I was born and bred in the South. Now, the South is a wonderful place, the birthplace of Coca-Cola, Chick-fil-a, a bunch of fattening food, the Civil Rights movement (but not American slavery; that comes straight from Ye Olde England), and a whole lot of misconceptions. As a true Southerner, I'd like to set a few of those straight.
1. We say "Bless your heart" all the time because we're sweet
...Guys, this is an insult.
This is how most people think Southerners use the phrase "Bless your heart."
"Poor Leora's husband is dying of cancer."
"Oh, bless her heart, that's got to be so hard for her."
Nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, we say "Bless your heart" and "Bless his heart" quite often, but not in a nice way. Confused? Let me show you.
"She tried to boil frozen french fries in water, bless her heart."
It might occasionally be used the way you think we use it, but be wary. Most likely, the only positive way you'll hear the phrase used is to compliment how cute your babies are. And please, whatever you do, do not use this phrase when talking to a Southerner. I've been told "Bless your heart" before and tensed up, wondering why this family friend was insulting me, before reminding myself she was from Indiana. It's best just to stay away from it. Likewise, "Aren't you precious" and "With all due respect" don't mean what you think either.
2. "Southern" does not equal "Country" or "Redneck"
We are not backward and stupid just because we live below the Mason-Dixon line. Southern, country, and redneck are three completely different things. Rednecks can be found anywhere in the Union. Yes, in your state, too (just head to your local Wal-Mart and you'll probably find a few). When you think of redneck, think building a bonfire in a wheelbarrow. And "country" is something altogether different. "Country" is people named Cooter, and people marrying their cousins (okay, I'm joking). Really, though, think of the people in Texas. They're country. We're Southern.
3. On the subject of Texas, Texas and Florida are not Southern
If you have to look up "what states are in the South", you're not truly Southern. True Southerners know. Despite Texas and Florida fighting on the Confederate side of the Civil War (I don't know why, but I find it really hard to believe Florida actually participated in that), Texas and Florida are not truly Southern. Being Southern isn't just a matter of location. It's a certain culture. Southerners are kind, friendly (not to say that other people are rude, that's not what I mean; it's just different down here). We wave to strangers, know exactly when the allergy seasons are and the names of the allergy medicine companies, don't even try to survive the summer (we know the only combatant to ninety-degree weather is air condition), say "sir" and "ma'am", watch college football, go to church every Sunday, eat real barbecue, and have that certain state we swear is more idiotic and backwoods than us (lookin' at you, Alabama). Texas is too self-obsessed and Florida too...Florida to be Southern. Y'all know what I mean.
4. Southerners are stupid
Well, aren't you precious! Bless your little heart.
With all due respect, let me say this slowly and clearly so you'll understand: The South is not Deliverance. Let me say it again: The South is not Deliverance. And one more time, just to make it clear: THE SOUTH IS NOT DELIVERANCE!!!
I've never seen the whole movie, but I'd kind of like to strangle whoever made it. That movie is one of the biggest reasons big city folks think we're stupid. One person moving to New York from the South was informed that her daughter wouldn't do too well in class because "New York's classes are harder." The daughter made straight As. And let's not forget all the hullabaloo over Brian Kemp, the Republican candidate for governor in Georgia. He made national news for his commercial where he grilled his daughter's boyfriend. Cue roasting in the New York and LA media sure he was so stupid because he has a thick Southern accent. *sigh*
Okay, let's be real here. Ever heard of George Washington? Thomas Jefferson? Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? What about Clarence Thomas? Ryan Seacrest? Anthony Mackie? Peyton Manning? Elvis Presley? James Earl Jones? Morgan Freeman? Davy Crockett (King of the Wild Frontier...)? Douglas MacArthur? Jackie Robinson? Hank Aaron? Ty Cobb? Rosa Parks? Every single one of them is Southern. And where is our president, the one everyone thinks is one of the stupidest men in America, from? Was it Alabama? Mississippi? Maybe Arkansas?
It was New York City.
5. Southerners are all racist
Story time here. There is a post office in my former home county with a "White Only" sign. Now before you gasp and scream about racism, let me provide some vital context clues. This post office is in a tiny little town called White, or Whites to most residents, named after James A. White and his store, White's. Now most post offices have two outgoing mail slots: one for mail to the town or region they are in, and one for all other places. White(s) Post Office is no different. It has a sign marking the envelope slot for all other mail, and a sign for in-town mail. And so you get the "White Only" sign.
