Mountain State stereotypes persist

Our big mistake, in a way, was splitting away from Virginia to form our own state in 1863.

Look at it this way: Had we West Virginians remained part of the Old Dominion, we wouldn’t be offended by out-of-staters who, after asking where we live, follow up with, “How far is that from Richmond?”

Plus, as part of Virginia, we probably wouldn’t be the target of of so much prejudice. When, after all, was the last time you saw a movie about dangerous, inbred, toothless, hillbilly Virginians? Yet parts of that state resemble ours both in terrain and people.

Some local folks are upset about an episode of the popular television series “Criminal Minds.” Set in West Virginia, the program, which I have not seen, apparently managed to hit just about every stereotype.

So, what else is new?

Many people seem to need to be able to look down on others if they are to feel good about themselves. It’s just one of the foibles of humankind exploited regularly by some people in politics and entertainment. But I repeat myself …

We all know, for example, the liberal explanation of why West Virginia went against Barack Obama in two presidential elections. We must be racists.

Never mind that, according to a recent report by the national Kids Count organization, African-American children in our state are slightly better off than the national average. Kids Count considered a variety of indicators of well-being, ranging from economic factors to health and education.

Black children here ranked 25th in the 50 states in well-being. White West Virginia youngsters were dead last. So, if we’re trying to discriminate against African-Americans, we’re not doing a very good job of it.

Of course there are West Virginians who fit the “Criminal Minds” stereotype. There are also Californians, New Yorkers, District of Columbia residents, Floridians who fit it.

But I wish some of the bigots eager to find new, creative ways to belittle West Virginians would ask themselves two questions:

In how many states would a substantial percentage of residents, asked to come up with a two-word description of where they live, answer “almost heaven”?

And how many people from elsewhere, actually visiting those states, would agree?

Myer can be reached at: