Fighting back

Bill O’Reilly’s recent denunciation of Appalachian-Americans on FOX News is only the latest example of the widespread, multigenerational problem of Appalachian hillbilly stereotypes. Quite simply, O’Reilly once again reminded the world that Appalachian mountain natives are the only group in America that many people still have the audacity to publicly ridicule as being ignorant—and worse.

O’Reilly even expanded the historical litany of hillbilly stereotypes to include our being drug-addicted, hopelessly beyond social and moral redemption, and unworthy to live in our own mountain homeland. Appalachian children, he says, should move to Miami to save themselves.

Can you imagine O’Reilly directing such despicable rhetoric toward _____ or _____ or _____? (Insert whatever racial, ethnic or cultural groups you choose.) While other groups are stereotyped and subjected to varying degrees of “acceptable” bigotry, Appalachian-Americans seem to be the only minority expressly deemed stupid.

How can we overcome the pervasive hillbilly stereotypes that have demoralized us for more than a century and that continue to impact both our economic well-being and our children’s future? Why are we so reluctant to pick up pine knots and go to war against such blatant, insidious misrepresentation of our culture? Why do we continue to pull in our heads like turtles and pretend that we don’t care, that we’ll survive regardless of what the outside world thinks?

Well, I do care—for myself, my family and friends, and my culture—and I don’t believe we’re surviving very well now or will survive with a shred of honor and dignity in the future unless we rise up, en masse, and protest this kind of abuse at every opportunity.

We’re portrayed as lolling about in our insular Snuffy Smith/Mammy Yokum/corncob-pipe mode as if the opinion of the rest of the world didn’t matter—even as we’re being brutalized every time someone mimics our dialect, rejects us for gainful employment, or dismisses our opinion out of hand (How could an ignorant hillbilly possibly have something to say?).

A professor at the University of Colorado once said to our own Charles Frazier (of Cold Mountain fame), “Imagine that—a hillbilly with a Ph.D.!” Even worse than the professor’s harboring such a misbegotten thought is the fact that she felt free to say it to his face at a faculty dinner party. Can you imagine her making such a statement to a person of any other racial, ethnic or cultural group?

Debilitating hillbilly stereotypes resound internationally and hurt us on so many levels, both personally and economically.

For the past 125 years, especially during periods of economic depression, zealous missionaries, opportunistic writers and rapacious industrialists have flocked to our mountains. Deeming us easy targets, they misrepresent our culture; scalp our mountaintops; redesign our communities; pollute our rivers; rape our land with roads, airports and cookie-cutter shopping centers; and mine our geological resources. And all the while, they’re defining us the way they want to see us—as ignorant and needy—which, of course, justifies their exploitation.

Remember Deliverance? Remember Tobacco Road? But some recent movies have portrayed us as even more violent and subhuman than those older, culture-defining films. Creature from the Hillbilly Lagoon and Wrong Turn, for example, feature inbred, mutant hillbillies who cannibalize tourists (Not altogether a bad idea, some locals say).

And while many people recently tried to get a cartoonist fired for depicting the shooting of a “stimulus-plan gorilla,” O’Reilly was shooting down an entire culture on international television—and surprisingly few people were outraged or even seemed to care. Well, we ought to care, and care deeply, because the issue is infinitely larger and farther-reaching than mere irritation with O’Reilly.

True, he’s a catalyst and flash point for bigotry and intolerance, but O’Reilly’s not the source of our problem: We are.

We’re to blame for not doing our best to root out such bigotry, expose it for what it is, and replace it with a truer reflection of who we are. Why aren’t we honoring our centuries-old heritage of persistence, perseverance, courage, loyalty, language and love of freedom, nourished by generations of our Scottish, English, Irish, German, Welsh and Cherokee ancestors?

We should demand that the word “hillbilly” be excised from our language, just as other demoralizing racial, cultural and ethnic slurs are no longer spoken aloud in polite company.

Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia, the first high-profile person to publicly denounce these crippling multigenerational stereotypes, found enough support several years ago to prevent CBS from creating a Beverly Hillbillies reality show that would have placed an Appalachian family in a Beverly Hills mansion to be ridiculed for a year. The producers had even advertised in our local newspapers for an ignorant mountain family—all expenses paid!

More recently, West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin authorized a multimillion-dollar marketing campaign aimed at countering his state’s hillbilly stereotypes, but few other politicians have come on board.

It’s getting harder to find native mountaineers who still carry the old values and spirit of independence exemplified by Miller and Manchin, and within a few more generations, our real culture may fade into oblivion—even as the stereotypes linger. Our centuries-old heritage will be gone, and children will ask: “Who, exactly, were the hillbillies? Where did they live? Where did they go?”

And their mothers will respond: “They were lazy, toothless, ignorant people in old movies who ate possums and tourists, dear, but you mustn’t say the H-word aloud. It’s politically incorrect.”

We do have a choice. We can hasten our own cultural demise by doing nothing, by drawing a circle around ourselves and trying to shut out the rest of the world. Or, like Miller and Manchin, we can pick up our pine knots and go to war—to save ourselves.

[Betty Cloer Wallace is a descendant of Roderick Shelton, the first English settler in Madison County. She teaches writing and literature at Southwestern Community College.]

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121 thoughts on “Fighting back

  1. JBo, in a word, yes. I can remember being offended by “Hee Haw” when I was about eight or nine. I was born and raised in NC, and now live and work in NC, and even inside this state I have to hear crap about “mountain people,” and in a work environment to boot. My boss from up north found this a great state to settle in, but needs to point out how he wouldn’t have chosen the mountains where all those idiots live. This article is spot on. It’s discrimination. Period.

  2. nuvue

    While this article points out many prejudices, it seems dicrimination of people other than ourselves is a way of life. When I moved from Jackson Co people in Buncombe thought I was from “way back” in the hills. Then going to the Carribbean my nickname was “hillbilly” from the locals there. I came to kinda like it, but it was more a statement of where I was from (which is something to be proud of) than a dinigration. While in Jackson Co, the folks up in Little Canada area assume things about you “cuz yer a hippie from down nar by the college” Prejudice is here to stay, put your head up and be proud to be a hillbilly, or Tarheel, or from Birdtown or whatever. Bill O’Reilly is just an ignorant elitist Irishman :)

  3. Gary Carden

    I’m from Jackson County, too, and I have even been to “Little Canada.” Some of the worst prejudice that I have encountered was in the academic world,
    especially WCU where I was urged to stop talking “like a hillbilly.” When I left home to teach in Atlanta, my grandmother warned me that when I left
    Jackson County, my language (and me) would be “weighed and found wanting.” It was. I’ve survived by pretending to be something I’m not. I heard Ron Eller say the same thing the other night on the PBS special, “Appalachia.” Ron learned to walk and talk like an academic, but he said he was simply
    “in disguise.”

  4. travelah – Nothing wrong with it at all. The problem lies with people who think there is something wrong with it.

    Gary, I completely identify with that and in recent years have stopped trying to speak more “properly.” I use correct grammar, and if someone doesn’t like my WNC accent, screw them. I live in the Piedmont now and people comment all the time on how my accent is so “different” sounding. Ha!

  5. Betty Cloer Wallace

    This isn’t about our own perception of ourselves. We know who we are. It’s about how the rest of the world — encouraged by entertainment media and assorted other opportunists — have scapegoated us and continue to ridicule us while we just roll over and play dead or pretend we are “proud” to be deemed stupid and worse, as per that denigrating cartoon referenced above. Ultimately we bequeath these injustices and economically crippling stereotypes to our children, who deserve better. Other groups have gone to war to stamp out such negative racial and ethic and cultural stereotypes, and they have succeeded in making it politically incorrect to produce bad movies and insulting cartoons or even to speak grossly insensitive language such as “step-n-fetchit,” “nigger,” “injun,” “dago”……. need I go on? We should demand respect for ourselves and for our children, and we should add the “hillbilly” word to those other destructive epithets and never allow them to be said aloud again in polite company.

  6. Eli Cohen

    Stereotypes all have some element of truth, otherwise they wouldn’t be offensive! (nor would they exist)

  7. Eli Cohen

    And by the way, Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia, “the first high-profile person to publicly denounce these crippling multigenerational stereotypes” perpetuates the stereotype…

  8. transplant

    I understand your sentiments, but it will take a long time to change the prejudices which the rest of America has about this region.

    I grew up in the West, and like the rest of the US, I subconsciously assume that people who speak with Southern (not just Appalachian) accents as sounding less intelligent.

    I know that it’s obviously not true, but these prejudices are the media inspired biases that we have absorbed growing up. You find comedians mocking people with Spanish or Asian accents. Many of us find British accents sophisticated. We also find Southern accents sounding crude and uneducated. These are all aesthetic prejudices of most (non-Southern) Americans.

    I wish you luck in your endeavours. I think you’re on the right track: stand up to bigotry and prejudice and don’t forget to illuminate the many positive cultural aspects of this region. Don’t be afraid of pointing out the flaws and the shameful aspects of Appalachia — culture is a changing thing that is constantly being shaped.

  9. germpower

    I’m glad someone else pointed out the Molton cartoon. If you didn’t notice, it’s on THE PAGE BEFORE this article!! Also, if this topic interests you, ‘Redneck Manifesto’ by Jim Goad is a great (although crude) analysis of this issue.

  10. tlb

    “How can we overcome the pervasive hillbilly stereotypes that have demoralized us for more than a century and that continue to impact both our economic well-being and our children’s future?”

    A few ideas to answer this question:
    Stop saying the civil war was about “states rights,” or at least admit it was about “states rights TO KEEP SLAVERY LEGAL.” Quit putting the confederate flag on bumper stickers and T-shirts. Admit the South was on the wrong side and, even more importantly, the South lost.* Don’t call people “yankees.” Get rid of some of the baptist churches around here. Open the liquor stores on Sunday.
    As long as you think watching guys drive cars around in circles (NASCAR) is somehow interesting, you’re going to have a hard time convincing people that you’re all that smart, so maybe leave the “8” or the “3” stickers off the window of your truck.
    Even remotely giving a flying fig what Bill O’Reilly or Zell Miller think about anything is a sure sign you might need to catch up with history.

    *Let’s see how long it is before someone posts about how the southern mountainflolk didn’t own slaves and didn’t fight very enthusiastically for the south. So that’s why we need to stick rebel flags on everything. Or something.

  11. tlb

    “Can you imagine O’Reilly directing such despicable rhetoric toward _____ or _____ or _____? (Insert whatever racial, ethnic or cultural groups you choose.)”

    As long as you can watch him on TV or listen to him on the radio, one needs to “imagine” Bill O’Reilly directing his despicable rhetoric toward anyone who doesn’t think exactly like Bill O’Reilly.
    Here are some things to fill in your blanks:
    Blacks. Women. Gays. Liberals. George Soros. Families of the victims of 9/11.

  12. tlb

    A few more ideas to help get rid of the negative hillbilly stereotypes about southern mountain people:
    End the tradition sending bigoted ignorant morons like Virginia Foxx and/or pathetic little closet cases like Patrick McHenry to represent NC at the national level.
    Spend less money on highways and more money on education.
    Stop caring so much about other people’s sex lives.

  13. tlb, thanks for supporting about 14 negative stereotypes of Southerners. Attitudes like yours that reinforce generalities are not helping the problem. I fear it would be futile to even begin to address most of what you said. There are ignorant people everywhere, and the South is no exception to that. And pinning the short-comings of a few onto the backs of an entire culture is…ignorant. Did you even read this article?