Thing is, these are the only "White Only" signs you'll ever find in the South nowadays, real or figurative. It's not the 1960s anymore. Down here, we really don't care what ethnicity you are. Just drink sweet tea, call carbonated beverages Coke, and know what real barbecue is, and we won't hate on you. (Unless you're an Alabama fan. No football team should win that much.)
Now hold onto your hats, because I have some statistics.
The gap between blacks' and whites' graduation rates in the Southern states (not counting Alabama, because something went wonky with the data their DOE recorded) is much smaller than the national average. Also, the percentage of black students in the South who attend schools that are 90-100% black is lower in the South than in any other region, according to a 2014 study by UCLA’s Civil Rights Project.
The average unemployment rates nationwide in 2016 were 4.7 for whites and 8.2 for blacks, but in the South, 3.93 for whites and 7.97 for blacks. The black unemployment rate nationwide was 2.1 times the white unemployment rate. But in the South, the rate averaged out to 2.05, again showing that, in Southern states, blacks are hired slightly more often than the national average. In addition, of the 18 states with a black unemployment rate lower than 10 percent, 11 were Southern states.
According to one article I read, "While it is true that Southern states incarcerate more black people per capita than the rest of the country, the numbers show that the South imprisons more people period." Soo...apparently police here are stricter than elsewhere? I guess that would explain why the city we live in sends out flyers with notes to residents to please stop jaywalking.
Also from the article: "The evidence shows that blacks are killed by law-enforcement officials at disproportionately higher rates than whites across the country, but surprisingly, the rate is much lower in the South." (There were numbers along with it, but I don't feel like posting them.)
(The article says it better than I can. Here's the link, but be warned, it has mild language.) "Many Southern states have made it difficult to vote through voter-ID restrictions and voter-suppression efforts. Plus, Southern states are generally under Republican control, which would seemingly result in fewer black elected officials and fewer black voters, right?
"Not so fast, my friend.
"Of the 52 African-American members serving in the 115th Congress, 22 hail from the 12 Southern states. In a 2015 survey by the National Council of State Legislatures, although most state legislatures nationwide were less than 9 percent black, Southern state legislatures were 17 percent black.
"This phenomenon may be due to the fact that the South’s black population tends to register and vote more than other areas of the country. Nationally, 65.3 percent of African Americans registered to vote in the 2016 election, according to the U.S. census, but the number was higher for Southern black voters (69.6 percent). While 55.9 percent of the black voting-age population voted in the 2016 election countrywide, 59.2 percent of blacks in the South cast their ballots in the last national election."
"Because the cost of living varies across the country, it is difficult to compare economic inequality by simply measuring raw dollars. According to U.S. census numbers, in 2016 the median income for whites was $61,858, but it was $39,490 for people who identified as black. The median incomes for Southern whites and Southern blacks in 2016 were $58,209 and $38,601, respectively. So nationally, blacks earned about 63 cents for every dollar that whites earned, but in the South, blacks earned about 66 cents per white dollar.
"Furthermore, according to BlackDemographics.com, of the top 10 states with high black homeownership, nine were in the South. In Forbes magazine’s 2015 list of the cities where blacks are doing the best economically, Southern cities made up 13 of the 15 on the list.
"Based on all of the objective evidence, African Americans in the South are closer to whites economically and politically and in education and employment. The opportunities aren’t equal, but there is less of a measurable racial divide in the Southern states than there is nationwide."
6. Southerners are wimps
Sure, we can't handle snow very well, but here's a secret: a lot of the snowy Northern states are flat. The South is anything but. Besides, we'd like to see all y'all try and survive our summer heat. And you can't just come down in August. You have to come down in April/early May and stay until October. If you can stand that without complaining, we will concede y'all are hardier. Until then, kindly keep your comments to yourself.
7. Southerners are all Republicans
You'd be surprised how many Democrats there are down here. True, most of them are in the big cities, and most of the rest are in counties where they have Republican beliefs, but everyone has always voted Democrat so there's no reason to change now. But there are a few just scattered around.
8. Southerners hate Northerners
I promise, Southerners don't hate Northerners. Do we look down on them? Yes. Yes, we do. But then, Northerners look down on Southerners, so I guess we're even there.
People also think most Southerners are gun-toting Bible-thumping Christians who love hunting, Chick-fil-A, sports, and America (not necessarily in that order), but they...aren't exactly wrong about those. I hope you learned something about Southerners from this blog post. Or you just nodded and wished your Northern friends knew this. Either way is fine with me.
I could go on and on, but I think I'll stop here, at least for now. This post is long enough as it is, and I'm not aiming to overwhelm anybody. Maybe I'll write a post about true Southern culture next, so all y'all can know what we're really like down in the sweet South. Y'all come back now, ya hear?