A few years ago I cooked an Appalachian dinner, and in my description of my impressions of the region I wrote how I’d imagined it to be “poor, backwards, even third-worldish.” Many people from Appalachia took offense with that description, and I have since gotten a lot of hate mail about my comments. I can’t, in good conscience, apologize for them as they were true. That’s how I imagined Appalachia to be. That’s how Appalachia has been portrayed by books, movies and TV – and indeed, that’s why Appalachia is of any interest at all. It is offensive to me, as a person from the third world, how many people take offense at being called “third worldish”. This “we are better than you” attitude that they have is, if nothing else, laughable.
Still, I believe in freedom of speech and here are a couple a comments I’ve gotten. I had more but I can’t find them now.
Your opinion of Appalachia is untrue and is completely as uneducated as the people you see in your imagination. You should be ashamed that you could possibly think that everyone in this region could be that uneducated. Research the people, the culture, and the tradition to see how the people in this region really are. Where are you from? Are their not people that you are ashamed of in your area? There are here as well, but to think that this area of the country could be third-worldish is stupid and foolish of yourself. Look it up and maybe you’ll write something more researched next time.
A Mad Appalachian
My stepdaughter found your Appalachian recipes while looking for new recipes for the catering service that she runs at West Virginia University Hospitals, Inc., a state of the art hospital that draws patients and medical personnel from all over the globe. I am sure that you will find it hard to believe that such a facility exists in an area that is still much like the rest of the “third world.”
I do not know where you received your education, but it appears to have been sadly lacking. It is indeed unfortunate that people still cling to such views of the region. This is especially sad in a world that has become one with technology such as the internet. I do hope that you are not one of the ones who still think West Virginia is part of Virginia.
As an Appalachian scholar, I present papers at conferences all over the United States, to scholars who hail from the four corners of the globe and have visited major cities where the poor live in conditions that would make the poorest in Appalachia be thankful for what they have and where they live.
Detroit, NYC, D.C., and L.A. come to mind.
It is unfortunate that people still hang onto such stereotypes and myths We who live here are used to it, but it does not mean that such degradating remarks go down well.
You are among a throng of outsiders who have been fascinated with the region and have used their interest to further their own careers and pad their purses. A good example of this was J.F.K. He was well-aware(thanks to a little known, earlier poll) of the views of the Protestant majority. While a large number of Catholic immigrants had migrated into West Virginia more than forty years earlier, the majority of the state’s residents were Protestants who could have cared less about a presidential candidate’s faith. Most of the state’s voters were die-hard Democrats who would have voted for anyone who shared such an interest in their problems. The rest of the nation bought it.Nonethless, he traveled to Parkersburg and laid out his strategy with his advisors. It worked. The media and most of the American public believed “If Kennedy can win in West Virginia, he can win anywhere.” Now I am not saying that he did not care about the poor. Far from it. His programs speak for themselves. We lost a great man, even if he was a politician…
If you are so intrigued with Appalachia, with its complex and diverse culture, people, and landscape, you should take the time to visit us. Perhaps then you will be able to revamp your web site and apologize for your ignorance. As an activist, self-education should never stop.
If you do come to visit us, I do hope that you will extend your visit to areas beyond our famous narrow hollows and steep hills. For more than a century, journalists, activists, politicians, scholars, and novelists have only visited the places and the people who support their own jaded views… not to mention boosting the sales of their books or political careers… Colleagues of mine, historians, economists, political scientists, sociologists, and others, have generated a myriad of reasons why such perceptions continue to linger. ’tis profitable… financially,emotionally, politically…
Department of History
West Virginia University
Morgantown, West Virginia
the 35th state to be admitted into the Union
20 June 1863