  14. Betty Cloer Wallace

    Blacks, women, gays, liberals, etc., are not stereotyped as being of low intelligence. That specific insult is reserved solely for Appalachian-Americans. And by the way, please do not confuse “rednecks” and “hillbillies.” One comment above described Jeff Foxworthy rednecks, who can be found nationwide and are a way of life. Appalachian-Americans are an ethnic or cultural group with a specific British Isles heritage who still retain vestiges of that heritage. NASCAR and confederate flags are “redneck” and have nothing to do with our centuries-old mountaineer traditions and customs.

  15. Who

    …and, don’t intimate, or flat out tell me,that I don’t belong here.

  16. @ Germpower

    I noticed it online first, but when I was flipping through hard-copy I was stunned that they had the cartoon and then immediately on the following page had this commentary. Perhaps MX editors were being clever in the layout? If not, it was certainly poignant placement.

  17. I saw the 20/20 documentary when it originally aired. While I found it extremely sad in many ways, I was also bolstered by the fact that there are people from these areas who have become well-educated and who care enough about improving their communities to come back and try to do some good, whether that is by teaching, working with outreach programs, or etc. Comments like O’Reilly’s encourage us to feel shameful instead of empowered, which is what we need to be fostering in order to make improvements. Otherwise it is a vicious cycle of people feeling worthless and helpless.

  18. who

    Meggitymegs, I grew up in a military family. I was born in a foreign country, as an American citizen,and grew up moving around. I spent most of my adult life continuing to move around looking for a place that felt like home. Living in many places with an “outside looking in” perspective has made me sensitive to what I call two-dimensionalizig. I define this as people having a concious or unconcious presumption of who or what another person is. We do it all the time. It is like we look through our eyes out towards others through our internal dream mind. I believe that it is one of the main causes of interpersonal discord. Steroeotyping comes from the same phenomena but is more easily recognizable and put into social groups. Either way, it is a cause of personal and social strife. Imagine a black man who gets followed around in the dept. store by security. I can also imagine how frustarting for someone to consider you dumb because you have a W.N.C. accent. However, in my adult life, I’ve never moved to a place where it was so succinctly conveyed to me that I am an outsider until I moved here. It was here where the meaning of the word provincialism really came to light. The idea that someone was more entitled to an area more than someone else, in these United States, was perplexing to me – not to mention the still conjuring up of Civil War lingo. Though there is nothing wrong with being proud of your heritage, being too closely identified with it is, in my opinion, a ball and chain to personal freedom. I’ve met some neat people who consider themselves native, but not cherokee, and are accepting and open-minded and haven’t labeled me as “other” or outsider. Question: How do you feel, honestly, about people who come here from somewhere else? Do you have a sense of more rightness in your being here than others’ being here? I hope not. Inclusiveness and acceptance runs both ways.

  19. who, I don’t feel that I am “too closely identified” by my Appalachian heritage, just because I have a sense of pride in my cultural heritage. I agree with you that not maintaining a good sense of balance (about anything) is a great way to limit yourself. Although I’ve only lived in North Carolina, I have traveled extensively, including internationally. I have no problem with people choosing to live here, regardless of where they came from before. Just because my family’s roots are here does not mean I think I have any more right to be here than anyone else. Anyone who knows me would tell you I am accepting of all people and open-minded about humanity’s differences.

    I believe all people deserve equal rights and should be respected equally. And therein lies the root of my frustration. Bigotry is *never* deserved or justified.

  20. dancing_lemur

    who: Perhaps people embrace their own a little closer precisely BECAUSE people in the region are usually discriminated again. You’re even doing it now: EVERYONE here treats you as an outsider? I really doubt it. If you act like an outsider, you’ll be treated as one.

  21. john

    Betty: Blacks and Women still labor under the stereotypical cloak of ignorance. Take a look the average pay for both compared to White men especially.

    The most infuriating aspect of Bill O’the clowns comments is the seemingly lack of recognition of it’s inaccuracy from those outside of Appalachia. The fact that the stereotype is perpetuated by those who live in other parts of the state is unfortunate to say the least.

    I used to work with someone in Greensboro who was originally from Michigan. Even after living here for 6 yrs and having been told the correct way to pronounce Appalachian State, she still refused, stating “you people just don’t know how to pronounce it.”

  22. tlb

    If one takes into consideration levels of school funding and religiosity by state/region, one can see why it is generally assumed that someone with a strong southern accent is most likely less educated and less informed than someone from a different region.

  23. tlb

    ” NASCAR and confederate flags are “redneck” and have nothing to do with our centuries-old mountaineer traditions and customs. ”

    So I would say: Differentiate yourselves from the, as you call them, “rednecks.” Stop being so accepting of bigotry and snake handling types.
    As a non-hillbilly and a non-redneck, I have to say it’s nigh well impossible to tell the difference sometimes.

    If WNC natives treated rednecks the way they treat outsiders, this might not be an issue.

    The sad fact in WNC is: Confederate flag bumper sticker=Totally acceptable. Florida license plate=Sure sign that the driver of the car is an idiot.

    This very article illustrates the issue:
    Ms. Wallace seems to have missed entirely the fact that Bill O’Reilly is a constant font of racism, sexism, and homophobia. But apparently he maligned “hillbillies” (a self-identified group, unlike racial minorities, women, and homosexuals) on a recent show and Ms. Wallace sure didn’t miss THAT. And THEN she writes a column wherein she makes the claim that hillbillies are the ONLY group that Bill O’Reilly has ever directed his “despicable rhetoric” against.

    Knowing what we know about Bill O’Reilly and Fox News, it’s tough to figure out why a non-redneck would be watching that channel…

  24. NativeSoul

    As a native of Asheville and a descendant of early settlers to the county, I read with real interest the commentary by Betty Cloer Wallace. I was relieved as I read the words of another native who eloquently and effectively expressed disdain for the backward attitudes of those who ridicule and openly insult the people of Appalachia and the Southern Highlands. Since childhood, I have felt deeply and personally offended by this widespread practice. I have, on occasion, expressed my own disdain for this offense, and have thought many times that not to do so is unhealthy.

    The following day, I took a closer look at the Molton cartoon on a page preceding this commentary. I was appalled, disgusted and offended. I became outraged by this abuse and was moved to pick up a few “pine knots and go to war.” I quickly composed a flyer that featured the Molton cartoon and a headline that reads: “Declaration of War Against Hillbilly Stereotyping.” Shortly thereafter, in my haste to complete outside errands, I happened to run into Dr. Harley Jolley who taught for 42 years in the Department of History at Mars Hill College and who is now professor emeritus. I saw him often, usually from afar, when I was a student there in the late sixties and early seventies. For those not knowledgeable, he is an award-winning author of books about the Blue Ridge Parkway.

    It just so happened that I had a copy of my flyer and I took the opportunity to show it to Dr. Jolley and ask for his response to the cartoon. He, too, found it offensive and encouraged me to keep at it.

    I quote from my flyer: “This is an opportunity to take a stand against the widespread and decades-old discrimination against the native peoples of Western North Carolina and to protest against the promotion of the stereotypical attitudes so intelligently exposed by Betty Cloer Wallace in her honest and effective commentary.” I commend the publisher and editor of “Mountain Xpress” for featuring Ms. Wallace’s well-written commentary. But I am offended that they would publish Molton’s outrageous cartoon, and do so in the same issue.

    I personally feel that an apology is owed Dr. Jolley by the publisher and editor of “Mountain Xpress”, and that this is their opportunity to take a stand against any future promotion of hillbilly stereotyping which they now are aware is offensive to native peoples and newcomers in Western North Carolina–whether or not they reside in the city or live 67 miles away.

  25. tlb: It is insulting for you to imply that none of us have differentiated ourselves from rednecks. I don’t have a Confederate flag on my car, and I don’t get upset to see an out of state license plate. You are still referring to an entire group of people as if they were all the same.

    Ms. Cloer did not say that “hillbillies” are the only group O’Reilly has maligned. She said it was the only group still considered deserving of that type of bigotry.

  26. “Knowing what we know about Bill O’Reilly and Fox News, it’s tough to figure out why a non-redneck would be watching that channel…”
    _______________________________________

    Because ignorance is not bliss.

  27. Betty Cloer Wallace

    In our age of global communication, debilitating hillbilly stereotypes are pervasive even internationally.

    As much as I love “Cold Mountain,” both book and movie, I hate the Young Mammy Yokum portrayal of Ruby by Renee Zellweger. (Frazier’s Ruby in the book has a quiet strength and wisdom, as do most native Appalachian women.) As much as I love our centuries-old ballad-based bluegrass music, I hate the stereotypical portrayal of ignorance in “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” And, when I worked in the Alaskan Arctic, an Inuit Eskimo woman who had seen a “Songcatcher” DVD asked me, “Why don’t hillbillies 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 our school textbook stereotype of Eskimos living in ice-block igloos, the difference being that Appalachian natives are stereotyped as being too dumb or lazy to fix up our houses while Eskimos are stereotyped as being highly intelligent enough to survive in an extreme place. ??

    One person commenting above said she was nicknamed “hillbilly” while in the Caribbean. Does anyone truly believe that her nickname was anything other than an insidious slur? Nowhere throughout the world does anyone use the word “hillbilly” to indicate anything other than negative stereotypes; and the most insidious aspect of it is that such blatant and publicly-expressed bigotry is still universally considered “acceptable.”

    Yes, O’Reilly himself is small potatoes, merely a media mouthpiece and irritant, but thousands of people worldwide do believe him and others of his kind, and therein lies the problem with our future and the future of our children and grandchildren–if we do not pick up our pine knots and go to war to stamp out this terrible misrepresentation of our culture.

    Declaring the word “hillbilly” a contemptuous epithet unacceptable in polite company is a first step.

  28. who

    Although I don’t condone what this store owner might have done, and we don’t know the whole story, and many might not think this link relative to this particular thread, I think it is somewhat relative. Even though nobody should be stereo-typed, this thread, and the comments made in them about downtown Asheville, is pertinent, I think. And I am not suggesting that the previous posters are of this sentiment but this is a clear indicator of a prevailing culture clash in wW.N.C.. However, to be fair, I sympathize with those who are rightly offended of negative stereo-typing of hill billy and resent the wide-spread acceptance of this type of culture bashing, http://www.citizen-times.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=200990507055

  29. Betty Cloer Wallace

    A couple of years ago when Horace Kephart’s 1926 book “Our Southern Highlanders” was the WNC “Together We Read” selection for discussion, I went to a session at a local library conducted by a WCU professor. Of the several dozen people there, all were “outlanders” except me, and they just raved about how much they had learned about the mountain people from that book. It was amazing, and rather comical, since they had read more into the book than what was actually there.

    I made a three-minute comment about the book being in the tradition of “local colorists” of the early 1900s and how, since its publication in 1926, it had perpetuated many crippling multigenerational stereotypes. The professor actually agreed with me, but the other participants did not want to hear that. They wanted to talk about feudists and snake-handlers and lawless heathens skulking around in the mountain fastnesses—and how such people were surely still around if only they could root them out and meet them.

    They even wondered why “locals” had not come to the book discussion to learn more about themselves!

  30. Piffy!

    “Appalachian-Americans”?

    That’s absurd. You are an American. Appalachia is in America.

