cut on the bias

keeping an eye on the spins and weirdness of media, crime and everyday life

Monday, November 17, 2008

New flash: Ignorant toothless white hillbillies tend to be fat

There is so much about this article that makes me fume that I nearly set my leather couch on fire. A small sample:

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — As a portly woman plodded ahead of him on the sidewalk, the obese mayor of America's fattest and unhealthiest city explained why health is not a big local issue...

Culture and history are at least part of the problem, health officials say.

This city on the Ohio River is surrounded by Appalachia's thinly populated hills. It has long been a blue-collar, white-skinned community — overwhelmingly people of English, Irish and German ancestry...

... the region is a clear-cut leader in dental problems, with nearly half the people age 65 and older saying they have lost all their natural teeth. And no other metro area comes close to Huntington's adult obesity rate, according to the report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, based on data from 2006...

There's a connection between education and lack of exercise, too, said Dr. Thomas Dannals, a Huntington family physician.

"The undereducated don't know the value of it. They don't have the drive for it. There's a reason you're successful, you've got drive. The same is true for exercise," said Dannals.

See? Toothless ignorant white hillbillies.

I agree that being overweight is a struggle for far too many people in this country, including me. I don't have a problem with the AP doing an article on it. But this business of writing a snarky little article bringing up issues that have no demonstrable association with weight is just pathetic.

Does being overweight track with being white? Especially "Irish, English and German"? I would say overall no more than being black or Italian. Does it track with being blue collar? I doubt it. I would agree that it probably does track with poverty and lack of education, but not because the people who are poor and poorly educated are stupid.

And why bring up toothlessness? Does lack of dental hygiene and its consequences track with fat? Or was it just a fine opportunity to bring up another characteristic of those pathetic white Appalachians?

I think encouraging people to live healthier lives is a good thing. I think making that kind of lifestyle easier is a good thing. I think teaching about healthy living in schools is a good thing.

And I think this article is a written smirk-fest by someone who feels greatly superior to all these white Appalachian hillbillies with big bellies and no teeth. And why not? They're one of two populations* it's still politically correct to deride and mock.

*The other would be bitter gun-clinging religious folk. Interestingly, quite a few of those fat ignorant toothless white Appalachian hillbillies would fit in that category as well. A twofer for the superior crowd.


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