Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Anti-Appalachian Prejudice

I was dismayed to see this post on the normally excellent blog Shakespeare's Sister. To be fair, Shakespeare's Sister didn't write it herself--it was another contributor. Nonetheless, if you think that making fun of people from West Virginia, Kentucky, and western North Carolina is funny, I guess this is the post for you.

If you don't have the stomach to look, let me explain. A recent study came out showing that West Virginia residents lead the nation in teeth lost to tooth decay, with 43% of residents having lost 6 or more teeth. It's punctuated with a lovely picture of a West Virginian with some really messed up teeth and ends the post with this:

"So many red-state jokes, so little space."

This is wrong on so many levels. Here's a few of them.

1. Don't we all know that this is because of poverty? I guess not. But we should. The level of poverty in West Virginia is a direct indictment of American society as a whole. It's our system that allows this level of poverty. If we want to really do something about this, let's not make fun of people. Let's work to ensure that people don't end up in this level of poverty. By the way, if those numbers concerned African-Americans or people of the developing world would these kind of jokes be told? I didn't think so.

2. Dentists are expensive. Let's say you even have health insurance. Does it cover denistry except for the most basic care? So many policies do not. I know that I haven't had dental insurance for years. My wife has a quite good job and she doesn't even have dental insurance because she would have to pay an exorbitant sum for not much care.

3. What does this kind of joke do for progressives politically? If I were a Republican and I wanted to convince people that the coastal elites/liberals/whatever thought they were better than "good ol'Americans" I would use this as Exhibit A. It's when I see posts like this that I think some cultural conservatives have a point when they talk about cultural elitism. On a political level, this is really reprehensible.

Folks, anti-Appalachian prejudice is just as bad as racism or other forms of prejudice toward any other group. No, it doesn't have the long-term historical implications of anti-black racism. But it causes real pain, feeds into Republican talking points, and, frankly, is disgusting.

I truly hope such a good blog as Shakespeare's Sister refrains from similar posts in the future.