Kentuckians should work to overcome stereotypes perpetuated by the media

Unless you actually live in the Bluegrass State, chances are you are quick to assume that all Kentuckians are toothless and without shoes.

At least that’s what my experience tells.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked where I’m from by out-of-state individuals who looked dazed and confused when they noticed that I have a full set of pearly whites and, more times than not, sport a trendy pair of shoes. Because you know, supposedly, Kentuckians — synonymous with “hillbillies” — don’t wear shoes.

This summer, I had the opportunity to intern at one of the popular radio stations in Washington, D.C. My radio name was “Kentuck.”

Normally I’d be completely fine with being called that, because I take pride in my home state. But on more than one occasion, jokes were cracked on-air about hillbillies, overalls and all that comes to mind with backward mountain people.

I tried not to take too much offense at it, since it made for “good ratings” for the night show. However, the state I live in shouldn’t be the subject of ridicule for the sake of entertainment.

It’s true Kentucky is different than the remaining 49 states, but each state is different.

I don’t associate the state of Idaho with a bunch of potatoes or New Jersey with a bunch of nasal, rude people. Similarly, I would expect that individuals don’t associate me with illiteracy and a pitiful amount of teeth.

The people aren’t to blame. My boss and his colleagues weren’t doing it out of meanness; they just believed what they have seen in the movies.

Once again, I’m going to point fingers at the media. Someone has to be to blame, right? Why not the media — again?

The media is the cause for the presumptuous stereotypes it creates within the minds of society.

I recently watched the movie “Clueless.” It’s a humorous and entertaining film, but toward the end of it, one of the characters, when revealing her crush on her new stepbrother and debating whether or not to date him, says, “As if! This is California, not Kentucky!”

Fine. I get it. There have been a few cases on dating within the family, but these things happen everywhere, not just in Kentucky.

I take pride in where I’m from.

I’ve been to almost every state in America, and Kentucky has, by far, one of the most beautiful landscapes. The friendliness and hospitality of Kentuckians are one of a kind, and these characteristics are what should come to mind when society thinks of the Bluegrass State — not a state of shoeless, toothless, redneck hillbillies.

Maybe it’s the accent that has caused individuals to think that Kentuckians are slow and uneducated.

I guess some people assume speaking slower is an evidence for a “slower” mind. That assumption is about as asinine as the assumption that all inhabitants of Kentucky are illiterate.

If anything, the accent should be charming and endearing. It should be a relief that there are still people who live a slower pace of life and that they aren’t caught up in all the fast-paced, hectic lifestyle of the majority of America.

I tried my best to change the stereotype of the uneducated, toothless and unshoed Kentuckian during my time at the radio station this summer, but my efforts alone won’t eliminate this problem.

With a little more help, we can eradicate this negative stereotype by continuing to display that, despite the accent, Kentuckians are just as educated, civilized and competent as individuals from any other state.

Ashley Brake is a broadcast journalism senior. E-mail [email protected]