We were forced Thursday evening to count to 100 to contain our anger.
Thursday, a video surfaced of a pep rally held by Boyle County, whose football team will face the Johnson Central Golden Eagles for a chance at the Class 4A state championship Saturday.
Emotions run high when we reach this level of high school athletics. We get that. Pep rallies and events of that type can make those emotions reach a fever pitch.
But, on Thursday, a video emerged on social media, originally posted on a Twitter account affiliated with Boyle County athletics. The video featured speakers at a pep rally, including two who took unnecessary shots at our people by reinforcing stereotypes we’ve long struggled to shuffle off.
One of the speakers, and the most offensive by far, said, “I know a lot of people in Johnson Central (sic) can’t even count to 100.” Another speaker referred to all people in the area as living in hollers, saying the JCHS football team will be sent back to the “hollers.”
The hollers thing, well, it’s not a big deal, to a degree, though not everyone lives in “hollers.” Some do. Some of those who live in hollers live in homes valued in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Some don’t. The geography and topography of the region is not something about which we’re offended.
No. What made us angry was the ignorance of the speaker who decided to paint our children and community as uneducated simply because of where we live.
Not only is this a reinforcement of a stereotype, something we’d expect someone responsible for the education of young people to be above, but it’s false.
Johnson Central is not the school on which you want to cast aspersions of educational neglect. This is just a sample of the district’s accomplishments:
• JCHS is the only the only school to win five international championship titles in Future Problem Solving;
• JCHS has placed in the Top 8 at state academics competition every year since 2003;
• More than 10 Johnson County residents are listed as members of the Kentucky Academic Hall of Fame;
• JCHS is the 2019 Governor’s Cup champion in overall points, Arts and Humanities individual competition, Science individual competition and secured several Top 3 finishes in other categories this year.
Truly, Johnson Central is not just a football powerhouse, but also an academic force. And Johnson County is not alone. Academic accomplishments abound throughout our county and our region.
Anyone who has moved away from this area and carried with them the stigma of an Eastern Kentucky accent knows that people outside this region have their own ideas about what life in our community is like.
This unfortunate comment in the midst of a pep rally sent a message to every student present that, yes, the stereotypes are true, that somehow people are magically more ignorant east of Winchester.
We’re angry because it hurts the efforts we’re making to rebound from the loss of our primary economic driver. We’re angry because our children deserve better, deserve a chance. We’re angry because a person in a place of influence is simply reinforcing untruths about our community that, unfortunately, hinder our ability to move beyond our past.
We will get over this one. We always do. We will move forward. We always do. But we wish that the progress that we see daily as we move beyond our limitations also applied to the understanding others have of our region and our people.
We hope that the Boyle County schools will take swift action in this situation and ensure that any attempts to denigrate a people based on outdated and offensive stereotypes is also dealt with in a firm manner. In the meantime, we’ll let our performance on the athletic field — and in the classroom — do our responding for us.