Leah’s Life Lessons: The Appropriation of Y’all

In the age of the importance of political correctness, where every person is openly offended for one reason or another, I have attempted to build up a thick skin towards the insensitive jokes, stereotypes, cultural appropriation and overall ignorance.

However, I’ve started to notice a trend picking up across the nation, especially among those who hail from the Midwest, New England, and western states who have started to rub me the wrong way. It’s the use of a four-letter word that many people probably don’t even realize they’re using: y’all. Yep, that’s it. It’s such a small word, and I can imagine you wondering why it even matters.

From my youngest memories of going anywhere outside of the South, I remember people joking about my accent and the stereotypes of the dumb, inbred, redneck hicks who made up the southern states. I remember being asked to say certain words and phrases and being looked over after I voiced my opinion. People assumed that because of my geographical location and the fact that I spoke differently that my ideas and opinions were somehow less important and intelligent than their own thoughts blanketed in a funny accent. As I grew up, I ignored the jabs and held my head high with confidence as I made more trips across the Mason Dixon Line.

However, as I previously said I’ve noticed the start of a trend from popular magazines and TV shows, to friends from across the country all adopting the word “y’all” – the same word that they used to joke about. But sometime in the last year or so, it’s gone from a redneck pronoun to a socially acceptable form of addressing a group of people.

Why am I offended? There are conversations about whether it’s socially acceptable for white women to wear cornrows if they refuse to recognize the African-American culture and the oppression of black women. There are conversations about the refusal to use people of ethnic backgrounds in runway shows designed around their heritage. Similarly, it seems like the very people who made the inappropriate jokes about the South and made incorrect assumptions about southern people are the same ones picking and choosing what parts they find socially acceptable. All the while, people continue to make inbred jokes and assume that all southerners are racist bigots.

While I realize that this is only a word and a very minute one at that, the concept behind its cultural appropriation stands firm. Why is it okay for people of a different geological area to say that certain parts of the southern culture are okay but continue to criticize and belittle us as a whole on the basis of misconstrued and uneducated opinions?

To put it simply, you can’t pick and choose what to take from a culture. You either accept it all – the people, slang and heritage –or follow the words of a smart southern woman, “If you can’t say anything nice, then don’t say anything at all.”

So yes, I am offended. I wish I weren’t. I wish that I was able to rise above this, but I am. While people may write this off as a butt hurt college student’s whining, or a privileged white woman looking for something to complain about, I urge you to think about it. If your culture was constantly belittled by those outside it, would you be okay with the very people who were demeaning it choosing parts of your culture to claim as their own?