Stopping Southern Stereotypes
By Kyra Hudson
My grandmother lives in the small town of Picayune, Mississippi. It’s the kind of place where everyone knows all of their neighbors and come together for potlucks. As a child, I looked forward to school breaks when I could go out to Mississippi and experience a community where everyone knew my name.
Picayune was my favorite place, but over time, I heard more and more people express their hatred for the South, making me question some of my most wonderful memories. Reflecting on my experience in Picayune, I soon realized that this hatred is misplaced.
The South is often generalized as a place filled with hostility and disdain for minority groups. But, it is never a good idea to generalize a whole group of people, and the South tends to fall victim to these generalizations. Generalizations only further the divide between different groups of people and increases overall hate. Disregarding a whole group of Americans because of their geographic location is unfair to all of the good people living there.
While it is true thatsome areas in the South are not welcoming to minority groups, the same can be said about the North. In fact, the infamous Jim Crow Laws, which enforced racial segregation after the 13th amendment was enacted, originated in the North. Southerns do tend to be more conservative politically and socially than the people living in big cities on the coasts, which can alarm our community’s liberal majority, but having different beliefs does not make all 115 million people living in the South antagonists.
Going back even further, the disdain for the South has been present before the Civil War, when extreme differences in the economic and social workings split the nation. While the conflict was eventually settled, the lack of unity and contempt remained, creating a permanent division between these two sections of America. It is rare to find a country so drastically split on so many important issues, and the South is not entirely to blame for the discrepancy.
The conservative political viewpoints and ideologies of the South do not inherently encourage hate, and it is not fair to blame them for the hate crimes executed by extremists. The issue is that the different parties in our country are not actually listening to what the other has to say but simply trying to prove their superiority by any means necessary. The negativity shown by politicians, especially in the media, encourages the general public that hate is acceptable and that listening to different viewpoints is foolish. The South is not to blame for the growing hate; rather, it is the fault of overly competitive politicians on both sides.
Additionally, the rest of the United States has been the site of the majority of hate crimes in America. In the past five years, hate crimes in the 10 largest cities have risen over 14 percent. The problem of rising hate crimes is not a problem with the South or conservative states—it is a national crises. Instead of blaming generalized groups of people, it is more important to find the root cause of these inexcusable actions and work for a solution together as a nation. While America’s sectionalism cannot be erased overnight, it is important not to clump groups of people together, but to actually listen to what they are saying and work together to put an end to hate in America.
With the rise of hate all over the world, not only in America, it is important to remember that different groups of people have unique aspects that should be celebrated, not condemned. Southern culture is a distinctive and vital aspect of America, as its underlying sense of hope keeps the original American values strong. The sense of community there is like no other: people know each other on a first name basis and neighborhoods are like extended families. This mirrors the idealistic values of colonial America that have been passed down for years.
The South is not just a bunch of small conservative towns, but it is home to some of America’s most vibrant cities, like Austin and New Orleans. Big southern cities, while similar to big cities in other places in the United States, maintain this sense of community and overall optimistic outlook that the rest of the South is known for. These cities, should not be avoided, by any means; instead we should urge ourselves to expand our horizon and learn about their culture.