What do you consider southern? What does the South and the people that live in that region look like to you?
The South that is seen by the majority of our nation is a very dark South. There is racism and homophobia. There are judgmental Christians and a lack of diversity. The people are lesser educated and most people live in poverty. The people are rednecks that want to go back to the Confederacy and everyone flies a Confederate flag.
There is also another common version of the South. There is the South you see depicted in television shows such as Duck Dynasty, where the men go hunting in full camo and blowing up old trucks for fun during the day and the whole family sits around the table at the end of the day saying grace with a meal fit for Thanksgiving. On the other hand, the one depicted in True Detective, where the villain Errol Childress lives in poverty in a dilapidated house and has sexual relations with a close relative with a mental handicap. Are either of these close to the mental image of the South? Is it a combination of the two? It should be neither.
The South is often seen and judged by its dark history. Racism and bigotry are often expressed in the media about Southern states; Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Georgia often get a bad rap. They are often seen as states with rednecks galore and close-minded Christians. Our culture is depicted by bad television shows such as Duck Dynasty. The people in these shows are seen as a one size fits all for the entire South, but things are not that simple. The Kardashians are not seen as a one-size-fits-all representation of the North. The Robertson family from Duck Dynasty is not a representation of the South. It is so much more than that?
The South is my home. I was born and raised in North Alabama, which is in the Bible Belt. I am a typical southerner, but what constitutes a typical southerner? The South is many things, it has a rich culture and a place where family is revered. It’s a place where you always greet the man or woman next to you and wave to others on the road as you pass by, even if you don’t know them. The South is a placer where you pull over to the side of the road for a funeral procession to show respect for those who have passed and express your condolences; this is the South that I know and love.
North Alabama in particular is a place with a very rich musical history. It was once home to the Father of the Blues himself, W. C. Handy. It is the home of Fame Studios, where celebrities like Etta James, Alicia Keys, The Civil Wars, Billy Currington, and Billy Ocean have recorded their music for millions to listen to. Millions know Fame Studios; it has been praised by people like John Lennon from The Beatles.
Higher education is important. Universities such as Duke, Vanderbilt, Alabama, Samford, and Harding are just a few. The younger population here strives to be the best they can be and become something great. They hope they can make a difference. There are doctors, engineers, artists, musicians, politicians, and so much more. Yet, many are looked down upon as less intelligent. During a discussion during my Southern Studies class at the University of North Alabama, students talked about how when in a group of people from other regions they were treated or made to feel unintelligent because of their accent. These same people are some of the highest ranked student.
In my Southern Studies class, we have touch on the topic of racism. The African-American students and a few professors on campus faced more racism when living or visiting northern states than in Alabama. Why is the South that is seen as the racist part of the country? The local police department has recently teamed up with Project Say Something, and local non-profit that help fight social injustice and racism. While these things are still a problem here, they are a problem everywhere. It is no worse here than in a northern state.
While it is not perfect here in the South, it is not what it is made out to be in the media. The stereotypes do not apply to all people. Everyone is unique. Everyone is different. You cannot paint millions the same way. You also cannot judge a region on the mistakes of people from decades ago, or from hundreds of years ago.
The South I know is always changing and always evolving. We care for one another and try to become better people. We fight the stereotypes and hope to one day be seen as equal to our counterparts in the North.