  31. nuvue

    Hey Betty C W I am the “guy” called hillbilly in the carib. To understand their (the west indians) calling me hillbilly you have to understand their culture a bit…. nobody goes by their real names. There are many nicknames there, some pertaining to the persons color or what they did as a kid, I hang with “yellow man”, Blackie, Monkey ( he could climb a coconut tree quickly), Busu ( means very black fish in creole)
    Anyhow after a while I was not offended at all, as I stated, and quite proud of the moniker. Prejudice is in all races and cultures. and is perpetuated by the media and other outlets. It is also hard to differentiate between “redneck” and Hillbilly unless you are from the area and understand the nuances of the cultures….as you are aware. Outsiders don’t get it, and lump us all into the same (nas) car

  32. Piffy!

    [b]Nowhere throughout the world does anyone use the word “hillbilly” to indicate anything other than negative stereotypes; and the most insidious aspect of it is that such blatant and publicly-expressed bigotry is still universally considered “acceptable.” [/b]

    I don’t think that’s entirely accurate either. Although i can understand why someone could take exception with the term, I personally would take nothing but pride in being known as a hill-billy. Why not own the moniker?

  33. I think it’s along the same lines of the N-word and the Q-word. You can own it and refer to yourself with it, and others within the community can use it acceptably, but it is still considered offensive if someone from outside those groups uses it — in most cases it is considered hate speech.

    But even when Southerners or Appalachians try to “own” it, the effort usually ends up being self-defeating, perpetuating the negative stereotype.

  34. Kriss

    I agree completely with the author of this piece. Southern Appalachian mountain people are one of the few remaining minorities in this country that can be negatively stereotyped and used as the butt of jokes with complete impunity and acceptance by the rest of the country. The entertainment media – from cartoons like “Li’l Abner” to shows like “The Beverly Hillbillies” – has consistently shown the world what an ignorant bunch of folks these mountain people are, and most everyone in other parts of the country and the world pretty much believes it.

    A few years ago, such attitudes lead to an attempt by CBS to produce a reality type TV show where a “hillbilly” family was temporarily moved to a Beverly Hills location just so TV audiences could laugh at them as they tried to adapt – I think it was going to be called “The Real Beverly Hillbillies.” I remember they actually had scheduled auditions for interested folks in Madison County, but I don’t think anyone showed up. Luckily, the producers finally dropped the idea.

  35. Betty Cloer Wallace

    Take pride in the “hillbilly” moniker? Own it? That’s been tried already, and it didn’t work. Dismally failed, in fact, on many levels, and we’re still suffering the personal and economic consequences of that ill-conceived movement.

    We used to have retail businesses all over the mountains catering to tourists through hillbilly signs depicting moonshiners in one-gallused overalls, jugs marked XXX, poked-up hats with holes, corn-cob pipes, rotten teeth, pregnant and barefoot women, unkempt houses, likker stills perched on top of craggy cliffs. We obliged the tourists, gave them what they came to see. The neon mountaineer sign on Tunnel Road is a vestige of that time.

    Now, we’re faced with the clear danger that our culture will be subsumed—irreversibly and erroneously—into the nationwide realm of “rednecks” (a lifestyle choice, not a cultural group) exemplified by Foxworthy, Roseanne, Earl, and Grizzard. In the eyes of many people, it has already happened. Some of the NASCAR and confederate flag comments above illustrate that lack of differentiation, and Molton’s “Pigdemic” cartoon is a perfect example: redneck Bubbas in a hillbilly setting.

    Southern Appalachian natives have a real heritage, centuries old, with legends and literature and language and music and ways to live on the earth. We are a cultural group who left the British Isles for many reasons (self-preservation, perseverance, work ethic, pride, and dignity), and we are trying to hold onto our heritage while looking forward to a non-discriminatory future for our children.

    So accept the “hillbilly” moniker given to us a century ago by northern “local color” writers? Own it? Feel good while being demeaned and ridiculed? I think not.

  36. NativeSoul

    “Stereotypes all have some element of truth, otherwise they wouldn’t be offensive! (nor would they exist)”

    Are we then to think that because Madoff is Jewish that all Jews in one degree or another are swindlers and not to be trusted? As I recall, there are many honest and upstanding Jews who were offended by Madoff’s low character and appalled and even offended by the association, and probably even painfully embarrassed that he is Jewish! All of these reactions to such an experience are debilitating. Any “clever” individual can twist something and imply that their way of viewing is the smart way of looking at a matter, even if it is a matter as complex as the emotional and spiritual reaction from human beings to discrimination, prejudice, and unjust or evil persecution. It’s just plain unacceptable, period.

  37. Piffy!

    [b]We used to have retail businesses all over the mountains catering to tourists through hillbilly signs depicting moonshiners in one-gallused overalls, jugs marked XXX, poked-up hats with holes, corn-cob pipes, rotten teeth, pregnant and barefoot women, unkempt houses, likker stills perched on top of craggy cliffs. We obliged the tourists, gave them what they came to see. The neon mountaineer sign on Tunnel Road is a vestige of that time. [/b]

    That’s not “owning it”. That’s latching on to and perpetuating a negative stereotype and in the process demeaning yourself for a quick buck.

    I am referring to owning it, redefining it, and re-affirming that the words “hill” and “billy” don’t have to have mean anything more than a person who lives int he hills, and is possibly removed a bit from the nonsense of modern life. Sounds pretty good to me.

    But if you want it to mean in-breds with a moonshine still, feel free.

  38. NativeSoul

    “Stereotypes all have some element of truth, otherwise they wouldn’t be offensive! (nor would they exist)”

    What element of truth are we to deduce in the matter of Madoff, who, as a Jew, embarrassed and angered honest and upstanding Jews who trusted him with their money? Are we to overlook the facts in this matter and assume that because Madoff was a crook who happened to be a Jew that the clients he fooled into believing him who are also Jews…that they too are crooks? In this world, there are “clever” individuals capable of manipulating language and in so doing lead careless readers into thinking they are reading statements from exceptionally smart authors. In the real world, the emotions and reactions of real human beings who have been discriminated against for tens of decades and who have been beaten down by industrial capitalists and radicals of all stripe who feel righteous in their hate and opposition to the oppressed presents an awfully complex matter and its historical and psychological effects cannot be explained away by “clever” language.

  39. jessie sanford

    Hey guys stand up for your heritage and be PROUD I am from the great state of Mississippi folks think we eat possum(which ain’t to bad if you feed em sweet potato for a couple of weeks)and dance around barefooted in the mud. There just mad cause they ain’t southern. Keep the faith and fly the flag.

  40. Betty Cloer Wallace

    Well, PFKaP (Planet Formerly Known As Pluto), I find your suggestion quite comical. After a century of trying to deal with and accommodate ourselves to outlandish descriptions by OWJDGI (Others Who Just Don’t Get It), I find it highly insulting and disgusting that you suggest we should try, once again, to accommodate ourselves in any manner to cultural-definition and name-calling by others, especially to the H-word, a derisive word devised a century ago by northern “local colorist” writers (mostly New York writers) for the express purpose of denigrating and ridiculing us. The destructive images conjured up by the H-word have, for a century, ranged far beyond your simplistic definition of “a person who lives in the hills.”

    Do you suggest also, Pluto, that other long-demeaned minority groups accommodate themselves to slurs devised by others, to the N-word or the Q-word…need I add others? Such epithets devised for purposes of ridicule, hatemongering, and ultimately disenfranchisement are so obnoxious and historically fraught with derision that trying to “redefine” or “reaffirm” them is unconscionable. The “hillbilly” word can never be redefined in the minds of millions of people worldwide. It is too far gone, and too far wrong.

  41. Real McCoy

    First of all, I think this is just plain silly. This is not the United States of the Offended, and I can’t figure out when everyone became so “thin-skinned”. I just laugh this kind of stuff off, because I’m way too busy working to be “offended” by every little jeer that comes my way. Growing up in Gold Mine I’ve heard them all. For those of you who don’t know, Gold Mine sits between Highlands and Franklin, N.C., above Cullasaja Gorge. As for separating ourselves from the Confederate flag, it’s a little impossible when my Gr.Gr Grandfather was a Confederate soldier. A fact that I’m not even close to being ashamed of. Florida=idiot? Well, when “Floridiots” learn that the highway doesn’t end around the next curve, maybe that will change. Why are y’all here anyway? We’re nice enough to stay out of Florida, why can’t you return the favor? This area was settled by Scots-Irish people who live a clannish lifestyle. “Outsiders” have always had to prove themselves to the “natives”, and that is unlikely to change. A hyphenated American is no American at all, we’re just Americans. African-American? Not an American. Latino-American? Not an American. Asian-American? Not an American. Why are you treated as outsiders? Because you insist on labeling yourself as an outsider.

  42. Piffy!

    < <""Do you suggest also, Pluto, that other long-demeaned minority groups accommodate themselves to slurs devised by others, to the N-word or the Q-word...need I add others? "">>

    Yeah, absolutely. It’s called ‘appropriation’.

    Or, you can sound like a whiny, PC police-officer, monitoring the language of others.

    Your choice.

  43. Rhonda Velour

    Personally, I find yankees from the northeast to be quite ignorant. They have some gall calling us names. Yankees from New York City tend to be arrogant, abrasive, and sour-faced. And they think we are not good people? I’ll take a smiling “good morning” person in the South any day over the alienated city dwellers up north. God bless sweet Dixieland!

  44. brebro

    I wonder, is there a similar offense taken by those who are called “yankee?” I notice tlb requests that those wishing not be be deemed “hillbillies” should first refrain from using the epithet, which I take to mean that it is considered derogatory as well. Of course, the term long predates southerners or the civil war and depending on where you are from, can mean different things:

    “A humorous aphorism attributed to E.B. White summarizes these distinctions:

    To foreigners, a Yankee is an American.
    To Americans, a Yankee is a Northerner.
    To Northerners, a Yankee is an Easterner.
    To Easterners, a Yankee is a New Englander.
    To New Englanders, a Yankee is a Vermonter.
    And in Vermont, a Yankee is somebody who eats pie for breakfast.”

  45. bobaloo

    I really couldn’t give a flying **** about what Bill O’Reilly thinks of me.

    Stereotypes all have some element of truth, otherwise they wouldn’t be offensive! (nor would they exist)

    Really Eli? Why don’t you elaborate on what stereotypes about African Americans or Latinos have an element of truth?

  46. bobaloo

    As long as you think watching guys drive cars around in circles (NASCAR) is somehow interesting, you’re going to have a hard time convincing people that you’re all that smart

    I know, like all those inbred rednecks in California, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Chicago, New Hampshire and Delaware.

  47. Kriss

    “NASCAR and confederate flags are ‘redneck’ and have nothing to do with our centuries-old mountaineer traditions and customs…”

    I agree. And equating Confederate flag waving with Southern Appalachian culture is just another stereotype that is not historically accurate. Secession from the Union and the resulting war between the states was pretty much forced upon many mountain residents who never owned slaves and had no quarrel whatsoever with the United States. Many did all they could to avoid Confederate army conscription, and Confederate atrocities against Union supporters in Madison County are well known.

  48. Rhonda Velour

    We proudly wave the Confederate Battle Flag at our house. Several of my mountain relatives fought under that flag because they didn’t want a bunch of foreign yankee troops raping their women and stealing their livestock.

    Sweet Dixieland!

