December 15, 2019

The Midwest is More Than “Flyover Land”: Putting an End to Harmful Stereotypes of Non-New England Areas

posted on: Thursday November 14, 2019

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

by Olivia Bretzman ’22

Opinion Staff

Yes, there are beautiful mountains in New England. Here lies the ocean, four seasons, the Patriots, and much more. Surprising to some, though, this country holds far more than just New England.  In fact, New England is a mere sliver of the United States.   

The majority of Providence College students hail from New England, and on a broader scale, the East Coast.  There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, it largely defines PC’s culture. However, many fail to realize, or are simply ignorant of, the rest of the student body and where they are from.   

Think about it.  Where one grows up has a large impact on them. It explains a lot about them, but is also not everything.  One is not defined by where they are from, yet it is still a very important part of them. 

These stereotypes, while not powered by malice, can perpetuate a very negative connotation towards a place. Thus, the propensity of the stereotypes here on our campus about different parts of the country, or even the world, is stunning and surprising, considering our intelligent student body.  

The evidence lies in what students and faculty alike comment after the infamous “where are you from?” that haunts every single sort of social gathering or event. From experience, when someone responds with a state or place not in New England or on the East Coast in general, the questioner is first taken aback by this information. 

Second, their response typically comes out negatively or almost accusatory.  For example, “Where even is that?” or “What do you even do there?” or “Why on earth did you come here?!”  

Immediately, the foreign place or state becomes a point of debate and a defining characteristic of that person. 

A multitude of stereotypes follow their response. For whatever reason, a majority of students believe the South to be filled with extremist conservatives with a bad school system, the Midwest to be “flyover land,” and the West Coast, well, its hipster vibes and coastline are just not up to par to the East.  

These stereotypes, while not powered by malice, can perpetuate a very negative connotation towards a place.  While this perhaps does not directly affect a person, it indirectly affects a vital part of that person: where they are from.   

Quite frankly, the rest of the United States is beautiful and offers so many unique things not found in New England.  Quite specifically, the Midwest, of which many students cannot even correctly explain the geography, is a wonderful example of this.   

Many believe it to be a prairie wasteland of sorts. Furthermore, it apparently is undeveloped besides the farms where everyone rides a tractor to school.  Granted, that does actually happen in some places, but that stereotype illuminates an extremely small portion of people in the Midwest.  

In fact, the Midwest contains a plethora of natural beauty such as the Great Lakes, the boundary waters, and more.  

Plus, it holds some of the most metropolitan and international cities such as Chicago and Minneapolis.  

This simply illustrates how convoluted our views are. Honestly, this stretches so far beyond the smaller picture of stereotypes.  In broader terms, it almost suggests an ignorance or blindness to the surrounding world, which can most definitely have an impact on one’s capacity to learn and live in the future.  

Ultimately, it is important to try and live with an open mind about everyone one meets, everywhere they travel, and every stereotype they encounter.  The world is filled to the brim with diverse people, places, and experiences, and deserves to be looked at with as curious an eye we can give it.   

Apply this to more than just meeting fellow students, but also to traveling in general, and especially to studying abroad! Many students study abroad with preconceived notions about everything.  What truly lies in their experiences surprises many and proves just how easily persuaded we are to believe what others tell us or what we read online. 

In all reality, New England is lovely.  It offers so many wonderful things including the people and places.  Its natural beauty is unique and its cities are truly built up into bustling and exciting metropolitan kingdoms.   

 However, we must stay on our guard as to not hone in solely on New England as the only fantastic portion of a much bigger country. Stereotypes are truly detrimental, and if one follows them narrowly, they will miss out.  After all, Tom Brady is not even from New England.  

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