In the USA, “self identity” is a privilege often enjoyed only by those people with access to the levers of power.
Property. Money. Education. Social connections. Weapons. The right skin colour.
A man called J. D. Vance (his own name the product of a selected identity) wrote a book four years ago at the ripe old age of 32 called Hillbilly Elegy, in which he purported to explain the source of many Appalachian social problems. A successful venture capitalist, he offered his advice for “bootstrap” solutions to these problems.
J. D. Vance goes big on “poor white people”, because that is how he chooses to perceive his so-called “hillbilly” identity.
In his book, he speaks of his “Scots-Irish” roots and “Scots-Irish” cultural traditions, and the trans-generational effect he believes these people had on the creation of an “Appalachian mentality”.
His book has received endless blurbs and praise from the urban “intelligentsia” press, eager to find an easily digestible answer or simple reason for rural Appalachian poverty and voting habits.
For “voting habits”, read “Republican or Trump voters”.
At this writing, director Ron Howard is making a film based on this carefully curated memoir.
Mr. Vance is wrong, utterly wrong, about the historical causes of Appalachian poverty. Even more than this, Mr. Vance misrepresents his own cultural roots, whether by design or ignorance.
The ultimate foundational myth of Appalachia revolves around a predominantly “Scots-Irish” identity.
An identity designed to meet all of the right criteria. Non-British, Protestant, rebellious, and “white”.
A fake identity, if you will.