West Virginia, microaggression, Appalachia


The term "Appalachian" is wrongly understood to represent a single culture of rural White poverty (Keefe, 2005). This conception contains stereotypical images that obscure hardships many rural White Central Appalachians face. Similar to other oppressed minorities in the U.S., what it means to be Appalachian is a social construction based on what differs them from the White hegemony. Recent scholarship on discrimination recognizes the importance of microaggression, small insults and slights experienced frequently by people from minority groups (Sue, et. al., 2007). Microaggression may be an especially insidious mechanism in the oppression of Appalachian people, since the derogatory stereotypes are broadly accepted while their oppressed status tends to not be acknowledged. This study applied qualitative focus group methodology to understand perceptions of microaggression and oppression among a sample of college students living in rural Central Appalachia. Results reveal themes of microaggression. Identifying Appalachian microaggression provides evidence of marginalized status and offers a framework for understanding how the social construction of White Appalachian perpetuates reduced status, stereotypes, and prejudice. Implications are discussed to consider how to foster resilience to oppression among rural White Central Appalachian people.

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