Being a Redneck

1920’s

West Virginia coal miners

“Working in the coal mine, going on down, down. Working in the coal mine, oops about to slip down”[1]

Accidents happened,

fathers, husbands, brothers died.

Those who lived,

lived between two mountains,

a river, a road, and a railroad track.

And they worked to pay the company store – the only store – for all their needs.

So BOSSES made big bucks.

So INDUSTRY could have its coal.

“You load sixteen tons, and what do you get? Another day older and you’re deeper in debt.

St Peter don’t you call me, ‘cause I can’t go. I owe my soul to the company store”[2]

Families relied on them.

Those who lived got unionised.

Those who got unionised wore red handkerchiefs around their necks.

Bosses didn’t much like it.

“Stupid rednecks” they said.[3]

 

1980’s

A million miles from West Virginia without a coal mine in sight

– No red scarves – No unions – No company store – No hazardous working conditions –

A little southern girl plays football with kids in the North[4].

She sounds different.

“Stupid redneck” they said as she scored a touchdown.

Where did they learn that?!

 

With my accent,

I am always a “Southerner”

no matter how North-like I might become.

I’m proud to be a coalminer’s granddaughter[5].

“It’s alright to be a redneck” [6]

depending on your definition.

(Hunting, fishing, chasing women, and drinking beer – does this only happen in the South?!)

It IS okay to be a redneck,

to stand shoulder to shoulder with fellow workers

for fair treatment and fair pay.

To stand against the clear exploitation of workers by INDUSTRY.

It’s NOT okay to exploit

or exclude people

(even if they done talk diff’rent from y’all).

 

History is more complex than we’ve been taught.

Much of the stories

– African-American, Appalachian, Cherokee nation –

we haven’t even heard yet.

 

Footnotes:

[1] The Judds “Working in the Coal Mine”, country song

[2] Tennessee Ernie Ford “Sixteen Tons”, country song

[3] Actually, the conflict between coal miners and coal companies got very bloody. People were employed to “evict” unionised miners by gun point, skirmishes occurred. Events escalated to one of the biggest battles in the United States since the Civil War. See this documentary on the Battle of Blair Mountain for more information. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U5t908O0j-Q

[4] My relatives in the North always treated me kind.  I love them.

[5] Loretta Lynn “Coal Miner’s Daughter”, country song

[6] Alan Jackson, country song

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One thought on “Being a Redneck

  1. I get this completely, Christians shy away from politics and think we should not get involved, But, this is not politics, it is human lives, people rights getting abused because the ruling classes (bosses) wanting not only to get rich but also to put the worker in his/her place. We do not have to use violence, but, we should, as Christians make our voices heard. Anyone who reads Isaiah 58 should be able to understand Gods thoughts on abuse of priviledge. Excellent article Mate.

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