Last week, yet another argument broke out in one of the Facebook groups I'm in, specifically, “You Know You're From Buckhannon WV If...”
Because you know you're from Buckhannon, WV if a fight breaks out every time you open your mouth. Ha ha ha.
What happened was, someone made a remark about racist rednecks, and everyone else leaped up to say things like,
“Not all rednecks are racist!”
“Being a redneck has nothing to do with being a racist!”
“No, it's YOU that's racist!”
“No, I'M not a racist, you are!”
“No, YOU are!”
“No, YOU are!”
...and so on and so forth.
|I guess that's what you get when you use the R-word out in public.|
Anyway, during the course of the argument it was pointed out (by one of my aunts, no less), that the term “redneck” comes from the red bandannas worn by the newly-unionized miners in the 1921 Battle of Blair Mountain. I must have been asleep that day in history class, because I don't remember hearing about this.
|I was either asleep, or drawing mustaches on the Presidents in my textbook.|
I thought I'd go ahead and blog about it, for the following reasons:
- People, particularly people of a non-American persuasion, keep asking me what the term “redneck” means, and I don't know what to tell them. So far I've been spitting out whatever dumb sh*t pops into my head. “Oh yeah, all our babies are born like that, it's a special type of birthmark that fades over time,” gets some weird looks.
- I'm sick of people having no f*cking clue about the place where I come from, including its actual geographic location, and I thought this post might remedy that somewhat.
|It's here. Right here. Right f*cking here, you dumba**.|
- It's late, and I'm running short of ideas.
So I did a bit of research, and I found out that – Gasp! – my aunt was wrong.
|Now I've got to publish this, and then she's gonna kill me.|
1) The term “redneck” actually originated in Scotland in the 17th century, among Scotts who preferred the Presbyterian Church over the Church of England. These people were called Coventers and they loved Presbyterianism so much that they signed their manifestos in their own freaking blood, man. Eww.
|And ouch. ~ Debs|
To identify themselves as f*ckin' heathens, they wore red scarves around their necks.
Naturally, there was a war over it – The Bishop's War (which was actually two wars, since it looks like they needed a break in the middle). On account of all this warring, some of those Scotts said “To hell with this,” and went as far away from England as they could, to America! They settled down in the mountains of the western frontier, in what is now known as...West Virginia.
At this point I should probably say that, according to my Mamma, who is not at all reliable, our family is somehow descended from those original Scottish rednecks. So that makes me a redneck twice, I guess, whether I like it or not.
I'll have you know that I do not like it. I prefer the term “hillbilly.” It sounds gentler, and more barefoot. It sounds like I might chew on hay from time to time, and wear a floppy hat.
|Like this one.|
2) The term “hillbilly” also comes from the Scots, specifically, the Scots-Irish, who, I have learned, should be correctly termed the Ulster-Scottish.
These were the supporters of Protestant King William of Orange in the Williamite War (1689-1691) against Catholic King James II, because there isn't a war in history that doesn't involve religion somehow.
They started off calling themselves “Billy's Boys” and then “Billies” and then “hillbillies” after they said “To hell with this,” and scarpered off to West Virginia, where they had heard there were these other guys being Protestant like you wouldn't believe, like, all over the place, man, and not getting killed at all.
3) Now, let's fast-forward a couple of centuries. Many of these “rednecks” and “hillbillies,” along with plenty of other immigrants, found themselves working in the West Virginia coal mines.
|No, we don't grow tobacco. Does that look like tobacco to you? Idiot.|
West Virginia miners lived in company-built houses, in company-owned towns. They paid rent to the company, and weren't offered luxuries like heat, electricity or running water. Families of more than a dozen lived in tiny homes where they were forced to share beds, if they had beds. Otherwise they shared the floor.
Miners weren't paid in currency. They were paid in company script, which was supposed to be equal to currency in value, but could only be used in the company shop. The companies kept rent and retail prices so high that miners couldn't break even, but found themselves deeper and deeper in debt. Generation after generation were forced into the mines to pay the debts of their fathers. If a worker died in the mines, his family were on the street that very day.
Many of them did die, cause who needs safety regulations?
4) Which brings us back to the Battle of Blair Mountain, in 1921. It lasted from 25 August to 2 September (hey, that's today!) 1921, and was the second-largest civil uprising in American history. (The largest was the American Civil War).
15,000 unionized coal miners (West Virginia miners were among the last to unionize) rose up against strikebreakers, police and the coal companies themselves to demand safe and comfortable living and working conditions for themselves and their families. They fired off more than one million rounds, and didn't back down until the motherf*cking Army showed up.
|Cause that's how we do things where I come from.|
And yes, they wore red scarves.