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Our Opinion: Sniffing out the snobs among us

So, where are you from?

Is the question “off-putting to people who are not from here?”

In connection with unveiling a vision for Jefferson City, Administrator Nathan Nickolaus characterized the frequency of the nativity question as a “pet peeve.”

We have heard this sentiment expressed often enough to consider it an identifiable issue.

But the issue — and this is important — is not necessarily whether non-natives are slighted, but whether the question prompts them to perceive they are being slighted.

And, ironically, the perception — a liability for the city — may be intensified by a community asset, an emphasis on history.

Communities market themselves by playing to their strengths. Jefferson City features two obvious marketing strengths: It is the state capital and it enjoys a rich history.

Those strengths combine in structures including the Capitol and Governor’s Mansion.

And they are expanded by our Convention and Visitors Bureau, which markets tours of the former state penitentiary as one of a number of activities grouped under the slogan: “You’ll Feel The History.”

The emphasis on history, however, doesn’t end with marketing efforts; it infuses the city.

We identify historic districts, such as Old Town and Old Munichburg; we promote historic preservation of properties; and we honor historic buildings with Landmark awards.

The buildings and districts frequently have remained in families for generations and are identified using the family name.

These names — the “old families,” if you will — aid in identification and making connections.

What may be perceived as elitism may, in fact, be nothing more than the human tendency to make associations, a process that occurs routinely at family reunions, company picnics and all manner of social events.

Pockets of snobbery endure and likely will continue to do so. But we err when we assume elitism where none exists.

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