West Virginia, we need to talk. Again, you’ve become the victim of some really bad press because one of your residents decided she couldn’t handle basic human decency. Her horrific comment, which she blasted to the entire Internet, has made you look bad, and in turn, the rest of us as well.
Seeing the news, I remember thinking, “not West Virginia! Please, any state other than mine. Why is this why we make national news?” Then I started scrolling through the comments on a news outlet’s Facebook post. This is bad idea; everyone knows that you never read the comment section.
“Are these people uneducated or WTF? Who makes racists comments on any level, any time? Ignorant, uneducated morons. This is so sad that the future kids have to witness this.”
“It’s West Virginia……. That says enough…”
“I wouldn’t expect anything less from those racist hillbillies.”
“It scares me that they are reproducing.”
She reduced a woman with two Ivy League degrees to nothing more than the color of her skin – how devastatingly insulting. I have never been so disheartened to know that I am being lumped in with a person who made such a hateful, race driven comment and to know that my friends, family and beautiful state were also bearing the brunt of her imbecilic actions.
In her short Facebook post, she comprehensively unraveled all the work that I’ve put in to make people see West Virginia differently. I took it personally. I’ve worked hard to represent the best of my state, to encourage young minds to stay in the state, and to show that West Virginians are truly wonderful, caring people.
She vindicated every person who has said things like, “You don’t sound like a West Virginian,” “Did you marry your cousin?” or jokingly jabs, “but you have all your teeth!” I’ve spent my time defending this beautiful state, making sure that I pronounce my –ing words in their entirety, and educating others on our history to have my work (and the work of those before me) undone in a matter of a few key strokes.
So, here’s the thing: regardless of who won the election, your political opinions do not give you the right to be a bully behind a keyboard or in real life. There is a difference between being anti-political correctness and just being an awful person. For some reason, that line seems harder and harder to walk for some.
Allow me to offer this gentle reminder as our country faces great change:
It is okay to have different values and political beliefs – and to be firmly rooted in them, but it is never okay to be hateful, racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, homophobic or bigoted.
Unfortunately, all of these words have an association with Appalachia.
Let’s change that. Let’s be the generation that says, “This is not our Appalachia.” Let’s show the nation that we are kind, we are educated, and we are willing to learn from our mistakes to become stronger as a state.