Culture

Student Op-Ed: It’s ‘Cultural Appropriation’ to Say ‘Y’All’ If You’re Not from the South

Wait—I thought we were supposed to say ‘y’all’ because ‘you guys’ is sexist?
A student at Francis Marion University wrote an op-ed explaining how upset she gets when people who aren’t from the South say “y’all” — because it’s “cultural appropriation.”

In a piece for the Patriot, the school’s official student newspaper, Leah Power explains that although she has “attempted to build up a thick skin towards the insensitive jokes, stereotypes, cultural appropriation and overall ignorance” that she sees around her, she just cannot help but get very upset every time she hears someone who is not from the South use the word “y’all.”

Power writes that she remembers traveling outside of the South when she was young and having to deal with “people joking about my accent and the stereotypes of the dumb, inbred, redneck hicks who made up the southern states,” but that “sometime in the last year or so, [‘y’all’ has] gone from a redneck pronoun to a socially acceptable form of addressing a group of people.”

There are conversations about whether it’s socially acceptable for white women to wear cornrows if they refuse to recognize the African-American culture and the oppression of black women. There are conversations about the refusal to use people of ethnic backgrounds in runway shows designed around their heritage. Similarly, it seems like the very people who made the inappropriate jokes about the South and made incorrect assumptions about southern people are the same ones picking and choosing what parts they find socially acceptable.

“So yes, I am offended,” Power writes. “I wish I weren’t. I wish that I was able to rise above this, but I am. [sic]”

Although I do think that Power is overreacting, it also is true that “y’all” is a word traditionally associated with southern culture — so I can at least kind of understand how she would reach the conclusion that people who use the word but reject other parts of the culture are appropriating.

#related#In fact, what’s most interesting about all of this is that Power’s explanation actually does fit in with the way that the social-justice crowd talks about cultural appropriation, because the social-justice crowd also routinely encourages people to use the word “y’all” as a substitute for the sexist phrase “you guys.” The examples are endless: University of California–Davis’s LGBTQIA resource center advises students to say “‘Hey y’all’ in a group setting instead of ‘Hey guys!’ or ‘Hey ladies!’” as a way “to make language more inclusive.” In a piece for the Huffington Post, “LGBTQ+ activist” Pam Rocker writes that even though “y’all” has been traditionally a southern thing, it is “a word that’s perfectly positioned to be something we all share.” The “y’all” replacement is also suggested on the LGBTQ blog Color It Queer, this piece in Vox, and far too many other places to name.

So, in other words, the widespread use of “y’all” is both a social-justice problem and a social-justice solution. If I didn’t know any better, I’d start to think that it might be damn near impossible to speak without offending some person some how.

— Katherine Timpf is a reporter for National Review Online

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