  49. Real McCoy

    Kriss, I’m afraid you couldn’t be more wrong. “NASCAR” grew out of the moonshine trade, which grew out of these very mountains. You have obviously received a “yankee” education, otherwise you’d realize that slavery wasn’t an issue until three years into the war of northern aggression. My Gr.Gr.Grandfather grew up in the Sugar Fork Community of N.C., and traveled to Tennessee to fight with the 21st Tenn. infantry. If he had no problem with the U.S. “government”, he could have just stayed at home. And while everyone is whining and moaning about being called derogatory names, “Red-Neck”, “Yankee”, etc., are just as offensive as “Hill-Billy”. How can you justify sitting there demanding that it stop when you your selves are doing the same exact thing? Most of you need to just grow up, and get over yourselves.

  50. kat magendie

    I was born in WVA…live in Haywood County (WNC) now — lived in South Louisiana for a time, too, which has been stereotyped to death as well (weird banjo music whenever they portray a New Orleans cop – geez)….

    I saw the Molton’s cartoon, JBo, and left a comment for him to read Jeff Biggers “The United States of Appalachia”….O’Reilly needs a copy. And no, I’m not peddling his book – I saw him at a book fair, bought the book – we’re already proud of our roots, but this book made my step even lighter and my head even higher.

    I don’t mind being called a Hillbilly, and I don’t even care about the bare-footin’ it part, as a child(okay and still do sometimes) I ran around like a barefoot heathen – but I get a burning in my heart, my synapses fire off, my teeth grind, my blood boils down to the marrow at the stereotype-umbrella spread over a region, a way of life, a people and place that others sure like to come visit and buy up the land and….oh never mind…I’m getting all wound up….I think others here have said it better, so I’ll leave it up to them.

  51. travelah

    Rhonda, aren’t you known by 3,265 other names on here? Usually you are a guy, aren’t you? Asheville must be rubbing off on you.

  52. Rhonda Velour

    Actually, the term “hillbilly” was coined by a Southern mountain man to describe traditional mountain music. Of course, many northerners use it in a derogatory way. Yankees with their thick accents who say “cwoffee” are pretty laughable and have no room making fun of anyone. As in, “I’m a travelah in my cah on the way to the bah”. -:)

  53. Kriss

    “…You have obviously received a ‘yankee’ education, otherwise you’d realize that slavery wasn’t an issue until three years into the war of northern aggression.”

    How much an issue slavery may have been or not doesn’t alter the fact that most mountain folks were not slave owners, as I said, and many didn’t have much reason or interest in leaving their homes to fight for the Confederacy. That’s not saying everyone felt the same way. But not everyone’s Southern Appalachian ancestors fought for or supported the Confederate army, and as a result many families suffered dire consequences at the hands of rebel marauders – my own ancestors included.

  54. Real McCoy

    “That’s not saying everyone felt the same way. But not everyone’s Southern Appalachian ancestors fought for or supported the Confederate army, and as a result many families suffered dire consequences at the hands of rebel marauders – my own ancestors included.” True enough, but the only ones left to cause problems for the population would had to have been “Home Guard”. Most of those guys were trouble makers to start with. They certainly weren’t harassed by actual Confederate soldiers. Just keep in mind that history is written by those who have hanged heroes.

  55. Piffy!

    Gosh, “Rohnda Velour” sure sounds EXACTLY like Cullen Anderson.

    Do you suppose he cross-dresses when he is using a female psuedonymn?

    Funny how s/he contradicts him/herself on the blogs this week by claiming to be a “liberal” who “flies the confederate flag” in 2 separate posts.

  56. Piffy!

    “Several of my mountain relatives fought under that flag because they didn’t want a bunch of foreign yankee troops raping their women and stealing their livestock.”

    No, they preferred to have the Confederate troops do that, i guess.

    Cullen Anderson, you really seem to be forgetting what psuedonymns are saying what at what time. Seek help.

  57. Rhonda Velour

    Hum, feeling OK pfk? So much anger. And we don’t even know one another. Perhaps you are mixing me up with someone else.

    Local liberals do indeed honor the traditions and history of the South. Maybe that’s the difference between northern yankee liberals and Southern liberals. We care down here, but also have common sense. Northern liberals are knee-jerk socialists. In the South, liberals are caring people who want to help others. In the north liberals are always whining and wanting handouts paid for by “the rich”, whoever they are.

    Now you take care today, and get some rest! You sound so frazzled.

    It’s about time northerners stop dissing us Southerners. God knows our culture is far superior to theirs. We at least have the decency to smile and say good morning to each other. Up north, if you smile and say good morning, a yankee will look at you with a nasty hard look and say “what are you lookin at?”

    One liberal Confederate flag waver. Sweet Dixieland, my home sweet home!

  58. Bill Barnwell

    It never ceases to amaze me that people move here from up north, then keep their regional prejudices in place once they’ve lived here long enough to know better. How blind can you be. I would say we all should stop stereotyping people in any way.

  59. Bill Barnwell

    ‘The pfk’ person. I know of a few liberals here whose family trees contain Confederate veterans. And they like their stars and bars flags as a result. It is only the ignorant who tie racism or political philosophy to that historic battle flag. And while we’re at it, stay on subject will you? I don’t care to read your silly little sidebar conversations. They make you yourself look childish. But hey. It’s midnight and you have the contents of a bottle of cheap wine in your belly. lol. Explains a lot doesn’t it?

  60. Betty Cloer Wallace

    This week’s edition of Mountain Xpress will expire at midnight tonight, which will mean the end of our discussion here.

    Since my commentary has generated a lot of interest, I’m thinking about continuing it in some manner, possibly by creating a “hillbilly stereotype” blog or by producing a collection of essays; assorted commentary; lists of famous “hillbillies” past and present (think General Hugh Shelton, former Chairman of Joint Chiefs; the now deceased Popcorn Sutton and Lewis Redmond of moonshine fame; the now famous writer Charles Frazier; Dolly Parton); definitions of culture, race, and ethnicity in the Southern Appalachians; how the Civil War affected everyone, past and present; the Shelton Laurel Massacre in “bloody” Madison County; what does NASCAR and Confederate flag-waving really mean to assorted groups; how coal-mining by mountaintop removal affects us all, now and in the future; the effects of tourism (past and present) on the mountains; why there is a revival of Celtic music; Southern Appalachian music, literature, art, and history; the historical meaning of “hillbilly,” “highlander,” “mountaineer,” and other words denoting Southern Appalachian natives; how the Appalachian Regional Commission has helped and hindered us; how steep-slope development and proliferation of second-homes is affecting the environment, infrastructure, and economy of the region; and much, much more.

    Perhaps through future discussion we could sort through the definitions (both historical and current) and try to separate the wheat from the chaff. There is a clear indication, as is evident in these posts, that our old customs and traditions of cultural heritage (Celtic, British Isles) will be gone in another generation, subsumed into mainstream America and as hidden away as the Melungeons (but’s that’s a story for another time).

    If you’re interested in participating in a blog or contributing to a printed publication, please email me at: bettycloerwallace@runbox.com

  61. Jon Elliston

    Thanks Betty, for all the discussion you’ve generated here. And while this commentary will come off the Xpress home page tonight when we put the new issue’s content up, it will remain online in our archives.

    So you’re all welcome to continue this discussion on this thread. Alternatively, this might be an excellent topic or series of topics to discuss in the Xpress online forums, which are at mountainx.com/forums

  62. Betty Cloer Wallace

    To Real McCoy…. you wrote the following: “the only ones left to cause problems for the population would had to have been “Home Guard”. Most of those guys were trouble makers to start with. They certainly weren’t harassed by actual Confederate soldiers. Just keep in mind that history is written by those who have hanged heroes.”

    Yes, it is true as you said that “history is written by those who have hanged heroes.”

    Actually, the Shelton Laurel Massacre in Madison County–13 civilians brutally executed in January, 1863–was committed by Confederate soldiers of the 64th Regiment against persons who resisted conscription. The massacre and several other murders in succeeding months is well documented through military and civilian court records, included the soldiers’ brutality to women and children. Shelton women and their relatives were tortured, including being hanged until near death, when the 64th Regiment soldiers tried to force them to give up their men (tell where they were). One young woman incurred brain damage and was forever handicapped. Other Shelton women became heads of their households (census records) for decades after their men were executed, and many Shelton children were cared for by relatives after the massacre.

    A good summary of that travesty is VICTIMS by Philip Shaw Paludan. It is used as a textbook at Western Carolina University as a study of military atrocities against civilians in the Civil War (Shelton Laurel Massacre) and the Viet Nam War (My Lai Massacre).

  63. Kriss

    “Actually, the Shelton Laurel Massacre in Madison County–13 civilians brutally executed in January, 1863–was committed by Confederate soldiers of the 64th Regiment against persons who resisted conscription.”

    Thanks, Betty. A classic example of exactly what I was talking about. I doubt the descendants of those people or many others whose ancestors lived in this region during that time are likely to be going around today waving the stars and bars – unlike the popular stereotype of most “hillbilly” folks.

  64. Fred Keister

    Kriss: “Thanks, Betty. A classic example of exactly what I was talking about. I doubt the descendants of those people or many others whose ancestors lived in this region during that time are likely to be going around today waving the stars and bars – unlike the popular stereotype of most “hillbilly” folks.”

    Well my folks proudly display the Confederate Battle Flag. So Kriss, you base an entire argument on one unfortunate incidence. Well, you are wrong, in the main. Do a little more research and perhaps you will find the truth. The real danger in the South were Sherman and his invading army. The raids on local towns and farms to steal food and rape women. And occasionally shoot somebody to terrorize the population. It’s the dirty little secret the history writers up north like to downplay. The fact is, Sherman and the Union Army killed 20,000 Southern non-combatants on his “March to the Sea”. It was planned that way to “bring the South to it’s knees”. For this fact, Lincoln, Sherman, and those under their commands, were war criminals.

    My people fought for the Confederacy not because of slavery, but because a foreign blue coated army had invaded their homeland. And I am proud that they stepped up to challenge of protecting their lands and families. Union sympathizers were traitors who went over to the other side towards the end of the war hoping for good position for the aftermath. And some of these scallywags were from Madison. Nothing to be proud of, for sure.

  65. Betty Cloer Wallace

    Fred Keister, you are absolute correct about the historical facts of General Sherman’s march from Atlanta to the sea, committing atrocities against civilians as he went “to bring the South to it’s knees” — and he did — but remember that Sherman’s march was not through our mountains and did not address or target our specific regional needs or issues, political or otherwise.

    Your next statement, however, is incorrect. The Shelton Laurel Massacre was not only “one unfortunate incident.” There were many such incidents on both sides.

    You also say that “Union sympathizers were traitors who went over to the other side towards the end of the war hoping for good position for the aftermath. And some of these scallywags were from Madison.” Well, in that regard, not so again. The Shelton Laurel Massacre by the Confederate’s 64th Regiment took place in January, 1863, hardly at the end of the war–and it resulted after many months of documented harassment of civilians in East Tennessee and Western North Carolina who avoided conscription. As for “hoping for good positions for the aftermath,” what good positions do you mean? And how do you know?

    Every long-time resident of the Southern Appalachians with a centuries-old family tree in this region now has a heritage with many ancestors who served on many fronts in many wars dating back to the often-forgotten French and Indian War, during which time our region saw its share of fierce conflict. We need to honor and be proud of all that heritage, and fly all our flags.

    Divisive Civil War discussions have little to do with the “hillbilly” stereotypes that continue to cripple us nationwide and internationally. Such negative stereotypes predated the Civil War and should be dead and buried by now, but unfortunately they are not (as per Molton’s cartoon). We need to join together to pick up our pine knots and go to war to fight those debilitating stereotypes, not each other.

