The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

6 December 2006

The island of misfit Oklahomans

Sarah's still waiting for the Most Wonderful Day of the Year:

I tend to self-identify with those "elite snobs" much more than I self-identify with the term "hillbilly." I'm a blue state girl who happens to live in a red state. I should know better than anyone that not everyone who lives in flyover country is a rube. Furthermore, intolerant morons exist everywhere — not solely in the Bible Belt.

I've become really sensitive about the whole thing. I'm a little hurt when people speak disparagingly about this part of the country, and irritated when they use sweeping generalizations to describe its population. I almost cried when someone recently commented on my "twang" (which I didnít even know I had), and was embarrassed to speak for days afterward, for fear of sounding ignorant. I remember all the times I've gone out of my way to prove to some out-of-state friend or relative that I'm nothing like the Red State Stereotype existing in their minds. And then, like always, I become embarrassed that Iím embarrassed. I shouldn't care. I know that. But I do.

There's only one thing that can put a stereotype out of its misery: the counterexample. Nothing silences "They all do that" faster than someone who doesn't do that. We don't have a lot of blue-state girls? Be a blue-state girl. And be unapologetic about it. There's a strong populist streak here, and always has been. (Two words: "Woody Guthrie.") And if someone from distant Stuffy Heights says "You're from Oklahoma? I never would have guessed," you've done your part. Next time he'll think twice before spouting off like, um, an intolerant moron.

One more thing: don't worry about the "twang." We were not put on this earth to sound like network-news correspondents.

And now, back to your regularly-scheduled reindeer games.

Posted at 6:26 AM to Soonerland

Thanks for the words of wisdom.

Lest anyone get the wrong idea...I don't want to be one of those people who constantly complain about being "stuck" here, or who believes he or she is "too good" for this state. I don't feel that way. There are many things I like about Oklahoma and about living here.

I'm just ready to lose the inferiority complex.

Posted by: Sarah at 8:39 AM on 6 December 2006

Since prejudice is usually born of ignorance, it's not hard to understand how people who usually see us from 30,000 feet regularly overlook the idea that "diversity" might mean not all of us are alike, either. But while there's almost always an excuse for not having acquired knowledge yet, there's rarely one for ignorance.

It flips both ways. A friend's wife in NYC once commented that my maternally-taught manners towards ladies could help me "get lucky three or four times a week" among women in her circle who apparently didn't always encounter that kind of respectful behavior. She was exaggerating, of course (I'm no Clooney, and besides, they're mostly married). But there are aspects of our local culture that play very well among those unfamiliar with our ways.

Posted by: Brett at 9:23 AM on 6 December 2006