Friday, May 07, 2010

Go Back To Ohio


Lest you think that only immigrants are the only targets of xenophobia, I present "Go Back to Ohio" South Carolina:

In most parts of South Carolina, people recognize illegal immigration as a real problem. But there is one group of problematic undocumented aliens that is often overlooked: Ohioans.

You might notice that the article in question was published way back in 2008. Tensions haven't eased. In a hilarious send up of the GBTO subculture, a classic boomerang migration story stands out:

Though plenty of Ohioans have moved to town and aren't willing to budge, not everyone's impressed with the Lowcountry's particular brand of Southern hospitality. Kristen Rhodes, an Ohio native, lived in Charleston for six years and managed to get repulsed.

"When I was down there, whenever I wrote anything critical about Charleston, I would get letters to the editor saying if you don't like it, leave. So I finally did," she says. Rhodes worked in Charleston as an art critic for City Paper and Charleston magazine before throwing in the towel and returning to Cleveland when her husband got a residency at Case Medical Center.

She was happy to go regardless. She says the over-self-confidence of locals bugged her the most. "What I notice in Cleveland is we're like Eeyore. We suck, we have low self esteem as a city. We're called the Mistake on the Lake. That's just what it is," she says, and she likes that. She'll take a self-deprecating town over a self-involved one any day.

According to Rhodes, the trouble with Charleston is "everyone discovers it and doesn't want anyone else to find it." It's true, locals do tend to exhibit Gollum-like tendencies toward the city. But you can't hide the Battery in your pocket, and you can't drain the Atlantic. With Conde Nast top 10 ratings, culinary superstars, and international festivals happening year round, keeping the "Precious" unknown is nearly impossible.

"It does seem silly, as an Ohioan, to have to defend coming to an area that kind of prostitutes itself as a tourist destination," Rhodes notes, adding that tourist dollars pay for a significant portion of the state's jobs. After all, tourism is the Palmetto State's No. 1 industry.

First, let me say that I know Charleston well. My family has been growing a carpetbagger presence there since the mid-1990s. Second, I love the city. I wouldn't live there, but enjoy every visit with my kin. I can appreciate the attraction. That said, can we dispense with the nonsense about the tolerance for outsiders? Concerning inmigration, parochial attitudes don't make a lick of a difference. With apologies to Richard Florida, let's kill that myth right now.


Our charming neighbor to the north, Myrtle Beach, the Redneck Riviera (a.k.a. the gateway drug for Ohioans to Charleston), is particularly good at enticing beach-goers from the heartland. The Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce runs a 60-second TV spot in the Toledo and Youngstown markets in Ohio. They also have a significant online and TV presence on the CNN-style Ohio News Network channel. Myrtle Beach Chamber Public Relations Manager Kimberly Miles reports, "We just dropped a small property insert into Canton and Cleveland newspapers, which went to a combined 143,000 insertions, and on March 5 we dropped the eight-page vacation planner insert in Columbus."

Miles adds, "Online, we also have a general east-of-the-Mississippi online push that includes pay-per-click marketing, display advertising, and e-mail marketing. Ohio is under that blanket of outreach as well."

Former Charleston and current Ohio resident Kristen Rhodes can count her parents as those who have been enticed to come live in the Lowcountry. After retirement, her mom and dad moved to Charleston. "They went down to visit my brother who lives in Atlanta and stopped in Charleston. They loved it and decided on moving there from that trip," she says. Her parents have been Ohio expats since 1994.

The tourist experience has enticed many people from the Rust Belt to relocate. That's why you can eat at a Primanti Brothers in Florida. If Quebec was the 51st state, then there would be a Little Montreal in Tampa. We go where we know.

I'm sure I've mentioned the following. I remember a map from a college geography class that detailed where people from certain parts of the country vacationed. In many respects, the Rust Belt exodus was an amenities migration. Young adults wanted to extend the summer fun experienced as a teenager. Retirees turned a 2-week holiday into a 50-week shuffleboard tournament. Eventually, many of their kids followed.

I would think that the Southern backlash against these supposed economic refugees is obvious. It isn't. Many people believe that increasing tolerance is key to fostering more inmigration. That's folly, a boondoggle.

Postscript: Something inspired me to Google the author of the Charleston City Paper piece. Get a load of this:

Kinsey Labberton has Northwest sensibility, acquired southern charm, and the editorial acumen to write sophisticated copy for any genre. Born in Seattle and raised in Yakima, Washington, Kinsey moved to Finland for a year following high school to live as a Rotary Exchange student. Wanderlust still strong, following her sojourn in Scandinavia she attended the College of Charleston in South Carolina where she received her undergraduate degree in Communication: Media Studies & Journalism.

An internship with the Charleston City Paper renewed her interest in writing and since graduation in May 2006 she's worked continually as a freelance writer publishing in multiple magazines, newspapers, and weeklies. She currently resides in Burlington, Vermont with her fiance Daniel and their weimaraner, Trigger.

My family in Charleston should get a kick out of that.

3 comments:

Brian said...

But doesn't Arizona's legislation show that local's opinions towards immigrants can have an effect on inmigration? The law accurately reflects resident opinion, as far as I can tell.

Jim Russell said...

Local opinion hasn't deterred inmigration in years prior. Amendment 2 and Tom Tancredo certainly have not kept folks from moving to the Front Range of Colorado. I'd also bet that Arizona's restrictionist policies will do nothing to deter illegal immigration to the state. The big difference is the effect at the polls. A good way to get re-elected is to posture as strong on border regulation. The wildcard in all of this is the Latino vote.

Count me among the few who don't believe that people vote with their feet.

Anonymous said...

That's funny,our economy stinks up there so why stay.but I know why your education rating is 48 in the country.IT shows in your children your values.I've never seen so many non parents raising some ones kids and no one is making them go to school or learn a thing.Its funny that when we apply for your jobs they jump at the sight of some one who moves faster than a slug.