Sunday, August 23, 2015

Appalachians as a minority group

Going through some old stuff I found an old, yellowed article from The Register Herald, a Beckley, West Virginia newspaper from July 5, 1999 titled "Cincinnati designates Appalachians as a minority group."

It seems the Cincinnati Opera has a survey in the program to La Boheme, which included a place to mark your ethnicity. The options were: African American, Native American/Alaska native, Asian American, Latino-Hispanic, White and Appalachian.

(By the way, the second a in the word is a short 'a' for those who live there. It's "Appalatchian" to a native. John Kennedy, running for President came to West Virginia and pronounced it "AppalAchian" which confused even us who lived there and made people pronounce it that way....If JFK said it, it must be true!)

Well, we'd always suspected people saw us as a minority group and that proved it.

Appalachians, when the coal mines were on strike, would go to Cincinnati or Detroit or Toledo for work. Bern's father went to Detroit a time or two, if I remember correctly.

And a joke we told (don't you DARE tell it! since we're a minority group, only 'we' can tell jokes about ourselves...the same as Jews and Blacks) went like this: How can you get 20 West Virginians in a Volkswagon bug? Tell them it's going to Cincinnati....

Cincinnati, according to the article, protected Appalachians from discrimination in employment and housing just like racial and sexual minorities.

There you go. Treat me with some respect from now on and dare not discriminate against me. I'm a minority group! Full protection of the law and all that.

There's a quote in the article from a 1994 LA Times article about Cincinnati that goes like this: "Here in Cincinnati, it is clear that those who retain traces of the hills can be made to feel different."

Well, I have traces of the hills dripping off me. Don't make me have to report you for making me feel different....

At last, civil rights for mountain folks....

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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.