  66. Kriss

    “So Kriss, you base an entire argument on one unfortunate incidence.”

    The atrocities that occurred at the Shelton Laurel Massacre are hardly an “unfortunate incidence.”

    And if you’ll notice, my comment referred to that as an “example” of what I was talking about – not the base for the entirety of my “argument.”

    And as to my “argument,” the point was that stereotyping Appalachian Mountain people with Confederate flag waving is simply not historically accurate; and that’s based on the fact that many of them did not support the Confederacy for a number of reasons – the egregious behavior of certain Confederate soldiers and/or their supporters toward innocent civilians being one of them. There were other reasons as well, such as simply having no compelling reason or interest in going to war against the country they’d always known and loved.

  67. Real McCoy

    Miss Wallace, what would be the reason behind such an “atrocity”? Confederate soldiers didn’t just go around killing civilians, more often than not they prevented the killing of civilians. Someone in Madison County started something, and if was treason against the Confederate States of America, then this is a simple case of justice. From what I’ve been able to find out, those “victims” were union sympathizers and Confederate deserters who had been committing crimes throughout the area. For whatever reason, people refuse to acknowledge that The Confederate States of America was, and still is, a sovereign nation(occupied). Complete with a Constitution, a Senate, a Congress, and even a President. Now, I realize that treason is an acceptable practice in the U.S.(Jane Fonda,George Bush,etc.), but it was dealt with harshly, and rightly so, in the Confederate States of America, and in the U.S. as well at that time. The union army completely raped the Shenandoah Valley, along with both Carolinas and Georgia. Tennesee’s puppet government killed almost as many of it’s own citizens as the war did. The bottom line is this, you can blindly believe the union education that you received at your local Federal Indoctrination Center(public school), or you can research BOTH sides of the issue and find the truth. Blatant hatred of your history and heritage is ignorance, and ignorance breeds hatred. God Bless, and have a great Dixie day! http://www.digitalheritage.org/index.php/heritage-moments/2-featured/25-shelton-laurel

  68. Mike Swanson

    Real McCoy, thanks for setting the record straight. The idea that Union sympathizer traitors and scalliwag carpetbaggers are something to be proud of, as old Kriss says, is ridiculous. And I know a lot of folks up in Madison County. lots of Confederate battle flags up there too.

    God bless old Dixie and those who fought for her honor.

  69. Betty Cloer Wallace

    Real McCoy, you can find a lot of historical information about the Shelton Laurel Massacre in VICTIMS by Philip Shaw Paludan. It is used as a textbook at Western Carolina University as a study of military atrocities against civilians in the Civil War (Shelton Laurel Massacre) and the Viet Nam War (My Lai Massacre).

    Also, you can find a wide range of information online, as well as by visiting Madison County and researching the historical records there and visiting the long-time residents of “The Laurels” (not recent immigrants).

    As for the bulk of your comments regarding the Civil War in general (outside our mountains), I did learn a lot from you and want to know more. I had no idea that (except for Indian nations such as the Eastern Band of Cherokee) we have “a sovereign nation” within our country, as you said: “For whatever reason, people refuse to acknowledge that The Confederate States of America was, and still is, a sovereign nation (occupied). Complete with a Constitution, a Senate, a Congress, and even a President.”

    Where can I find a copy of the Constitution you reference, as well as lists of current members of the Senate, Congress, and President of that sovereign nation?

    Perhaps you could write a future commentary on this subject for Mountain Xpress, and educate us. Or contact me (bettycloerwallace@runbox.com) and we can talk about this some more. I do want to know more.

  70. Piffy!

    “Hum, feeling OK pfk? So much anger. And we don’t even know one another. Perhaps you are mixing me up with someone else. ”

    What anger? Where?

    And, no, you are named
    Cullen anderson. there is no mix-up.

    Why post under a woman’s name, cullen?

  71. Piffy!

    Betty,

    Just so you know “The Real McCoy”, Rhonda, and Bill Barnwell are all sock puppets of a ‘man’ named “Cullen Anderson”.

  72. Buzzardbilly

    Betty, What an exquisite essay! Not having the time to read everyone else’s comments right now (but you can bet I’ll be back to do so before the next 24 hours is out), in your first response to the cartoon here, you mention how people inside your state even look down on “mountain people.” I’m from West Virginia, and my Masters thesis was called “Accent, Linguistic Discrimination, Stereotyping, and West Virginia in Film,” (just blew my netnonymity there, huh) and was modeled on a book by Rosina Lippi-Green called “English with an Accent: Language, ideology, and discrimination in the United States” (that, by the way is such a tasty read it might as well be comprised of ice cream).

    But, the stereotyping part had to draw from many other sources. It seems that it is a common thing within all of the so-called “hillbilly” states (and, yes, I use the H-word proudly and defiantly with distinction because from what I can gather in research on what’s worked and what hasn’t worked, I take my lead from NWA (Niggers With Attitude) and their seminal “Straight Outta Comptom” album that began the reclamation of that word from one that was still somewhat accepted as an epithet one could easily hurl at a black person to keep the down to a word that you’d bettered be black to have earned the right to say or use it without getting a good talking down (if not more).

    What the black community as a whole has been able to accomplish in such an amazingly short span of time as far as attitude change and the right to expect portrayals to be fair or catch hell for it. They are an example to bear in mind.

    What we lack, is unity. I’m blown away by this site and owe Gary Carden a huge debt of gratitude for bringing you toward me so that I could find you (and Gary as well…and I’m sure a host of others with similar interests when I create an account [that will come when the reading of all the comments that precede mine is done]).

    Often, the comedians and mass media get by with their negative hillbilly-type portrayals by pinning the story to a particular state; therefore, they are guilty of placism.

    When a comedian is so poor at his or her craft that he or she must end a joke with West Virginia or Arkansas or Alabama or North Carolina or Kentucky or the Appalachian Mountains or any other state or region that has become stigmatized by misrepresentations, they are guilty of placism.

    When a person in his or her own state labels the people that live in some other part of their state as less than them in any way, they are guilty of placism.

    What’s worse: The person who labels the folks who happen to have been born in a particular part of the state that is mountainous and, therefore, the terrain kept certain types of growth away because it was not easy to get there, they are accepting the stereotype as true for their state, while simultaneously rejecting it for themselves. They are utter fools because they support a way of thinking that leaves them branded “hillbilly” when their back is turned to the outsider they bonded with over their distate for hillbillies.

    Oh, I definitely shall return. Thanks so much for leading me here!! And, once again, your writing as beautiful as the thoughts it conveys.

  73. Betty Cloer Wallace

    Meggitymegs said it so well (in her comment above), and I could not say it better, so I will quote her: “I think it’s along the same lines of the N-word and the Q-word. You can own it and refer to yourself with it, and others within the community can use it acceptably, but it is still considered offensive if someone from outside those groups uses it—in most cases it is considered hate speech. But even when Southerners or Appalachians try to ‘own’ it, the effort usually ends up being self-defeating, perpetuating the negative stereotype.”

  74. Betty Cloer Wallace

    What if the coal veins of Kentucky and West Virginia reached as far south as Western North Carolina? Instead of bickering about flag-waving, we would be in the midst of a battle to save the tops of our mountains from being removed by outside industrialists who care naught for the environment or for our livelihood:

    http://www.alternet.org/environment/90991/

    Our major battle in WNC is misunderstanding, misrepresentation of who we are, and lack of a united front. Our own WNC mountaintops and communities are being violated irreversibly every day through development by people who do not appreciate who we are or seem to care if what they came here for is rapidly disappearing.

  75. Mike Swanson

    Betty. You pose yourself as some arbitrator of what the local history is. Why? If you say you have read and “studied” a lot, that really isn’t absolute at all. There have been so many distortions and outright lies about the War Between the States (written by the victors) that you will need more than that. I know a website that has done real research on the War. They have examined letters written home by Lincoln’s soldiers complaining of being ordered to steal people’s food, then burn their farms to the ground. They witnessed rape and murder of Southern civilians. This is the true and largest story here. Yet you insist on holding these views that the Confederate soldiers committed crimes here on their own people. Get a sense of scale. Atrocities were committed here in the South by Lincoln’s soldiers, almost exclusively. THAT is where the emphasis needs to be placed.

    Thanks Real McCoy for your true words above.

  76. Betty Cloer Wallace

    Well, MIke Swanson, my original commentary here was about the worldwide use of the stereotypical word “hillbilly”—not the Civil War–and the debilitating effect the “hillbilly” slur has on us to this day. The use of the word “hillbilly” preceded the Civil War, originating in the 1850s with New York cartoonists and writers, and has continued ever since, right up to Molton’s recent cartoon. (Check out Sut Lovingood, Li’l Abner, Snuffy Smith, Beverly Hillbillies, and others, if you want to know more about the media history, which is not at all pretty.)

    But somehow our discussion here about “hillbilly” stereotypes has been reduced to revisiting the Civil War, which doesn’t have a whole lot to do with more than a century and a half of stereotypes of Appalachian mountain people.

    So, I don’t know what you consider “enough,” but here is a thumbnail summary of my sources of information ranging from family stories to the many volumes published about our local mountain history dating from the here and now back to centuries past in the British Isles. Many good libraries, numerous websites, and online booksellers will lead you to hundreds of such sources.

    Actually, though, the conflict in our mountains was small potatoes compared to the overall North-South war, and we should not totally extrapolate or overlay the larger motivations of either “side” onto ourselves.

    I have Confederate ancestors (including my g-g-grandfather buried alongside Real McCoy’s g-g-grandfather in a Sugar Fork churchyard near Gold Mine in Macon County, as well as other relatives in graves all over Macon County, many of which have military headstones from many wars, including the American Revolution.

    I also have eleven relatives buried in a common grave in Madison County who were victims (along with two others) of the Shelton Laurel Massacre, including my g-g-grandfather David Shelton, the oldest of the victims. My grandmother (FInettie Shelton Hensley) lived in our household during the 1950s and had many stories to tell of her grandfather’s death in that massacre, along with his son (her uncle) and her cousins, and the many local interpersonal and economic conflicts leading up to the massacre, most of which predated the Civil War and had little to do with the Civil War. (By the way, only five of those victims had taken part in the “salt raid.”)

    In Macon County I have heard all the stories about the “last Confederate surrender” at Dixie Hall on Main Street (re-enactors stage it for heritage days) and about the Confederate side of my family heritage; and I have celebrated many July 4 celebrations on the courthouse square dancing beneath the marble statue of a Confederate soldier.

    So, Mike, if you want to meet for lunch sometime, we can invite Real McCoy, and I can take you back even further with my heritage and share my research with you. The Shelton/Hensley/Howard heritage in Madison County is particularly well documented in historical records, including their service in George Washington’s revolutionary army in Virginia……. which is why we are speaking English now, rather than French……. and even earlier than their immigration to Virginia in the 1600s. (They moved on down to Madison County–which then was the northern part of Buncombe County– in the late 1700s.)

    My heritage, actually, is not at all unique. Just about every old-timer here had people who fought on many fronts during the Civil War and prior to that during the American Revolution and even prior to that during the French and Indian War. (The Wallaces can trace their history back to the failed 1715 and 1745 Risings against England, which is quite interesting.)

    We Americans do like our histories.

    The Scots among us have a saying: “We have long memories, which is one of our greatest strengths; and we carry great grudges, which is one of our greatest weaknesses.”

