Stereotyping should be avoided

Published 6:48 am Wednesday, January 8, 2003

By By ROBERT BLANKENSHIP - Managing Editor
People who live in the South are no strangers to ridicule. Southerners often find themselves as the punchline of jokes and unfair stereotypes. If we aren't marrying our cousins and wearing an inch of dirt than we must surely be corrupt racists who are secretly attempting to revive the Confederacy. While most people are too mature to accept these jokes and comments wholeheartedly, it is still disheartening as a resident of Alabama to hear comments like those made last week by sports commentator Brent Musburger.
First, let's set the record straight and say that there is absolutely nothing wrong with living in a "double-wide." The modern mobile homes are affordable for many families and create an opportunity for them to have a home of their own. It is much better than throwing away money each month renting a two-room apartment. In addition, these mobile homes are usually much nicer.
But, for some reason, many people put negative connotations with trailers and mobile homes. It was with these negative views that Musburger told new University of Alabama coach Mike Price to 'pack up his double-wide and head to Tuscaloosa' after his Washington State team was defeated in the Rose Bowl.
Most Southerners have a sense of humor; we are able to handle satire and are able to laugh at ourselves. But, there is a time and place for that. I can not think of any time that a sportscaster or news personality should make such comments. Comedians are professionals at making fun of people. While most of them may make fun of Southerners, they also feel free to take jabs at New Yorkers, Californians, Mid-Westerners - everyone is fair game. For other television personalities, and writers for that matter, it is simply unprofessional.
Sometimes, it seems that those involved first-hand in television production are the ones who take the medium's powers most lightly. People, young people especially, tend to believe the things they hear and see on television. While it may be tempting to make a "funny" remark from time to time, the consequences of the words must be considered. Many people refuse to visit New York City because they think they will get mugged or shot. And, of course, every woman in Los Angeles has had cosmetic surgery and every man wears a ponytail and earrings.
As the world gets smaller, it seems that we in the United States can't see past our own regional discriminations. While I don't see this as a major national issue, I do think that we can all consider tolerance toward each other whether in regard to the color of our skin or where we call home. The truth is we are all pretty much the same - we go to work, raise our families and try to enjoy life.
While it is important to have a good laugh from time to time, sportscasters and news personalities have the responsibility of being fair and to avoid stereotypes. If it costs Musburger a game-ending one-liner, so be it.

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