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Appalachian-heritage discrimination laws

I am writing to comment about your remark (Reason, Nov. 1997) "Already, Cincinnati is reported to have enacted a municipal ordinance declaring 'Appalachian heritage' to be a legally protected category in hiring and firing. When heading for the job interview, pack your dulcimer."

Although I respect your credentials & you are apparently well-known, you are dead wrong about this particular issue. Yes, indeed discrimination DOES occur as the result of Appalachian heritage & dialect. By dialect alone, the person of Appalachian heritage is distinguished as soon as he/she opens their mouth......and judgments are made that Appalachians are ignorant, poor, inbred & barefoot. The media (& filmmakers) has propagated this misconception. I should know, I am Appalachian-born, the daughter of a coal miner, and very proud of my heritage. I am a registered nurse, have a college degree (as do both my children) and have traveled the U.S. I find this discrimination in "pockets" across the U.S. I view it as evidence of ignorance, regardless of the high-brow circles from which it occurs, and am glad I don't live & work in these areas.

No, I don't "pack my dulcimer" (as you suggest) when I head to an interview, but I enjoy this traditional Appalachian instrument & hope to learn to play it myself someday--it is a delightful instrument. I also enjoy classical musical instruments & opera--because my interests and talents are much larger than the region of my heritage. Perhaps unintentionally, this remark evidences that you also have pre-conceived notions about Appalachia. Contrary to beliefs about the lifestyles in this region, we don't all sit on the porch in the evening, chewing tobacco & strumming a Dulcimer. So I challenge you--before you write another book or appear on another TV show -- to lose the suit & tie & actually come to the Appalachian regions of this country for a visit. If you come with a truly open mind & take an inside look, you will take away a new respect for this heritage.

In your zeal to propose that the discrimination issues have been carried too far, remember that you will never walk in the same shoes & therefore cannot possibly know the real discrimination that still occurs.

-- Pam Baker, Lexington, Ky.


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