Shattering the Southern Stereotype
By Carl Menzel
Sun Staff Writer
Feb 28 2007
Welcome to South Carolina. As you cross the border, pull off I-95 to pick up your
Bible, Budweiser and Confederate flag. Shed your Lacoste, educated vocabulary
and BMW for a wife beater, southern drawl and pick-up truck. And forget about
tinted windows and nice rims because all your new truck needs are over-sized tires
and a shotgun rack.
After all, these are your specious stereotypes for the southern United States.
While Yankees are the first to chide and ridicule southern gentlemen, they are
simultaneously the frontrunners to sell their homes in the Hamptons for trendier,
more climatically benevolent locations in Florida.
Though it is true that the North and South have storied and drastically different
histories, to claim that the South is echelons below is not only erroneous but
ignorant as well. The past decade alone has seen the growth of metropolises
such as Charlotte and Atlanta, the latter being the latest American city to
land the summer Olympics, a feat that New York has failed to accomplish after
multiple subsequent attempts. Education-wise, while the South may not have the
Ivy League, it has many prominent and prodigious universities such as Emory,
Duke and Vanderbilt. Finally, regarding national economic contribution, the
influx of migratory residents from Ohio, New York and Pennsylvania have sent
real estate rates soaring and state economies have never been better.
Whether you northern elitists want to believe it or not, the South’s
importance and influence on national and global events has never been larger.
Since being the deciding factor in the past two presidential elections, politicians
have molded their platforms to placate and include southern views. Many policies
derived from these agendas highlight the dichotomous relationship between the
North and South. A closer examination of these relationships reveals an accurate
analysis of southern life. A few examples:
Religion. The South doesn’t earn the nickname “Bible Belt”
arbitrarily. The Solid South has been a stronghold for the Republican Party
as they value the inclusion of God in their literature, philosophies and lifestyles.
Abortion, gay marriage and stem cell research are just a few of the debates
in which religious values play an intricate role to mold southern viewpoints.
And, not to mention, the South is one of the few areas where individuals can
recite the Pledge of Allegiance without fearing censorship.
Respect. The southern gentleman is an extinct concept in many localities. In
a hectic, materialistic and competitive world, the man who stops to hold the
door only falls further behind in the line for admittance. Furthermore, chivalric
qualities are commonly ridiculed and looked upon as condescending by implying
that females are inferior or incapable. Therefore, the individual ironically
earns the title of sexist rather than gentleman. This is a concept created by
liberal feminists who have overstepped their bounds in search of equality and,
instead, have achieved absurdity and rudeness.
Integration. One of the most insulting and infuriating misconceptions is that
Southerners are inherently racist. Since the Civil Rights Movement, the South
has advanced to become one of the most tolerant and integrated sectors of America.
Contrarily, I have met many elitist Ivy Leaguers who not only discriminate on
color of skin but also color and style of clothes, cars, wealth, etc. Cornell
is the most polarized and segregated place I have ever inhabited. Case in point
is our beloved North Campus, where Native-American and African-American students
have the choice to segregate themselves. In addition, the much-heralded Greek
system exists in some cases to serve as ethnic enclaves for religious and cultural
sects. Rather than incorporating students from all walks of life, these organizations
exist to provide security and comfort for the many who have never stepped inside
a southern or inner-city public school.
Lifestyles. Nothing compares to the electric, busy and at times suffocating
atmosphere and attitude of New York City — where seconds are priceless
and an extra half hour on lunch break could mean a loss of thousands of dollars.
Polar opposite is the laid-back, open atmosphere of Hilton Head Island —
where ya’ll get the same work done, sans the heart attack. Down South,
the competitive, dog-eat-dog demeanor is replaced with a benevolent, familial
and more helpful cooperation of southern citizens. This is not to be mistaken
for a lack of productivity by Southerners. The more placid atmosphere is achievable
through utilizing archaic concepts such as teamwork and cooperation as opposed
to the single-minded, individualistic culture the north has adopted.
The above is solely a cursory assessment in attempt to inform you of the real
southern ideals. Many sectarians, however, resolve Southerners to be as, Jeff
Foxworthy describes, a race of Redneck, trailer trash and inferior people. This
conception is an egregious error. The relationship between the two cultures
combines to create an amalgam of intellectuals and good-hearted human beings
that comprise the United States of America. Especially at a university such
as Cornell, where we are constantly reminded of its message of inclusiveness
and respect for diversity, one would imagine the intellectual community would
welcome a southern perspective and culture which only augments the learning
So hop back in your car and merge onto I-95. Remove your Chanel shades and
pejorative stereotypes to observe a lifestyle that the rest of America is still
discovering and grappling to understand. As you accelerate into traffic, take
a deep breath and embrace an experience outside your suburban mansion. Just
don’t forget to apply sunscreen to the back of your neck.
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