Not my West Virginia

I am disappointed and disgusted by the examples of hate that have been exhibited lately in my state.

From the anti-LGBTQ Delegate Eric Porterfield, to the woman who went on the racist tirade at a local Mexican restaurant, to the events at the WVGOP Day at the Legislature that resulted in national media coverage of anti-Muslim posters/speech, to the “N-Word passes” handed out in one county’s high schools (and these are just the latest episodes), it seems hate is more prevalent than I want to admit.

I’ve heard people (including a local pastor who joined with others to fight against the LGBTQ community as well as many elected members of the state Republican party) say some form of the phrase “Hate has no home here” and that we value diversity. Unfortunately, actions and words from the other side of their mouths tell a different story. Delegate Porterfield went unchecked and unpunished. The comment sections on news sites across the state on each of these stories abound with folk supporting, agreeing with, and furthering the hate.

I want to say, “This isn’t my West Virginia. The West Virginia I know & love, the West Virginia that I have stalwartly defended my whole life against outsiders who make fun of us for being [insert any number of stereotypes], the West Virginia that has nothing but the beautiful mountains/valleys/and streams but continuously gives these away to anyone who promises jobs so her people can make a living.” I want to cry out, “THIS IS NOT MY WEST VIRGINIA.”

But in days like these, I have to admit to myself, that MY West Virginia isn’t the same as everyone else’s. My West Virginia was built on the backs of explorers, settlers, and immigrants. My West Virginia lives under the motto “Mountaineers are always free.” My West Virginia values hard work and decency. My West Virginia is home to people who value kindness and treating others better than you’ve been treated. I’ll keep living in my West Virginia, if only so that the West Virginia I love so much can continue to claim a native daughter who loves as wildly and freely as the wild and wonderful hills. My West Virginia is better than this. I hope yours is, too.

Jennifer Bryant

Parkersburg

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