Apr

18

TC Prof is Imus of Appalachia

Written by

Peter Gordon probably isn’t travelling to West Virginia any time soon. While being interviewed about his research on the Piraha, a tribe in the Amazon, for The New Yorker, the Teachers College Speech and Pathology prof made an unfortunate reference to one of America’s most persistent regional stereotypes. “If there is some kind of Appalachian inbreeding or retardation going on,” he said, defending the tribe from such charges, “you’d see it in hairlines, facial features, motor ability. It bleeds all over. They [the Piraha] don’t show any of that.”

Now, Gordon is under fire, and Columbia has been targeted as well. “The quote splattered against academic computer screens in Appalachia this week like a large cud of chewing tobacco,” wrote the Lexington Herald-Leader (we’re not quite sure if they were trying to be ironic or not). A professor at Daemen College had this to say to Gordon: “Shame on you and on the institution you represent for perpetuating such ugly and untrue stereotypes”. Ohio University prof Jack Wright compared the gaffe to “cultural strip-mining”.

For his part, Gordon has apologized, and called the experience “humbling”. After receiving complaints, Provost Brinkley said that he disagreed with Gordon’s sentiments, but that the prof would not be censored.

-CJS 

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38 Comments

  1. ohioan  

    the "cultural strip mining" line was genius. go bobcats!

  2. sheesh  

    what a jerk. people here in general are especially rude about people from both appalachia and the south. it's sad.

    and i'm pretty sure the Herald-Leader writers are intelligent enough that you can be sure they're being sarcastic.

  3. too bad  

    the article was really interesting

  4. Dr. Hibbert

    And hillbillies prefer to be called "sons of the soil," but it ain't gonna happen.

  5. :( :(  

    Racism is racism, regardless of who is being targeted. Shame on Peter Gordon.

    • right  

      racism is racism... when a *race* is being targeted.

      • learn your latin  

        and then get back to us about what is or isn't racism

        • okay  

          yeah, I'll get right on that. Because if that comment was made in Ancient Rome, it would be relevant what the latin roots of the word "race" are. On the other hand, if it was made in, say, present day America, you might find that the word "race" refers to a group of people who share genetically transmitted physical traits and not a group of people who happen to live near each other.

          • well then  

            can you explain why, if "the word "race" refers to a group of people who share genetically transmitted physical traits" it doesn't apply to slurs about inbreeding?

          • Well  

            If the inbreeding is so prevalent as to ensure that most people in a region share those genetically transmitted traits, then wasn't the professor right in the first place?

            I'm willing to concede that the professors remarks betray an attitude of regionalist snobbery, but it's a contradiction to label them racist. To do so, you have to lump Appalachians together as a 'race,' and in so doing, you prove the professor's erroneous point.

          • no no no  

            you're assuming that the comments are racist against an "appalachian race" which is different than racism on the smaller scale that is directed against families in appalachia.

        • learn latin?  

          from what I can tell the word "race" is derived from the Italian "razza".

          http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/race

          http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/race

          Or were you referring to the fact that Latin classes are typically a bastion for lively conversation about racial semantics?

  6. lalalalala

    Too bad there's only one professor involved. If there were two, they could make like the activistos and complain that one slap on the wrist was worse than the other.

  7. almost Heaven, WV

    well, if not, you've at least have to go through West Virginia to get to Kentucky. and there's always John Denver.

    Country roads
    take me home
    to the place,
    I belong:
    West Virginia,
    mountain mama,
    take me home
    country roads.

    besides, Appalachia, as the map indicates, extends well beyond West Virginia. oh, and as the Herald-Leader is in Lexington, not even in the Appalachia you so degrade, I'm pretty sure they were being ironic with the tobacco bit. Lexington is the tenth most educated city in the US with a population over 250,000, you smug bastards.

  8. People here  

    also are really ignorant of the midwest and stereotype the midwest quite badly. First of all, now what the midwest is: Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Missouri, and PERHAPS eastern North and South Dakota, but certainly not the Badlands and such. An argument can be made that Missouri becomes the south, but St. Louis is definitely midwest. Nebraska and Kansas are not the midwest. Those are plains states. Kentucky and Tennessee are too hilly and southern to be midwest. One CU student even claimed that Colorado was part of the midwest. Such ignorance. Also, the midwest has the greatest city in the world: Chicago.

    • Chicago?  

