be gone, along with our language, values, customs, ethics, and morals; and that is why it is important for writers and storytellers and videographers to work overtime now to record our rapidly vanishing culture, to record who we are.
Children in the future may be asking, "Who exactly were the hillbillies? Where did they live? Where did they come from? Where did they go?" And their mothers will respond, “You must not say that ‘H’ word. It is politically incorrect.”
Let us now pick up our pine knots and go to war—to save ourselves.
Betty Cloer Wallace resides in Western North Carolina and is a direct descendant of Roderick Shelton, first English settler in Madison County, NC. She teaches writing and literature at a local community college.
Betty Cloer Wallace |
February 28, 2009 at 08:44 PM
Get well soon, Tipper~the flu going around is just awful. Hope you are already on the mend!
February 25, 2009 at 08:09 PM
oh, no, get well soon!
there's some nasty stuff going around . . .
take care of her, Deer Hunter,
Chitter, and Chatter!
trisha too |
February 25, 2009 at 03:49 PM
Get well Tipper! So sorry you are not feeling well. blessings,Kathleen
February 25, 2009 at 01:01 PM
I hope you are feeling better. We miss you!!
I left a note the other day, but it's not showing up.
February 25, 2009 at 11:17 AM
I hope you're feeling better!
Nancy M. |
February 25, 2009 at 04:26 AM
You are missed, Tipper!! Get well soon!
Joan J |
February 24, 2009 at 06:02 PM
Oh thanks Deer Hunter, how sweet to let us all know what is going on. Tipper I hope you get well soon. That darn bug is sure making it's rounds. Take care.
February 24, 2009 at 05:29 PM
Get well soon!
February 24, 2009 at 04:33 PM
Bless your heart! Take care of her, Deer Hunter! We'll miss you! Hugs, Debbie.
February 24, 2009 at 04:16 PM
Thanks for the update, Hunter
Tipper, get well soon. The flu is going around here, too and this strain seems to be miserable. Take it easy, rest up, and drink your orange juice.
Or, you could try Sugar's remedy: a gallon of orange juice and a fifth of whiskey. It'll cure what ails you... or at least make it where you don't care if you're sick anymore.
February 24, 2009 at 01:44 PM
OH NO! Healing thoughts coming your way. Hope you're feeling better real soon and thanks to the Deer Hunter for keeping us posted!
February 24, 2009 at 10:14 AM
I am sorry, Tipper, you are feeling so bad. I hope you are getting rest and feel better soon.
February 24, 2009 at 07:06 AM
I'm so sorry you're sick. I had that flu in December and then relapsed in January. Take care of yourself. I've added you to my prayer list.
Thanks to the Deer Hunter for letting us know you are ill.
February 24, 2009 at 02:32 AM
I hope you're feeling better Tipper!
February 23, 2009 at 09:48 PM
I'm very sorry to hear you're sick with the flu. It's terrible to be sick. I will add you to my prayer list and hope you will get well very soon. I'm missing reading your wonderful writing on your post.
Brenda Kay Ledford |
February 23, 2009 at 03:47 PM
I hope you're better soon. If I could bring you something, I would!
February 23, 2009 at 01:12 PM
God bless you Miss Tipper. I'll be praying for a speedy recovery for you.
Sheila Bergeron |
February 23, 2009 at 12:38 PM
Hope Tipper feeling better soon! Thanks for the update!
February 23, 2009 at 11:56 AM
Get well soon!!!
February 23, 2009 at 07:00 AM
Tipper, if you read this, please know we miss you and are so sorry you are ill. We're trying to stay in and away from people so we don't catch the flu which I understand has hit this county now.
Chicken soup, honey and lemon and plenty of rest.
Blessings on you, dear.
Glenda Beall |
February 23, 2009 at 02:58 AM
Thanks Deer hunter for posting on Tipper. Please take good care of her. Chicken soup will make her feel better. Tell her to get well soon! And I hope the rest of you all don't come down with it.
February 22, 2009 at 10:28 PM
Get well soon, Tipper! We're missing you, but that flu is not a fun thing to deal with.
Granny Sue |
February 22, 2009 at 08:59 PM
Oh Tipper, I hate to hear this. I had JUST told my husband that the flu had just started "showing up" in our community.
Sending you a big ol' hug from Tennessee....and sending up a prayer for you too.
Dee from Tennessee |
February 22, 2009 at 08:21 PM
So sorry you're sick Tipper - get well soon. blessings, marlene
February 22, 2009 at 08:07 PM
baby I feel YER PAYNE :(
I have had the CRUD for a week!! today SUNDAY is the first day I don't want to fall on my face and cry LOL feel better dear! blessings from colorado!!
February 22, 2009 at 06:45 PM
Chicken noodle soup and hot water with honey and lemon. Feel better soon!
Kim Campbell |
February 22, 2009 at 06:05 PM
Feel better soon Tipper! I'll be praying for a speedy recovery and no further spread of sickness. Amy
Amy @ parkcitygirl |
February 22, 2009 at 05:47 PM
Hang in there, everyone in our house took a turn at being sick, but we made it through.
Hope you are feeling better soon.
Steve in Florence Ky |
February 22, 2009 at 05:04 PM
Sorry to hear Tipper is sick. Saying a prayer for her.
Patty Hall |
February 22, 2009 at 05:01 PM
Please tell Tipper to get well soon. If she needs anything, give me a call.
Just Jackie |
February 22, 2009 at 03:20 PM
Aw man, so sorry to hear you are down. I will be sending healing/good thoughts your way. Terry
February 22, 2009 at 01:29 PM
I wish her the best and hope she gets better soon.
February 22, 2009 at 01:25 PM
Just want you to know that i'm sending good thoughts your way and we wish you a full and speedy recovery. If we don't hear from you within a few days, I'll make you up some sheep-turd tea and get you some stump water and send it to you. That will get you pert and lively in no time.
Matthew & Shirley
PS..Thanks Deer Hunter for letting us know that Tipper is feeling a might poorly.
Matthew Burns |
February 22, 2009 at 01:10 PM
Tipper, I'm so sorry you have the flu. I hope the Deer Hunter is taking super good care of you. Get well soon. We miss you! Julie
February 22, 2009 at 11:41 AM
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