If you conduct a Google search to address the question of “what is an Appalachian person,” you will receive an answer that reads “The people of Appalachia are often portrayed as lazy, tobacco smoking, overall-wearing farmers.”
As a native Appalachian, I find this statement to be extremely distasteful and disheartening. It is also very upsetting this stereotype about the Appalachian community is the most popular.
That is not who I am. That is not who my people are.
But if the stereotypes aren’t true, then what makes an Appalachian person? When asked this question, I am a little taken aback. I have never had to experience life any other way. I’ve only grown up in one place; right here in the very heart of Appalachia.
I can understand how some people have a negative connotation to Appalachia and its people. Those people have never stepped foot in our homes and seen the framed pictures of lost loved ones whose lives were taken too soon because of a freak coal mining accident. They have never laid eyes on our beautiful rolling hills that stretch for hundreds of miles. They have only seen negative titles attached to long essays about how Appalachians are poor and backward.
They have only seen the scenes in Hollywood film where my people are portrayed as illiterate with poor hygiene. They’ve not seen Appalachia through the eyes of those who reside here.
Being from here does not mean that you are poor, backward or frozen in time. Even though sometimes I have a love/hate relationship for this place, I would not have wanted to grow up anywhere else. I have learned so much from the people I am surrounded by.
The stereotype that confuses me the most is that our people are lazy. We have no room to be lazy. All my life I have watched this region and my loved ones struggle and fight to make a living. Seeing that happen has a way of making me want to be successful even more. Being from Appalachia comes with a feeling of always having to prove yourself. I feel like I always have to prove my intelligence solely because of the way I talk and because of where I’m from. I shouldn’t need to prove my intelligence just because of my accent.
The use of the people of the Appalachian region as something to make fun of on television and in the media should stop. “The Beverly Hillbillies,” “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” and “Duck Dynasty” are not accurate representations of my home. We are not as far behind as the articles and the news clips about the Appalachian region makes us seem. I take a bath regularly, and I have shoes, use correct grammar, use technology and have intelligence.
I’m more than a stereotype, and I will not change according to fit the expectations many have of what I should be. Being from Appalachia has made me stronger. I truly believe the people here are just simply built differently. I am one of those people. I will never use my home as a crutch.
Appalachia is my home and I am proud to be from here.
(Editor’s note: Brandy Adams is a student in Tami Brock’s English 102 class at Harlan County High School and wrote this essay on growing up in Appalachia as part of a class project)