      Then get the hell out of NYC, tourist.

    • hmm  

      i would agree that Kentucky is geographically southern, but in other ways it's more midwestern than southern, especially certain parts.

      • no no  

        kentucky is the SOUTH. as an ohioan, i'd say that even cincinnati-- right across the river from KY-- is southern in a lot of ways. KY has none of the industrial belt culture that characterizes a lot of the midwest. it's not the midwest.

        • wrongo  

          Where I am from, the mason dixie line is Interstate 10 (which starts in Jacksonville, FL, goes through Baton Rouge, LA, Houston TX, and extends to Los Angeles, CA).
          There was no midwest. If you lived north of I-10, you were a yankee. End of story (c'est tout as my grandparents would say definitively). That includes most of Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana.

          • that is

            the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. sounds like a cute thing to tell a small child from Baton Rouge or Lafayette though. especially if you don't think he'll ever head north of that line.

          • don't hate  

            It was obviously all tongue in cheek. Although, every 4-8 years or so there is a bill proposed in the LA state leg to separate the state around Alexandria to preserve our Cajun heritage from being tainted by North Louisiana. It is always a good debate.

      • Terry Shelton

        There is nothing midwestern about Kentucky. It is southern period. Our tradition are southern to the core.

        By the way Gordon should be fired and sponsors should pull their ads from The New Yorker.

  9. Ohioan  

    Is it still inbreeding if I do the cat between my mom and sister? I sures hopes it ain't!

  10. What an Idiot  

    I'm from Virginia, and I think I speak for our Western brethren when I say that his comments are completely retarded and inbred themselves.

    Pardon my French sir, but you're an asshole!

  11. Anonymous  

    I AM from West Virginia and despite my love for NYC and Columbia, nothing will ever replace my love for my home state. We are not inbred nor retarded, and I find it humorous that this professor revealed his own ignorance in an attempt to be witty. Appalachian culture is something to be celebrated, not poked fun at. Anyone who resorts to mocking West Virginia has probably never even been there and has no business repeating stereotypes that have been outdated for more than a century. As far as I am concerned Peter Gordon can kiss my Mountain Momma ass.

  12. don't get it  

    I don't understand what the big deal is. He didn't say anything so inflammatory as "everyone from the Appalachian region is inbred and retarded". He merely referenced a conception of Appalachia and didn't affirm or reject it. I'm not saying it was the most tactful thing to say, but to get all up in arms and completely attack this guy for some offhanded remark seems a bit extreme to me.

  13. southerner  

    FYI: "Appalachia" refers to a much broader area, not just West Virginia.

  14. quiqui  

    Blah. that's all I can say. The article was awesome and the professor lived for years with an isolated tribe in the amazon and cracked a language that no one had been able to master. He also appears to be disproving Chomsky. Give him some credit.

  15. Come on guys  

    When will white people learn that we can't be the subject of racism? IT'S IMPOSSIBLE.

  16. BillOReilly  

    What is this, the No Spin Zone? The comment is clearly a reference to redneck inbreeding -- a popular stereotype targeted specifically at whites. The second anyone white says anything that lands within a thousand miles of a stereotype regarding non-whites, everyone here collectively shits their pants. Go ahead and flame away but this is a pathetic double-standard that accomplishes NOTHING to improve the credibility of the academic left and PC nitwits in general.

  17. Steve

    Thanks for posting this.

  18. jordan

    I am also an Ohioan. I live near Steubenville, just west of the northern panhandle, West Virginia. The farthest I've actually ever been into West Virginia (stopping, visiting, etc.) is to Wheeling, and it seems that MOST of everybody I've met are very friendly, well educated, and it seems that, especially in the Ohio Valley, most are hardworking middle-class americans. Of course, it might seem that I'm a bit bias, since I live so close to WV, but I honestly think that it's a 'normal' place. If you haven't been there, and you like to travel, I'd recommend it. Like I said, I haven't really been (except for just driving through) any farther than Wheeling, but places like Pocahontas County and Pendleton County look like they would be beautiful places to visit. I'll admit, in Steubenville, things are a bit depressed and declined ever since the mills went down hill in the 60's, but overall, Eastern Ohio and the Northern Panhandle of WV have beautiful, quaint little towns, that are actually quite interesting. You'd have to visit yourself. So, please stop with all of this 'Appalachia' West Virginia crap, atleast until you've visited yourself.

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