  77. Buzzardbilly

    Betty, I see your point (and still haven’t had time for reading all or joining), but that condition only exists because we have not produced work yet that’s caught the cultural fancy to a point it would be effective. Without people outside the group being able to see why one might be proud to have been raised in the mountains, there could be no understanding of why the stereotype is so wrong. The good works that are mass produced and slicked-up by Hollywood generally focus on the past of the region or show the people of the region living as if it were the past (the whole “our contemporary ancestors” ghost that haunts us).

    Do you get into semiotics at all? I’d hate to write a novel’s worth of comment full of things you already knew. But, my perspective comes from that perspective: studying signs, symbols, and icons and how they come into being and change over time.

    Hollywood only keeps pumping out wrong so long as it is profitable. Change the orientation of the sign/symbol/icon and it’s meaning (and, in this case, look at “meaning” as coming wholly from a person’s experience with the sign/symbol/icon whether that experience has been real, vicarious, or through media).

    Was it Wittgenstein or Korzybski who said “The meaning of a word is its use in the language.” I think it was Wittgenstein. Anyhow, if we leave all of the celebration that is the honor of being a hillbilly (with our morals, values, beautiful landscape, loyalty, humility, and love of extended familys) to the people who want to take a swig of moonshine and shout Yeehah for CMT, then all the outside is going to see that is hillbilly is those who feed the stereotype.

    Meaning cannot be replaced with silence. Meaning-change requires a new meaning to supplant the old one. The mind cannot unring a bell, but it sure can forget the bell if it’s replaced by a melody that pleases the ear. Do I make sense or do I ramble?

  78. Betty Cloer Wallace

    I am truly saddened that an opportunity for serious discussion about a serious century-old problem for many local people has seemingly deteriorated beyond salvation.

    My sensibilities recoiled when I saw Molton’s cartoon alongside my original commentary, but I held out hope that the MX readership would see the cartoon as an example of the inherent problem (which many did). Subsequence response, however, has deteriorated into such off-topic personal bickering that the intent of my commentary has been lost; and my dismay has grown with the refusal of MX and Molton to acknowledge their complicity in allowing the repulsive stereotypes to continue and even to grow more insidious tentacles.

    I think an apology by MX to the targeted people would have been just as futile as Michael Richards (Kramer) trying to apologize for his racial slurs at an LA comedy club, and I neither wanted nor expected that, but I do think MX could have brought an end to the escalating, unfounded insults to local Appalachian people by moderating the posts and by formulating an acceptable response of their own. If MX wants their newspaper to contribute to the growth of themselves and the region, or to expand their readership, then ridiculing local people through insensitive cartoons and unmoderated forums is certainly not the way.

    Ultimately EVERYONE who lives here, native or otherwise, is damaged with such blatant stereotypes that hinder the positive growth and reputation of the region.

    For the past century, companies that have considered WNC for placing new enterprises have looked for local people (“hands”) to do their low-level jobs, while bringing in management and executives (the “brains”) from outside; and now fewer such executives consider Appalachia a place where they would want to bring their own families to live or where intelligent local people with brains might be available for employment. The negative “hillbilly” stereotypes are known far and wide, and are believed as truth. ?

    Further compounding the problem, too many of our local governments are now made up of second-rate pseudo-leaders who are interested primarily in promoting tourism at any cost. But who, we might ask, 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 who will be cleaning their rooms and waiting their tables and manicuring their lawns?

    The local “hands,” of course, are expected to do such menial jobs, and to pay more taxes for the opportunity to support the outside opportunists. This expectation is deeply embedded in our history and culture, and it is even embedded in our language. “He/she is a good hand to_____,” people say.

    All of us have perpetuated the stereotype of “ignorant hillbilly” simply by not rising up and fighting it, by picking up our pine knots and declaring war. And the management of MX could help fight it, too, if they wanted to. They could support the diversity in our great region, embrace it to include all people, and maybe even broaden their readership in the meantime.

  79. Real McCoy

    Miss Wallace, I am just as much to blame for the “off-topic” comments as anyone, for that I apologize. I take negative statements regarding our Confederate heritage very personally, perhaps too personally, and I’ve never been willing to sacrifice my heritage and history on the alter of political correctness. Back to the topic at hand: The “Hill-Billy” tag is not one that bothers me, or most of the people I know. We’re all too busy trying to survive to worry about what some outsider thinks, or says, about us. Frankly, we just don’t care. When you try to equate the term with other slurs like the infamous “N word”, it simply doesn’t compare. When I was a child the “N word” was used on a regular basis, not as a slur or an insult, that’s just what colored people were referred to as so that’s the word I grew up using. Hatred had absolutely nothing to do with it, ignorance did. I now know better. Point: As long as the term “Hill-Billy” has been around, it will be a long time before it goes away, if ever. As far as large businesses moving their operations here, it’s really not feasible. It’s more of a logistics night-mare. Mountain roads are not designed for big-rigs, and the only way to make them that way is to cut these beloved mountains to shreds, even more than they already are. Lord take me and mine before that comes. Do we really need another Walgreens? Generations of people have survived here by obeying God’s commandments. Subdue the Earth, till the soil, harvest the beasts of the Earth, etc. We make our own butter, cider, bread, I could go on but I digress. I don’t know why, but outsiders insist on moving here to “get away from it all”, only to discover(six months later) that there’s “nothing to do here.”, so here comes another Wal-mart, another movie theater, another car dealership, again I could go on. The simple life that we all love is going the way of the Do Do, and I for one don’t like it one bit. “Hill-Billy”, I don’t have a big problem with. “Ignorant Hill-Billy”, I just smile behind my pipe comfortable with the knowledge that I’m in the presence of an idiot. Southerners have always preferred to be underestimated, we love the dumbfounded look on people’s faces when they learn their lesson. I appreciate the fact that you care so much about you kin and kith that you’re willing to pick up a pine knot and open that can of whoop a**, but I’m afraid the vast majority of us “Hill-Billy’s” have more pressing matters to deal with. Life. God bless you, and have a great Dixie day!

  80. Betty Cloer Wallace

    Buzzardbilly, I do get your reasoned analysis, but I can think of not one single derogatory word/name/slur that has negatively defined any group for centuries by outside elitists that the abused group was ever able to rehabilitate successfully, and such efforts to do so have always ended up causing even more grief and prolonging the abuse.

    I don’t see any future in trying to redefine and give new meaning to slurs such as “chink,” “dago,” “kike,” “nigger,” “coon-ass,” “injun,” “portygee,” or “hillbilly” — and I have not even gotten to the gender-based slurs and sexual-preference slurs and physical-characteristic slurs — words given to groups of people by outsiders for the express purpose of demeaning them.

    Yes, the meaning of both negative and positive words do sometimes change over time (“bitch,” for example), but I don’t see people WORLDWIDE ever coming to think of “hillbilly” as anything but a negative. It’s too widespread internationally with derogatory meaning. It’s too far gone. And unfortunately it has become so integrated with the “redneck” lifestyle in the minds of so many people internationally because of media portrayals that untangling the two is pert nigh impossible.

    Our familiar words for ourselves were traditionally “highlander” and “mountaineer” (in addition to names designating our countries of origin), and those words still carry positive connotations. Why not just beef up our own words to describe ourselves and to convey our message of who we are and how we live?

    I hear President Obama say how proud he is of his cultural and racial heritage, but I don’t hear him saying how “proud” he is to be called a “nigger.” Cherokee Chief Michell Hicks speaks with pride of his heritage and culture, but he does not say how “proud” he is to be called an “injun.” Those words will never be cleaned up, so it is best to excise them from the language and move on. There is something to be said for political correctness when it means avoiding serious rudeness and hurtful insensitivity, especially for children.

    I am supremely proud of my heritage, my culture, my ethics and morals, my inclusiveness toward others, where I live, and how I live, but you will never hear me publicly announce that I am “proud” to be called a “hillbilly” by people who want to demean me or my people. You will also never hear me refer to anyone else with any widely-known cultural, racial, ethnic, or personal slur.

    Even so, having said all this, my family members and I sometimes affectionately call each other “hillbilly” (and worse), but ’tis fighting words when someone outside our group calls us such things. They have not earned the right.

    Now that I think about it, therein lies the crux of the matter. I do not feel that I have to prove myself or my worth to people who cannot or do not want to see it.

  81. Kriss

    “The idea that Union sympathizer traitors and scalliwag carpetbaggers are something to be proud of, as old Kriss says, is ridiculous.”

    Mike, I never said anything about being “proud” of anything. I was just telling it like it was, and why not all mountain people necessarily should be stereotyped as Confederate flag wavers, as is their common image in other parts of the country.

    “And I know a lot of folks up in Madison County. lots of Confederate battle flags up there too.”

    Sure there are. I don’t know about “lots” of Confederate flags here in Madison County, but there’re certainly some. People here, like everywhere else, have had different experiences, have different opinions and likes and dislikes, like people everywhere. But I don’t think most folks here would go around flying or displaying a Confederate flag.

  82. Betty Cloer Wallace

    Check out these comprehensive resources on Appalachia (available on Amazon and in local bookstores):

    THE BIBLIOGRAPHY OF APPALACHIA: More Than 4,700 Books, Articles, Monographs and Dissertations, Topically Arranged and Indexed (John R. Burch, Jr.)

    DICTIONARY OF SMOKY MOUNTAIN ENGLISH (Michael B. Montgomery and Joseph S. Hall)

  83. Betty Cloer Wallace

    To the Pluto:

    I agree that violence begets violence, but use of the term “picking up pine knots and going to war” refers to verbal conflict and reasoned argument, which is what we’re doing here, not actual head-knocking.

    The Irish and Scots-Irish (Ulster Scots) among us brought the term from Ireland, from the Irish word “shillelagh” (shi-lay-lee) meaning a club or cudgel, a pine knot with a section of limb attached to it for a handle, used in the manner of a hammer. Or, two intersecting limbs can be fashioned into a hammer-shaped shillelagh.

    You still occasionally hear the nickname “Shillelagh” or “Shally” derived from this word. An old Irishman in my community during the 1950s was “Shillelagh Moffitt.” How much more Irish can ye get than that?

  84. John

    Everyone needs to read ‘The French Broad’ by Wilma Dykeman.

    East TN and West NC both broke down about 50/50 union/confederacy back in ‘the war of aggression’

    I had different parts of my family fought on each side.

  85. Real McCoy

    Do you mean the Michael B. Montgomery who received his secondary education in the mountainless state of Florida? One could surmise that his works ridicule mountain folk just as much as outsiders do. John R. Burch jr. however came from Weaverville, N.C., making him a little more believable. I have to wonder who would read these works though, the folks who live in these mountains already know their history, and the outsiders that are trying to “educate” themselves aren’t really welcome here anyway and their opinions count for naught. I know several people who openly refer to themselves as “Hill-Billy”, should I use my pine knot on them, or should I present them with a shiny new Confederate flag and call them a “Red-Neck”? I’ve seen the term “Red-Neck” slung around this discussion as though it was the “N-word” during the fifties. Should I not be offended? Should I not break out my “Pine knot”? Should I just take it like a man along with “Hill-Billy”? Everybody, if you don’t want to called a “Hill-Billy”, move to the beach, change your name, and never tell anyone where you come from. Hide your history and heritage under the rug, and never let it show under any circumstances. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll find a way to hold your head up for no reason whatsoever. Isn’t that what this is really all about? Someone wanting to be proud about something after not really doing anything? Isn’t this just another example of someone getting “offended” about something just for the sake of having something to gripe about? Aren’t there more important things going on in the world right now? For God’s sake, get over it. Life’s too short.

