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Are Ohioians the Okies of the Great Recession?

27 June 2010 8 Comments

“Go Home Buckeyes,” was the caption in an article in The Charleston City Paper published this spring.

The command was wrapped around a brick in the photo. The subhead was “worthless nuts.”

brick-mag

“They have gelled hair, wear cargo shorts, vertical-lined shirts, and, if you’re really lucky, high black-and-white socks with tennis shoes,” says a “sixth generation Charlestonian.”

The article continues: “Each spring they attack the city, gumming pralines and Hyman’s hush puppy samples. Their legions are strong, and their numbers are growing. They’re called Ohioans.”

Angry Charlestonians have created a website Gobacktoohio.com, according to the article.

It also includes an interview with a charming Charleston resident who sells “Leave your daughter and go back to Ohio” stickers for $3 a pop.

My best friend from high school recently moved to Charleston, following her boyfriend. She said there is a very distinctive anti-Ohio attitude in the city.

It got me thinking about The Grapes of Wrath, with its references to the derogatory “Okies” from Oklahoma that fled Midwestern dust bowl despair for California’s lettuce bowl during the Great Depression.

Are Ohioians the new Okies?

I guess I never thought much about how our economic diaspora might be affecting other communities. Aren’t we the ones responsible for the gangbuster real estate industry in the South?

According to my friend, Natalie, however the job market in Charleston is abysmal. In Ohio, she sold print advertising. Now the college graduate is a waitress, and she’s not optimistic about her prospects.

Ohioians are attracted by South Carllina’s beaches and sun. About 40 percent of the state’s residents were born elsewhere. It is a “magnet state,” while Ohio is just the opposite. Natalie said all of her friends, a group of about 10, are from Ohio.

Charleston is a tourist town and it has a tourist economy too. That means lots of service industry jobs, few corporate headquarters and a cyclical business season that all but shuts down in the off-season.

My guess is that the Ohio backlash is economic. In the article, one Ohio detractor says, “they take our jobs and harass our women.”

The joking tone of the article and its sources aside, I think there is some real tension and it’s economic at heart.

It’s strange to see white Midwesterners on the receiving end some of the prejudice that international immigrants have battled for years.

-AS

  • Sean Posey

    When I was living in Fort Myers, Florida, I saw just the opposite. Many of the folks that fueled the boom down there (though usually older) were former Ohioans. I ran into plenty of people form northeastern Ohio who were my age too. Florida–probably more so than the Carolinas–is filled with people from other states, so perhaps there is less of that feeling.

  • http://diggingpitt.blogspot.com/ John Morris

    Perhaps they remember that William Tecumseh Sherman was from Ohio.

    Don’t piss us off! Well, actually Charleston is a strange place in general in that it’s very much a tourist based economy that wants deeply to protect it’s own culture. This kind of thing always creates lots of conflicts.

    Full time Cape Cod residents hate the summer crowd. Same with East Hampton, only worse and it’s the same way in Maine and Vermont.

  • http://sstrudeau.com Scott T.

    The Gothamist (popular NYC news blog) comments section has been full of “go home to (Ohio|Michigan|Minnesota|Wisconsin)” barbs for years now, so Charleston isn’t the only city w/ an anti-Midwesterner bias. And as a Michigander living in NYC, I definitely feel like an economic refugee, so the “okie” analogy is pretty apt, IMO.

  • http://rustwire.com Angie

    You know, I used to live in Atlanta. And no one was ever rude to me that I recall, because I was from the North.

    But I always did feel a little out of place. The culture was a little different.

    I feel bad for Ohioians. Damned if you do (leave), damned if you don’t.

    That’s why I think it’s important not to give up on our cities. To leave home is such a loss.

  • http://diggingpitt.blogspot.com/ John Morris

    Charleston is I think an extreme case. This where the Civil War began in Charleston Harbor. The firts shot fired by students of The Citadel, the famous/infamous miltary Academy there.

    Clearly, this a place that clings to it’s past in a huge way and is perhaps not too typical of lot’s of the modern South.

  • http://diggingpitt.blogspot.com/ John Morris

    Let’s be honest here. I can’t speak for Cleveland or Ohio, but Pittsburgh has never been exactly welcoming to outsiders. Sure as a guest, but that’s about it.

    Conversations in bars here, often involve people who went to pre school together. Who the hell knows or cares which ward you are from?

    It hasn’t been a big issue only because, until recently lots of new people were not showing up. Those who felt the bad vibe, just left.

    This is the thing about this. Most “outsiders”, or investors with options don’t issue press releases when they leave town or tell you why they are not starting a business or investing in a particular place. However, this is a big reason.

  • Special K

    Interesting post- thanks for finding this one!

  • ROBERT RAY

    sounds like charleston is if i spelled it correctly predjudised,ohioans have a rite to live any where they darn choose,so charleston get over it
    thats the trouble with this country some other regions like to label and belittle other areas,no ones happy anymore,get over it and take a dang gum pill