Dear State Representative, American Idol Staff, Producers, Contributors, Partners, Beneficiaries & Affiliates,
For the first time, I'm appalled by American Idol! I, nor my entire family, will ever watch or donate to American Idol again! You may say, "So what, who cares?" Well, maybe one viewer's opinion is not enough, but what about an entire state and many of its officials in outrage? That state is KENTUCKY. I'm sure you remember us; the poor, hopeless, uneducated, illiterate, desperate, backwoods, toothless, barefoot and pregnant, trailer trash, Appalachian Hillbillies of Eastern Kentucky?? Surely, you do because that is how Idol portrayed EVERYONE who is from this area on national TV.
For years, the typical resident of Appalachia has been portrayed as an uncivilized, moonshine-drinking, pipe-smoking, shotgun-toting, lazy, barefoot hillbilly with poor hygiene and a low IQ and you didn't help to alleviate that at all!!!
I am a proud, college educated, Appalachian American and originally from Pike/Letcher County area where Idol supposedly visited. I take great issue with your insensitive, rude and somewhat inaccurate depiction of Appalachia and Eastern Kentucky! Your opinion of us is somewhat distorted and is as completely uneducated as the people seen in your imaginative segment. You should be ashamed for representing everyone in this region as being that uneducated. You should have researched the people, the culture, and the tradition to see how we, as a whole, in this region really are. It is unfortunate that people still hang onto such stereotypes and myths. We who live here are used to it, but it does not mean that such degrading remarks and accusations go down well. Is it not enough that my state has long suffered from the above stigma, without a powerful program like American Idol doing it further injustice by publicly portraying Eastern Kentucky, at every turn during the segment, as the last bastion of poverty and ignorance in America?
We are a proud people rich in history, culture, heritage and traditions whose hospitality is well known the world over. When I think of Eastern Kentucky and Appalachia these are a few of the things that pop into my head: Individualism, Self-Reliance, Patriotism, Pride, family traditions, values, morals, manners, modesty, hospitality, home cooking, generosity, with a love of place and a sense of humor all wrapped up in lavishly beautiful landscapes.
Where are you from? Are there not people in your area that are poor, homeless, living in trailers, starving, or uneducated? Are there not ghettos there? It's not what you were trying to do I take issue with, it was the manner in which you did it. I think it is wonderful that you and others want to help those Americans who need a Hand up, not a hand out. I'm very supportive of and applaud the idea of helping children and the communities in which they live. To encourage efforts to help people get on the track of a more productive, well educated, happy, healthy lifestyle is noble, but only in positive avenues, while keeping their self respect and dignity intact! This you did not do! One would think you would have extended your visit to areas beyond our famous narrow hollows and steep hills where you purposely sought out the scattering of places that most easily supported your own jaded views of Eastern Kentucky. Your cameras painted a picture portraying us as a community full of retarded education, dilapidated housing, junk filled trailers with cars up on blocks in the front yard, obsolete sanitation and our resounding ability to litter America with our children.
What you failed to see, mention or portray is that there is poverty and uneducated people all over our great country and in places far less fortunate than those in Eastern Kentucky. Yes, we have poor, uneducated people here, like you showed, however the vast majority of Appalachians are far from the life you painted as truth. Which brings us to the root of the problem and that is that exposure from shows like yours does not help the people you depict. Instead, it only extends the preexisting distortions that have plagued us in popular culture and have evoked highly negative images of us as lazy, poor, and intellectually challenged individuals. I'm sure you're not aware that Pike Co., KY once had more Millionaires per capita than any other County in the United States.
When you showed New Orleans you portrayed their problems as being caused by environmental disaster and similarly with the LA segment. You were careful to mention positive attributes about each. You mentioned: how nice, intelligent, hospitable etc. they all were, but not so in Eastern Kentucky. You even portrayed the African people as a more nice, social & hospitable people than us. Not one positive thing was said about Eastern Kentucky, NOT ONE! Not to mention, the people of Appalachia were obviously not worthy enough to be shown with Randy, Paula or Simon. Are we not clean enough for your precious famous hands to touch us, give us a pat on the back, to shake hands with, or to hug one of our children?
I am proud to be from Eastern Kentucky, part of America the greatest nation of all, and agree that we should tend to our children living in poverty, and our elderly should not have to choose if they are to eat this month or buy medicine. But in order to achieve this do we, as Appalachian Americans, have to sell out our culture, heritage, traditions, and way of life only to be forced to feel ashamed of who, what, where and how we came to be? Without our rich mountain culture, our mannerisms, our way of speaking, our love of these mountains, we will cease to exist and become just another mindless lemming living in America!
As John R. Buchtel from Ohio, Founder of Buchtel College, later changed to University of Akron, wrote:
Please, don't write me off because my grammar may be different from your own. I may pronounce my e's as short i, my o's as ya's or short u's. The verb context of my sentences may be out of order, and I may have silent h's at the beginning of the words I speak such as him or here. I may say "Cumear" for come here. I may say "all" for oil or "tar" for tire, or "woish" for wash, and "er" for o such as in "mater" (tomato) and "tater" (potato). I may ask you for a mango meaning a green bell pepper instead of meaning a tropical Mango south of the equator fruit.
You may misinterpret my meanings of my sentences because of the way I word them. For a very simple example, the phrase "Please wash the tar off." Tar could mean three different things, tar as in blacktop, tar as in tire, or tar as in tower. This is not a lack of intelligence, and it is not a speech impediment! It is just a language, a language all its own. Does it cause some misinterpretations? It can. This is a language that is continuing to evolve for the generations still living in these areas. Education is helping, but instead of being demeaned, students should be made aware of this language, the history of this language, and made to feel proud of it.
When you have been born in a region of great beauty, mountain magic, in the heart land of America, it blends with your very soul and it's for this reason, most of us cannot leave our roots and transplant ourselves. We are one with our land, our rivers, our streams, our mountains, and as we gaze out at the majestic beauty before us, it's as the song says, "We reach out and touch the hand of God"."
Alta F. Ratliff
Kentuckians depicted negatively again ...
I want to express my disdain for FOX and American Idol for allowing the despicable display of Kentucky in last week's episode. My name is Nathan Haney. I am from Paintsville, just north of the small area where Idol sent a camera crew to exploit a negative Appalachian and Kentucky stereotype in the name of "helping."
Not only was the scene disgustingly and overtly negative, but it didn't even go with the theme of the Idol event — which was clearly to help provide food for children in need. Each of the Idol hosts went somewhere in America to help hand out food to the needy, which is honorable and obviously needed in all parts of America, then somehow, out of the blue, comes a scene about reading, showing a mother who was illiterate with few if any teeth, an abandoned school bus in a front yard, coal extraction, and mentioned that a library for these kids was understocked.
This display makes me sick. I am very disturbed that this organization preyed on stereotypes to somehow promote its message. If you want to help people in Eastern Kentucky, I am for it, but the best thing you could do is try to knock down the media-created barrier that the people in Appalachia are a bunch of toothless, shoeless, pregnant, smoking, coal-mining, illiterates.
It was a clear exploitation of good and decent people.
I am a 23-year-old law school student at the University of Louisville. I am a proud Eastern Kentuckian, and I know a great deal of people from Appalachia who are much smarter than any of your American Idol hosts, that is for sure. If you ever decide to send a crew back to Kentucky, please give me a call, let me prance you around and show you all the great things Eastern Kentucky and Appalachia are doing for you.