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Regional Biases

Published: May 22, 2020


Dear Friends: I came across a film potentially of Quaker interest called Hillbilly. It is about the modern-day people of Appalachia and was awarded Best Documentary Feature at the 2019 Los Angeles Film Festival. 

Ashley York, co-director and star of Hillbilly, grew up in Kentucky and left to become a film maker in Los Angeles. She returned to her home and through interviews with fellow Kentuckians, she crafted this documentary. It exposes the feelings of shame engendered by mainstream cultural ridicule of the Appalachian regional accent and mountain identity.

The topic of why our country is so divided has nagged me, and so I saw this as a clue to one mechanism that may automatically marginalize – in many mindsets – anyone who does not speak like, for instance, a New York newscaster. Extending from a Brooklynite's parlance to a Southerner's drawl and beyond, the diverse speaking qualities of our country's regions can be as vulnerable to ridicule and discrimination as gender, race, and age.

I am not a sociologist, but I can guess how this came to be: the sources may be buried deep in tribalism, capitalist classism, and xenophobia. Especially suspect in Appalachia may be the crippling vestiges of our Civil War and slavery

For me, personally, this film was a call to examine my own biased responses, however subliminal, to regional accents of any kind.

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from Tyger Wright, Santa Cruz Friends Meeting (5/15/2020)