  86. Betty Cloer Wallace

    John, I think many of the people with Confederate flags on their vehicles also have heritages on both sides but wave that particular flag for effect as a chosen lifestyle. I even know one young Asian man who thinks it looks “tough” to display the Confederate flag alongside his “Don’t Tread On Me” flag. When I asked him what his snake flag represented, he said he got it at the recent Tea Party rally on the town square. He knew it meant the right to protest, but he wasn’t sure what he was protesting. “Taxes, I think,” he said, although he admitted that he had never paid taxes in this country. He was just here going to school.

    Many people in WNC and East Tennessee during the Civil War would have remembered their grandfathers who fought in the Revolution and had moved into these mountains from the coastal cities. Their family war stories were still fresh at that time, and their pride in their new freedom, their new democracy, their new country, contributed to their spirit of independence. The sad part came with the divergence of how they exercised that independence, whether their allegiance was to decisions made in their state capitals or national capital.

    And such split allegiance continues to this day as about twenty states have pending legislation regarding portions of their state seceding from an established state, while a few states are considering seceding from the nation.

    If our state legislature voted now to secede from the United States, I wonder how many WNC people would want to do so.

    If WNC counties joined together and wanted to secede from North Carolina, I wonder how many people would want to do so. That scenario comes up occasionally whenever we are ignored, neglected, or snubbed by Raleigh.

    Our spirit of independence historically has been alive and well in WNC, and still is, and it has taken some surprising twists and turns through the years.

    And, as a nation, we are still so young and flexible.

  87. who

    The real mccoy wrote:”I have to wonder who would read these works though, the folks who live in these mountains already know their history, and the outsiders that are trying to “educate” themselves aren’t really welcome here anyway and their opinions count for naught.” You are being ironic, right?

  88. Betty Cloer Wallace

    Real McCoy:

    In Appalachia, we know who we are, and who we are not, but the media long ago defined us to the rest of the world as ignorant, genetically deformed, incestuous, and immoral “Tobacco Road” and “Deliverance” characters (if you have not read these books or seen these culture-defining films, you should)—as well as lazy Snuffy Smith and Li’l Abner cartoon characters with one-gallused overalls kicking dogs off the porch, hormonally-enhanced Daisy Maes, unworldly Beverly Hills Clampetts, and O Brother convicts without enough sense to get in out of the rain—and now we have sex-with-pigs characters in “Pigdemic” added to our litany of depravity.

    But we are not those cartoon characters as long defined by the entertainment and news media and believed by millions of people worldwide. I am neither a Tobacco Road character nor Mammy Yokum nor Daisy Mae nor Granny Clampett nor any other cartoonish misrepresentation of my culture—and I doubt that you are a person as portrayed in such outlandish media, sodomizing tourists and such, but people worldwide really believe you are that person.

    Millions of people worldwide, upon hearing the word “hillbilly,” do believe these media portrayals, and therein lies the problem with our future and the future of our children and grandchildren. Getting rid of the “hillbilly” slur is only the first step in rehabilitating these despicable images and the first step to being represented accurately with some semblance of dignity.

    I want us to be able to be who we really are and to be recognized as such, and to live as we so choose, with a place at the local and national and international table for every one of us, including our children and grandchildren, and the chance for our descendants to be President of the United States or greeters at Wal-Mart or whatever they want to be. But if we just tuck in our tails and shy away from the rest of the world, we are stealing our children’s future and committing them to lives of the same old demeaning stereotypes we have had to suffer, stereotypes that will certainly limit their livelihood economically and personally.

    With a global economy and global communication, e.g. Internet, we can no longer draw a circle around ourselves and shut out the rest of the world; and unless we pick up our pine knots and try to do something about it, we will continue to pick up newspapers and see demeaning portrayals of ourselves having sex with pigs. Our children surely deserve better than that.

  89. Real McCoy

    Well, first of all, I don’t have a tail to “tuck”. You might want to get that looked at.(Grin) Second, Just because you don’t like a word doesn’t mean that we should just do away with freedom of speech in America. I may not agree with everything a man says, but I’ll defend to the death his right to say it. This “global” economy you speak of is not a road we should be going down anyway, look at how many American jobs have been sacrificed for your “global” economy. In my humble opinion, “shutting out” the rest of the world is exactly what America MUST do if it’s going to survive as a nation. HILL-BILLY!!

  90. Betty Cloer Wallace

    Since my “hillbilly stereotypes” commentary was published last week, I have received several contacts from gay and other-gendered people who have followed the discussion online and who are interested in why a number of persons commenting are so adamant about continuing the use of the word “hillbilly.” Their original supposition was that a local Asheville-area “billy foundation” or “hill billy clubs” (Hill Billy Clubs) were being formed to compete with the existing Billy Foundation and the growing number of Billy Clubs that are part of the original Billy Foundation in California.

    After I assured them that I knew nothing of their organization and that my commentary was certainly not intended to be representative of or contrary to or competitive with their mission, they began researching the matter and now say they are no longer concerned that their organizational charter is being infringed upon—but that they are concerned that continued use of the historical negative stereotypes for Appalachian “hillbillies” will be detrimental to “the growth and well-being” of their Billy Foundation in the future. Therefore, they say, they are supportive of all efforts to “excise the negative Appalachian ‘hillbilly’ word from the English language” so that the “supporters of the ‘hillbilly’ word with its history of negative connotations will not detract from the mission of the Billy Foundation and cast it in a bad light.”

    As information for MX and to any of you who have participated in this discussion, here is information that one of the aforementioned persons sent me, asking me to pass it on to the MX readership:

    /// The Billy Foundation is a non-profit organization in California with 501(c)3 status, guided by a Board of Directors that meets monthly to steer the growth of the organization. Through this Foundation, we produce six large gatherings each year and administer the Billy Emergency Support Fund for members. The foundation and associated clubs seek to foster the following: compassion, generosity, honesty, and respect for ourselves and for others; responsibility for ourselves, to each other, and to our community, including those in need; personal expression and growth; fun, frolic, and fabulousness; celebration of our sexual and spiritual natures; an environment conducive to our physical, emotional, and sexual health, safety, and well- being; welcoming and active integration of new Billys as well as openness to friends and family who share our values; diversity that embraces differences including race and ethnicity, class, age, body type, HIV status, physical ability, education, and financial circumstances. We welcome gay- identified transmen. the building of bridges to other communities that support our mission and share our values; authenticity; reverence for nature; and commitment to resolving conflict through active engagement. We encourage ourselves to be present and mindful by advocating an environment free of drugs and alcohol at our gatherings. We envision the creation of a world based on principles of nonviolence, sustainability, cooperation, service, and the building of deeper wisdom through shared perspective. Heart Circle is our central ritual and consensus is our process; they embody our values. If anyone wants to form a legitimate club as part of the Billy Foundation, we invite you to contact us online at http://www.billyclub.org/ ///

    My personal feeling about this information and turn of events is simply, “Now ain’t life always a surprise.” (BCW)

  91. John

    I’d like to see if Molton has the stones to make equally intense stereotypical cartoons about other groups. Let’s see him go after the hispanic, gay, black, women, arab, native american, etc groups. I bet he doesn’t have the guts.

  92. Just Me

    That is actually a little sad. I would hope the Billy Foundation folks would be opposed to negative Appalachian stereotyping because they are advocating for tolerance of diversity themselves. It just sounds like their worried about their marketing image…pfft.

  93. Betty Cloer Wallace

    Just Me wrote: “That is actually a little sad. I would hope the Billy Foundation folks would be opposed to negative Appalachian stereotyping because they are advocating for tolerance of diversity themselves. It just sounds like their (sic) worried about their marketing image…pfft.”

    One of the California Billy Club members who said they were concerned about “the hate-filled hillbilly-stereotype supporters” on this thread referred to “a young man named Matthew Shepard, a student at the University of Wyoming who was targeted, tortured, and murdered in Wyoming in 1998 because he was gay, according to witnesses, which brought international attention to the issue of hate-crime legislation in the United States.”

    Just Me’s analysis does not sound much like the Billy Foundation folk’s statement.

  94. Betty Cloer Wallace

    John wrote: “I’d like to see if Molton has the stones to make equally intense stereotypical cartoons about other groups. Let’s see him go after the hispanic, gay, black, women, arab, native american, etc groups.”

    John, Molton’s cartoon was a slap in the face of local people on the same order of the professor saying right to Charles Frazier’s face at a dinner party, “Imagine that, a hillbilly with a PhD!”

    Neither Molton nor the professor would ever blatantly deliver a slap in the face like that to any of those other groups. Only “hillbillies” get that special treatment, since we’re expected to be so dumb as not to even know we’re being demeaned.

    We have all kinds of ways in which people are segregated into their separate little cubicles–sometimes consciously, sometime not. Sometimes it’s obvious, e.g. what kind of uniform one is expected to wear for certain jobs. But other kinds of segregation are far more subtle and insidious: invisible uniforms of sexism, ageism, racism, gender-ism, place-ism, accent-ism, dialect-ism.

    Susan Boyle unexpectedly breaking out of her expected cubicle (middle aged, dowdy) was a joy to see; and even the judges had the good grace to apologize to her for their preconceived low expectations.

  95. Just Me

    ” One of the California Billy Club members who said they were concerned about “the hate-filled hillbilly-stereotype supporters” on this thread referred to “a young man named Matthew Shepard, a student at the University of Wyoming who was targeted, tortured, and murdered in Wyoming in 1998 because he was gay, according to witnesses, which brought international attention to the issue of hate-crime legislation in the United States.”

    Which is exactly why I find it a little sad that their official statement just sounds so ‘markety’.

    But no biggie or anything. I still support GLBT rights (of course!) and all. Just my observation.
    I work for a non-profit and I know we all have to raise money in a tough market these days…

  96. Betty Cloer Wallace

    Just Me…. I agree with you about the sound of marketing.

    What seems even more sad to me, though, is that the stereotype of violent depraved “hillbillies” has such deep connotations and far-reaching tentacles, so far-reaching that parts of our discussion here would remind somebody of a Wyoming hate-crime that happened a decade ago.

    I’m not surprised by much of anything anymore, but I am amazed that the Deliverance movie myth continues to haunt us on so many levels–37 years later.

  97. Just Me

    I do agree too, the world could use a lot more compassion all the way around and a lot less pre-judgement on appearence, accent, etc. Thank you for providing a thought-provoking commentary and follow-up info & facts.

    I don’t quite fit in entirely anywhere. I have lived here for most of my life and by family am a local. But my mom & her side of the family are from DC… so well, people who need labels are often unsatisfied with me, or they just decide for me one way or another. So being neither and somewhere in between, I was really not aware of how pervasive it was and how much of impact it has (the “hillbilly” issue).

    Me, I just tend to think of myself as an accountant .

  98. Betty Cloer Wallace

    Just Me:

    I remember distinctly about 1950 when I heard my family discussing the book and film, TOBACCO ROAD, with abject sadness that our way of life was being so misrepresented. That was my first inkling that the rest of the country did not see us as we saw ourselves.

    I lived in a safe, rural, wonder-filled world, though, and I could not imagine that it all might change. But in 1962 I graduated from high school and left WNC to go to college in California. Imagine that? California in the 60s? My first time out of WNC? And at a time when protests were being developed into a fine art? I was like a big-eyed girl at a circus, and I loved it.

