For those of you who do not call yourselves “Southern,” I feel compelled to write you a primer on the subject.
Unless you were born and raised in the South, or at least lived here long enough to assimilate into it, your paradigm of who and what we are may have been severely twisted by the media and the entertainment industry.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying we are the only culture getting the smelly end of the stick from those socially-misguided, culturally-ignorant people who sometimes seem to control the information universe. The American Indian, for example, has been portrayed as mad savages for decades. Blacks and Hispanics have been unfairly stereotyped in the movies and on TV. The list goes on.
I will admit that the image of “Deliverance” may live on in parts of the deep South, but every culture has its exceptions. What I want to address is some of the traditions of most Southerners, and imprint upon you a little truth about the South, or at least open your eyes a bit.
First, I don’t understand why people from other parts of the country say we have an accent. We speak American English and we speak it clearly. It’s those Northerners who have odd accents. Our speech was influenced by Scots/Irish immigrants and slaves, so any perceived accent is more closely tied to Great Britain and Africa than some of the “R” deprived stuff I hear from up North. (One of the thing I like about Yankees is listening to them talk.)
We tend to speak slower, so people believe we think slower. Keep believing that. This slow thinking southern boy is going to clean out your wallet at my next yard sale. And while we are at it, we don’t all have the same accent. From Texas to Louisiana to Georgia to North Carolina, we all sound different. We can usually tell where a fellow Southerner grew up just listening to them speak. Why can’t you?
Our food is the best “American” cuisine in the nation. Not only is it tasty enough to make you drown in your own drool while waiting for mom to call you to Sunday dinner, but we can take parts of animals previously known only to biologists and turn them into fare fit for a king. While I am on the subject, Barbeque (BBQ) is NOT throwing some random piece of meat on a hot grill. It is a long, loving process that involves smoke, sauces, rubs, and the consumption of beer or good Southern Bourbon.
Just for the record, I believe the lowly swine is the only one of God’s creatures worthy of being transformed into true BBQ. Sure, we will smoke the occasional deer or turkey, and my brothers and sisters in my adopted state of Texas swear by beef, but I must confess I am a disciple of the porcine faith.
We Southerners may argue among ourselves over which meat should be the benefactor of our BBQ magic, but that is a family discussion and you Yankees can just stay out of it.
We don’t mind getting our hands dirty, so we are viewed as common. To tell the truth, the Southern heritage of self-sufficiency is born of the desire to be independent, the distrust of any stranger laying their hands on our beloved pickup trucks, and the notion that the women in our society are above dealing with the crass inner workings of things mechanical. That is, unless they want to. (I just love the Georgia girl who is as much at home under the hood of a truck as she is in a corporate meeting.)
My daddy taught me how to change drum brakes when I was a snot-nosed kid and I taught my daughter how to find her way around the bowels of a motor vehicle. I do all of the routine maintenance and some of the more complex car repairs myself, leaving only such Machiavellian devices as the automatic transmission to the experts.
You can imagine my reaction when a Yankee friend of mine destroyed his new Mercedes because he had no idea that he should check the oil occasionally and change it regularly. A seized, oil-starved Mercedes engine makes for an expensive boat anchor.
Our cities are among the best in the country. Because of our agrarian history, we got a late start, but we caught up fast. If you don’t believe me, compare Dallas, Atlanta, or Charlotte to where you live. Compare Savannah or Charleston to one of your coastal towns. I challenge any college student in America to show me a bigger party town than Panama City Beach.
I’ve traveled all around this great nation of ours and I love to visit other cities. Despite rumors to the contrary, I have found New Yorkers to be polite and helpful, Mid-westerners to be mechanically adept, and many Californians (when you can find a native) can actually talk some sense. All things being equal, I just don’t much care to live in the North with their three seasons – June, July, and Winter.
We are not all Whites with red necks. There are Blacks, Cajuns, American Indians, Koreans – more ethnic variations than I can mention, who are proud to call themselves Southern. We are as diverse as a bag of jelly beans, but we are all Southerners. We share a lot in common, we celebrate our differences, and we continue to work out our problems.
I have friends from all over the country and I love immersing myself in their traditions. I welcome, with open arms, those of you who have immigrated from other areas of the country. My question is: If you think so poorly of our culture, why are so many of you moving here?