Thursday, July 2, 2015

Rant: People Who Hate the South

This post could be controversial but I need to get a few things off my chest.  This post is primarily a response to anti-Southern blogs posts that I recently found.
  WARNING: This post contains lots of profanity.  Where does all this hate come from?  Some folks are simply misguided and have bought into the Hollywood stereotypes.  Their attitude might change if they actually spent some time in the South outside of tourist areas.  Others like the author of the above blog are truly bigoted and do not practice the tolerance that they preach.

As a preface, I have lived on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line and have traveled to 48 U.S states and 5 foreign countries so I know what I'm talking about.  If I could choose anywhere that I could live, it would be right here in Birmingham, Alabama.    I will not deny that the South has its share of problems but the purpose of this post is to offer a rebuttal to anti-Southern sentiments, many of which I believe to be unfair generalizations.

1.Still fighting the Civil War:
Like most Southerners, I have little interest in the politics of the 1860s.  My concern is preserving Southern speech, manners, culture and values and I want it to retain a distinctive flavor from the rest of the country.  If that means that I am still fighting the war, then I am guilty as charged.  Southerners are proud of their culture and do not take kindly to being told how you did things up north.  By the same token, if I were to move to New England and frequently talked about how they should do things like down south, chances are that I'd get a rather chilly reception. Respect the culture and you will most likely get along fine.

2. Uneducated
Lack of education is probably the 2nd most common negative stereotype of Southerners.  Critics point to low standardized test scores and lower graduation rates from high school.  The truth is that it is more difficult to get a diploma in Alabama.  In Pennsylvania, you could get away with taking courses such as Science & Society, Pre-Algebra and Consumer Math.  In Alabama, Algebra 1 and Geometry are almost always required for graduation and some schools require Basic Chemistry and Algebra 2.  Thus, it should not be a surprise that graduation rates are lower.  Some of the low test scores can be explained by the fact that a higher percentage of Southern children attend private schools, which are not required to release test scores.  Students who attend private schools tend to do better on SATs and ACTs entrance exams.  With that being said even if Southerners are less educated, that should never be a barrier to friendship and I find it somewhat offensive that some people feel that way.  Regardless of a person's status in this life, he or she may very well be a great person who can enrich your life if you took the time to get to know them.

3. Racism:
I need to be careful how I word this section.  I am certainly not proud of Alabama's racist past and do not deny that terrible things took place here in the 1950s and '60s.  I don't think that words can express the pain that was inflicted upon black people.  However, with that being said, things have changed a great deal in the last 50 years.  In fact, resistance to integration faded by the early '70s, nearly a decade before I was even born.  Unfortunately, I have encountered a couple of "in your face" types who casually use the n-word but overall, I have seen more positive interaction among the races here in Birmingham than anywhere else that I have lived.  As far as the Confederate Battle Flag, in light of the tragedy in Charleston, I support its removal from government buildings because it has been co-opted by hate groups. Banning it from tailgate parties goes too far however and I find that taking a show such as Dukes of Hazzard off the air is ridiculous.

4. Culture:
Many people applaud sexual promiscuity and recreational drug use in the name of tolerance for different lifestyles despite the fact that it can lead to death and disease.  If you like any of the following things, you may find that those same people find YOUR lifestyle to be offensive:
-driving big  pickup trucks
- country and southern rock music
-speaking with a southern accent
-hunting and fishing
-attend an evangelical church

5. Religion and Politics:
If voters in the Northeast and West Coast had their way, the USA would be a socialist country in the mold of the European Union.  They see the South as their biggest obstacle towards that objective.

A fairly large percentage of people have become openly hostile to evangelical Christianity in recent years.  Quite often, they are referred to as "fundamentalists" who are nearly on the same level as the Taliban and ISIS.  Rosie O'Donnell once said that "radical Christianity" is as dangerous as radical Islam.  Have you even been to a church service? Read up on sharia law before making such an ignorant statement.   Church of the Highlands, Birmingham's largest mega church, performs massive outreach to prisons and low income communities and has teamed with Prayer Force United for prayer walks in the poorest and highest crime areas.  These efforts have helped reduce the crime and the recidivism rate yet you never hear about it in the media.  I'm normally tolerant of opposing views but in one case, I make an exception.  If you equate evangelicals and conservative Catholics with radical Isalm, I don't want you as a friend.  As for me, I do not believe that the Earth was literally created in 6 days just 7,000 years ago.  I do believe that I am not merely a product of evolution from apes but rather, I was created in the image of God.  Does that mean that I am somehow anti-Science or anti-intellectual?  Some would say so.

So, what do I like so much about the South?
Nobody thinks that I am dumb because of my southern accent.  Yes, I like good and tasty food, the warm climate and low cost of living.  I am proud that the region leads the nation in charitable giving and military personnel but it is primarily the friendly people who share my values.  Smiles from strangers on the street are common here and I usually don't give it much thought.  Occasionally, I will get big and heartfelt smile from a person that I don't even know, which should brighten anyone's day. A couple of times, I walked into a bar alone on a road trip and was invited by a group of people to join their table. On several occasions, Southern women who I barely knew have greeted me not just with a smile but with a hug and yes they turned out to be very nice when I got to know them.

Yes, let's respect that cultural differences do exist within our country but at the end of the day, we are all Americans.  Charlie Daniels recently posted that it's time to unite and do away with the hyphenated labels.  Right on, brother.

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