    I studied English and Art and worked two jobs–at a Sambo’s Pancake House in Eureka (before that stereotyped business was quashed by public pressure and legal action) and at the Sugar n’ Spice Bakery in the McKinleyville Shopping Center.

    I grew really tired, though, of having people call me “hillbilly” and asking, “WHERE are you FROM?” every time I opened my mouth. I became more and more withdrawn and talked only when absolutely necessary, but I silently refused to change the way I talked. Mr. Pettersen, the owner of the bakery, regularly encouraged me to be more outgoing. “Just open up,” he’d say, “let us see the real you.”

    One day he came into the bakery and said, “Betty, there’s a girl out there in the gazebo (in the center of the U-shaped shopping center) singing her heart out, and she’ll be somebody big some day, just you wait and see.” Then he went on, “She talks just like you. Go out there and see her. She needs an audience.” He said her name was Loretta Lynn. I asked, “Loretta Lynn what?” “Just Loretta Lynn, her stage name.”

    So I went out to see her and stood there with about a dozen people, and she did talk like me, a language I had not heard for a long time–and she sang songs I knew–and before long I found myself in tears because I was so homesick.

    I still remembered that day years later after Loretta had become a star in glittery gowns with crowds of thousands–a long way from her white cowgirl outfit in the McKinleyville shopping center.

    I also never forgot Mr. Pettersen encouraging me to talk and open up. “Remember Loretta?” he’d say for months after that, which was his way of saying I should feel good about myself and where I came from. “What do they know,” he’d say about the customers who looked down their noses at me. “They’ve never been out of California.”

  99. Buzzardbilly

    Betty,

    Whew! Did your response to me ever send me off on a serious spell of thinking (like Sargeant York off to the mountainside to ponder the imponderables). I answered at my blog, more or less. It’s not so much an answer as a serious of questions, so it’s there for any thoughts you’d care to throw at it. I’m going to link this page onto that blog as well because without this or you, I would be less puzzled than I was before. Puzzled is a good thing. It leads to more learning. Thanks, BB

  100. Just Me

    Heh ~ I was listening to an eclectic radio station this morning. Coal Miner’s Daughter came on. Serendipity.

  101. Buzzardbilly

    Betty, I forgot to say thank you for challenging me to think more deeply on this subject. Can’t say I’ve come to an answer, for (as you pointed out), the examples of any widespread change with any of those other horridly epithetic words aren’t there to be found yet. I really would welcome any input you had. I would’ve put the whole thing here, but between room, links, and YouTube clips it morphed way beyond a comment that would fit (or that I could figure out how to fit all of the pieces into).

    Just Me, Who isn’t lifted by the lilt of Loretta? I love that woman.

  102. dhalgren999

    Betty, you may not be a hillbilly, but theres aplenty of them up in them thar mountains…

  103. Betty Cloer Wallace

    Hi, Buzzardbilly,??

    More later, but here’s my initial thought about reclaiming words, as per the preceding posts (on Buzzardbilly’s Blog and above). ??

    Regarding your “Vagina Monologues” discussion, the word “vagina” has never been shameful in my thinking because it has a long medical history. “Cunt” does not; it has long been a demeaning slur for women (usually by men) — for their whole person and being, not just some part of their anatomy. ??But, assuming that it is possible to rehabilitate the word “cunt,” could the “Vagina Monologues” be renamed the “Cunt Monologues”? Should I tell my OB-GYN next time that I have a yeast infection in my cunt? Should I tell my granddaughters to call that part of their anatomy a cunt? ??

    It’s the origin of a word that gives it the most lasting meaning, whether positive or negative. Did the word arise within the group using it, or was it a perjorative word given to them by people outside the group for the clear purpose of demeaning them? ??Therein lies the crux of whether or not it is possible to rehabilitate a word.??

    When people now use “hillbilly” as the gold standard for insult even in Alaska (Wasilla hillbillies) and Missouri and elsewhere, even internationally, it can never be rehabilitated, any more than certain hand gestures recognized internationally can be rehabilitated.

    ??And “reclaimed” is not the right word either, because “hillbilly” was never acceptable from the beginning of its use, never a positive word. It has been negative since its beginning when it was intended to be a slur to ridicule people of the Southern Appalachians.??

    Every culture has its own internalized “taboo” words for assorted reasons, usually religious or mystical reasons (body parts and bodily functions are common targets), but cultural slurs designed and delivered by persons outside the group for the express purpose of being demeaning and insulting and to put other people down into a lower social or economic position within the culture is an altogether different thing.??

    Let’s keep thinking on this. Joining forces is a good thing. Look how far other racial and ethnic and cultural groups have come just in the last few decades by joining forces and working together.

  104. Betty Cloer Wallace

    Hi, Buzzardbilly,??

    More later, but here’s my initial thought about reclaiming words, as per the preceding posts (on Buzzardbilly’s Blog and above). ??

    Regarding your “Vagina Monologues” discussion, the word “vagina” has never been shameful in my thinking because it has a long medical history. “Cunt” does not; it has long been a demeaning slur for women (usually by men) — for their whole person and being, not just some part of their anatomy.

    ??But, assuming that it is possible to rehabilitate the word “cunt,” could the “Vagina Monologues” be renamed the “Cunt Monologues”? Should I tell my OB-GYN next time that I have a yeast infection in my cunt? Should I tell my granddaughters to call that part of their anatomy a cunt? ??

    It’s the origin of a word that gives it the most lasting meaning, whether positive or negative. Did the word arise within the group using it, or was it a perjorative word given to them by people outside the group for the clear purpose of demeaning them? ??

    Therein lies the crux of whether or not it is possible to rehabilitate a word.??

    When people now use “hillbilly” as the gold standard for insult even in Alaska (Wasilla hillbillies) and Missouri and elsewhere, even internationally, it can never be rehabilitated, any more than certain hand gestures recognized internationally can be rehabilitated. ??

    And “reclaimed” is not the right word either, because “hillbilly” was never acceptable from the beginning of its use, never a positive word. It has been negative since its beginning when it was intended to be a slur to ridicule people of the Southern Appalachians.??

    Every culture has its own internalized “taboo” words for assorted reasons, usually religious or mystical reasons (body parts and bodily functions are common targets), but cultural slurs designed and delivered by persons outside the group for the express purpose of being demeaning and insulting and to put other people down into a lower social or economic position within the culture is an altogether different thing.??

    Let’s keep thinking on this. Joining forces is a good thing. Look how far other racial and ethnic and cultural groups have come just in the last few decades by joining forces and working together.

  105. Betty Cloer Wallace

    Buzzardbilly, you wrote: “I don’t believe ideas change globally. Change comes from within. One idea at a time, one mind at a time, until someone (generally in entertainment) comes up with something that catches the public fancy enough to change many minds at one time, but even then the change happens within the individual mind.”

    I just thought of an example of this. Country music used to be called hillbilly music. Hank Williams Sr. was offended by that and worked hard to change it during his lifetime, quite successfully as it turns out, although he had to have the help of the entire industry.

  106. ButtercupMcToots

    Good article. I was hiking with a group yesterday in Pisgah Forest. One guy from New York was hiking behind me, his wife teaches school here in WNC. He went on at length about the Applachian dialect. He said you couldn’t teach the long i here because it doesn’t exist. There are so many people who have moved here that openly distain Appalachians. I have been at events that people have told me jokes about inbreeding, etc. There’s a community here in Brevard that did a play sterotyping “hillbillies” with the incest jokes. There were over 50 people involved and no one thought this might be tasteless???

  107. Betty Cloer Wallace

    Buttercup McToots,

    That is so sad, and the amazing thing is that so many people do it so openly, so blatantly, without a thought that they are being tasteless, rude, and elitist, which tells you a lot more about them than about the people they are demeaning.

  108. Betty Cloer Wallace

    Susannah G wrote: ” The most useful response to insult is to ignore it (Pigdemic cartoon), rise above it, and move on- think how many more people have seen this cartoon now that there has been an outcry- if there had been no controversy it would have been forgotten in a day. How many more people have heard the phrase “nappy headed ho” because of controversy in the media, versus the number of people who would actually have listened to Don Imus’ radio program in the first place?”

    Remember, Susannah, that Imus was fired for making that “nappy headed ho” comment, and he will certainly not be so blatantly racist in such a manner again. It will happen again, of course, but his firing did dampen the racism coming out of many mouths. Same thing with Kramer’s racist language in the LA comedy club. Same thing with the closing of the old Sambo’s Pancake Houses.

    Southern Appalachian people have tried to overlook blatant cultural stereotypes for over a century to no avail. Trying to ignore the insult and taking a “step-n-fetchit” response has reinforced it and perpetuated it in the minds of so many people that they think it is all right to continue the insult.

    Simply ignoring it and allowing it to continue in such a blatant manner is an awful legacy of submission to leave to our children and grandchildren.

  109. Betty Cloer Wallace

    Pluto wrote: “As for the legacy being left to your children and grandchildren–I think they will be more concerned with clean air and water (getting more scarce e’rry day) than they will about some words…..now, go fight Mountaintop Removal if your worried about your grandchildren’s legacy.”

    Pluto, you are absolutely correct. Rape of our environment is the main concern of most local people precisely because we are worried about clean air and water, a healthy environment, and a healthy economy for our grandchildren.

    We live in a beautiful place filled with natural resources, but when those resources are exploited, the money goes outside the region and leaves us with less and less of everything.

    No one truly believes the local people in West Virginia and Kentucky are removing their own mountaintops or benefitting in any way from that travesty, and ironically the jobs that went with the old mining methods are even gone now as the mountaintops disappear (sometimes even whole mountains).

    The same thing, but in a less obvious manner, is happening in our own immediate area with paved roads snaking up every peak to luxurious second homes, golf courses and cookie-cutter shopping centers and airports sprouting everywhere, redesign of our communities that changes the patterns of human interaction, and pollution of our water tables and rivers.

    So why is this happening to us?

    For the past 125 years, especially during periods of economic depression, zealous missionaries and opportunistic writers and rapacious industrialists have flocked to our mountains, considering us easy targets as they misrepresent our culture, destroy our environment, and mine our geological resources, all the while defining us as they want to see us, as ignorant and needy—which, of course, justifies their exploitation.

    So, how can we stop it? You tell me.

    When outsiders do not consider our opinions worthwhile (because how could an ignorant hillbilly possibly have something to say), it’s awfully hard to do anything to stop those faceless outside interests with money from sending in those bulldozers.

  110. welcome2theworld

    I hate to break the news to you but if the proud people of the Appalachian mountains need to pull themselves up. Don’t become teen parents, do drugs, quit school, marry their cousins, save money by engineering some camper or boat or shed made of cheap junk and call youself creative, sit on the porch of your run down house and admire your new truck (the only nice thing you have)….. These aren’t just sterotypes by what many people actually do. Sound smart and be smart, especially through your actions.

  111. Just Me

    Speaking of the world, that list of things has little to do with Appalachia in particular. People of all demographics, countries, regions, eras, etc. are to be found who do those things. Marrying cousins ~ (not that I would) but isn’t that something European aristocracy was big into?

    And I suppose if someone used hipper, greener, phrasology, the “engineering some camper or boat or shed made of cheap junk and call youself creative” would be considered praiseworthy. I certainly don’t see anything wrong with it, as long as the result is safe. Reduce, reuse, recycle, right?

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