Hello… West Virginia and Virginia are Two Separate States!

9
10173

Proposed_state_of_kanawha

Follow Appalachian Magazine on Facebook:
Facebook.com/AppalachianMagazine

I have always heard that Americans by and large are absolute imbeciles when it comes to geography.  This is something that has been well documented over the past quarter-century — not only did a 2006 survey find that nine out of ten young Americans could not find Afghanistan on a map of Asia, it also revealed the fact that as a nation we trail every other industrial country in geography.

Speaking about this terrible disparity, National Geographic Society’s David Rutherford stated, “Young Americans just don’t seem to have much interest in the world outside of the U.S.”

Though sad, Rutherford’s commentary is probably far more accurate than we realize, but at least Americans know American geography, right?

There was a time I probably would have answered the above mentioned question in the affirmative, but that time has long since passed.

For me, the realization that Americans are geographic dimwits came in my freshmen year of college in South Carolina.

A proud West Virginian, I was astonished to learn how many people seemed to have no clue that West Virginia and Virginia are even separate states.

On a personal level, I couldn’t help but think to myself, “and yet the nation has the nerve to say that we’re the stupid ones…” each time I would encounter some guy who would take a look at my driver’s license and make a comment like, “Huh, that’s strange. I never knew that was a state.”

I specifically remember a conversation that went something like this:

Random +45-year-old man: So where are you from?

Me: West Virginia.

Random +45-year-old man: I love Virginia.  Have family in Norfolk.

Me: Well, I’m from West Virginia.

Random +45-year-old man: Oh, okay.  I believe that Norfolk is on the other side of the state, isn’t it?

Me: [Exhausted of even trying] Yeah…  You think the West Virginia Tech Hokies can win the Big East championship this year?

Random +45-year-old man: I don’t know, they looked good against Miami!

At first, I thought the above conversation was an anomaly, a simple interaction with someone not firing on all eight, but over the next four years, I realized that people in the Dirty South simply don’t know anything about geography — as the dear teenage beauty queen from South Carolina so elegantly proved.

On more than one occasion I found myself — just trying to keep my own sanity — bragging about traveling to Charleston, Virginia, or Richmond, West Virginia.  For most, it made no difference.  West, East, North, South, Virginia was all the same, it simply did not matter — no one had a clue what or where you were talking about anyway.

Did these people sleep through their history class?  Did they not have that pull down map at the front of the class like we did?

After talking with others, I have realized that I am not alone in this struggle and that the South is not alone in their ignorance.  It seems that as soon as one gets away from a state that actually borders Virginia or West Virginia, the average person ceases to realize that the Old Dominion and the Mountain State had a bitter divorce some 150 years ago… and the Mountaineers won the custody battle for the two children, Berkeley and Jefferson!

Perhaps the folks lobbying in Wheeling for the name State of Kanawha were on to something!

The purpose of this article is very simple, to say in a loud and clear voice, “Hello… West Virginia and Virginia are two totally different states!”

If you’ve ever ran into someone who doesn’t seem to get it, click the LIKE button to remind your Facebook friends that two states are different!

9 COMMENTS

  1. I have ran into this also. Having lived in 10 states and having to explain to people that I am from WV not VA became an everyday thing. Even gave the date we became a state, state motto, etc. I then asked if they knew when their state was ratified and became part of the USA. 95% did not know. Yea for WV history in 8th grade!

  2. Yep it is at that, having been born in Wilmington, Delaware and lived in Delaware, OH. Keenly aware of both. People generally gravitate to what they are aware of top of mind. It goes back to the comment that US citizens (would not use America as that also implies Canadians and Mexicans which may be more attuned to international geography) have little concern for much outside of their state and in some states for much outside their region of the state (west Texas, southern California), either geographically or politically. Home rule, home education, homecoming; have all ingrained this in us, myself included. Unfortunate circumstance and indictment of our education as well as media influence for after all that is where 90% of our continuing education is sourced.

  3. I moved from Tucker County, WV to the Hampton Roads area of VA about 9 years ago. I became amazed by how many Virginians didn’t even know WV was a state! A lot of folks here think I’m talking about the western part of VA. I still find myself informing people about the two separate states. Sadly, it has become annoying at times.

  4. Try explaining that you are from Southwestern Virginia!! No not West Va….but Dickenson County in Southwestern Va!!

  5. It’s not just West Virginia versus Virginia,,,,, I was leaving for grad school in New Mexico andwasasked by several ” well educated folks”, I didn’t know you knew Spanish or even had a passport,,, nor the Post Office asking for international postage and a declaration form, love the ignorance in this country,, ever wonder why people are willing to give up their rights,,, it’s not hard for me to understand,,, if you don’t get a good education we will lose more and more not just which state is which or how many,,,48, 52 and as high as 75,,,, Yes! How many states are there,,, when everyone should know, the answer iis,, half the number of Senators,,,

  6. I went on a cruise not to long ago. One evening I played in a “finish the lyrics” game. When the host was introducing us and asking us where we were from, I said “West By God Virginia!” Her response? “Ohhh, Virginia!” (In her defense, she was foreign, but still!) Anyways, a couple rounds later when I had my chance at the mic, I took the liberty of correcting her. I kindly stated, “By the way, it’s West Virginia, not just Virginia. Two separate states, since 1863!”

  7. Being from WV and living in Virginia for the past 38 years, I can tell you that they are definitely two different states and I am damn glad of it.

Comments are closed.