Now, I love living in the South. I am a Southerner, and don’t feel the need to be ashamed of that.
But that doesn’t mean I embrace every aspect of Southern culture. Does anybody embrace every aspect of her culture?
Isn’t culture a kind of buffet or a la carte experience? Don’t I get to choose what I want to align myself with, put on my plate so to speak?
Maybe it’s a yes and no when it comes to Southerners. The outsider’s notion of what it means to be Southern is incredibly outmoded and stifling and boring and bigoted.
That we’re all a joke: inbred, ignorant, Bible-thumping, hate-spewing, cow-raping fools who refer to the Civil War as The War of Northern Aggression.
And also, have you ever seen an inbred person? It is about as far from funny as starvation. It is unfunny sad.
I went to college believing lots of things that turned out to be wrong – like that I didn’t have a southern accent. My college was in my home state of Virginia, but was pretty much in foreign parts – the eastern part of the Old Dominion, hundreds of miles from the mountains of home, and worlds away.
My alma mater is a liberal arts college with a fine reputation that it is proud of, and it draws people from across the country. In other words, there were lots of students from out of state – and lots of northern kids, especially.
My accent was somewhere between quaint and shocking. How could a smart person talk like that?
My freshman roommate (from Lon Guylind) asked me to repeat the words “bin” and “pie” for her amusement again and again. I was like the bearded lady: an anamoly, but not that freaky once you got to know me.
And it’s not like I was walking around confusing sit/set (“Set down, Mae! Supper’s ready!”) or teach/learn (“Git stung? That’ll learn ya to poke a bee’s nest with a stick!”)
In fact, I have a (slightly unnatural) knack for grammar. I was in a state of interrupted bliss in 7th grade English when we diagrammed sentences.
So, no… the raised sophomoric eyebrows weren’t about my ability to construct a sentence; this was simply an obsessive focus on my vowels and syllabic stretch.
But even if I couldn’t construct a sentence, since when does that mean a person is incapable of constructing a thought?
If you think you’re open-minded and progressive and loving your neighbor and the marginalized and whatnot, here’s a simple little way to check yourself.
Listen to a deep southern accent and honestly ask yourself…
Do you feel superior?
Do you feel smug?
Do you think you already know that person?
If so, chances are you’re an asshole, pleased as punch with your “open-mindedness.” I don’t care who you voted for.
But that’s okay! We’re all assholes sometimes. Here’s how to recover:
Quit being shitty to people because of how they talk.
(This applies to all accents, not just the southern ones. Obvs, I hope.)
If you must be shitty to people, be shitty to them because of what they say.