Skip to comments.10 Things Everybody Gets Wrong About The South: Dixie is the most misunderstood region in America.
Posted on 06/20/2014 8:53:03 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
I don’t believe it’s a stretch to say that the South is the most misunderstood region in the United States. Everywhere I go (even sometimes here in the South!) I run into misconceptions about this area. I’m proud of the region I call home, and I wish everybody could know the South that I’ve experienced my whole life. So I’m glad to get the chance to clear up some of the stereotypes and generalizations. Here are the ten things that everybody gets wrong about the South.
Theres a notion that we Southerners still carry a grudge over having lost the Civil War. Its a fascinating historical era and a huge part of our heritage (like it or not), but were not all sitting on our porch swings with sour grapes lamenting that it didn’t go our way.
We do tend to lionize our Robert E. Lees and Stonewall Jacksons lets face it, theres a certain romanticism about that gallant and gentrified culture, the ugliness of slavery notwithstanding. And yes, youll see folks flying the Stars & Bars from time to time down here, along with the heritage not hate arguments that go along with that emblem, but those people are increasingly in the minority.
Even though well never forget the Civil War — and Reconstruction — we Southerners have moved on. The South truly has risen again, and modern Southerners are vastly more interested in improving the present and creating a better future for our beloved region.
Some people outside the South seem to have the impression that after the Civil War, we freed the slaves and haven’t grown technologically since. I dont know why people view the South as a technological backwater, but somehow that perception sticks.
Its true that we have our areas that lack modern conveniences, but most of the South has moved past the agrarian era. Massive amounts of commerce and innovation flow through large cities like Miami and Atlanta. North Carolina and Texas host large technological sectors, and the aerospace industry has a huge foothold in Dixie as well. The entertainment industry has also made the South a home. Were clearly more than just backwards little farm towns down here.
Another common misconception about the South is that our people engage solely in redneck pastimes — things like hunting, NASCAR, and strange events celebrating possums and kudzu. While these ideas are pretty much true, theyre not the only ways we like to spend our time.
Lots of men, women, and children throughout the South hunt and fish every chance they get, but todays hunters and fishers tend to do so responsibly, rather than wantonly killing animals for the thrill of it. Besides, hunting and fishing are just a couple of the many great ways to get outside and enjoy Gods creation Southerners also love rafting, hiking, and camping!
And sure, we have plenty of oddly named festivals dedicated to various forms of wildlife, but for every Deer Festival or Rattlesnake Roundup, theres an AthFest (a music and arts festival that takes over downtown Athens, GA, every summer) and a Twilight Criterium (a bicycle race through the downtown streets of Athens in the spring). All over the South youll find arts events, historic homes tours, music festivals, and tons of other cultural celebrations that arent redneck in the least. And were more than just NASCAR fans dont forget that the South is where college football reigns supreme.
Southerners love to get outside, and we love any excuse to hang out together in our communities - theres nothing redneck about either of those.
Southern cuisine has had a bad reputation for a long time. The prevailing stereotype is that of a bunch of overfed yokels slobbering over fatty, greasy fried chicken. Though Southern food hasn’t always been the most nutritious and our obesity rates are high, those rates aren’t that much different from those of our northern neighbors. And our food has undergone some changes over the years.
Chefs like Nathalie Dupree and Alton Brown have developed elegant Southern recipes for many years. Cities like Atlanta, New Orleans, and Birmingham play host to cutting edge restaurants. Even the Butter Queen herself, Paula Deen, has spent time developing healthier, modern twists on Southern classic cuisine, as have her sons Jamie and Bobby Deen. Though we havent always eaten the healthiest of foods, our cuisine is far from monolithic and is more sophisticated than outsiders would credit us.
This is one that we Southerners get wrong most of the time too. We all tend to think of Florida as one big Yankee enclave, largely because of the snowbirds all over the beach towns, as well as the population growth due to the tourism and aerospace industries. While its tough to find a Southern accent in the bigger cities like Orlando and Miami, the smaller towns and rural areas have more of a Southern feel.
Rural Florida has its share of charming small towns and quaint family farms. Some of the smaller tourist attractions (with apologies to my friend Lisa De Pasquale, who suggested this myth to debunk) play into the biggest Southern stereotypes just look for your local alligator wrestler next time youre down there.
Im proud to claim Florida for the South well, except for Gainesville. Ill never claim the Gators.
For many people outside the South, Southern culture begins with Green Acres and ends with Honey Boo-Boo. Viewing Southern culture through the lens of lowest-common-denominator sitcoms and variety shows fits the narrative that Southerners are uncultured hicks. My aunt, who moved to Seattle from Atlanta in her mid-twenties, tells the story of a neighbor in the early ’80s who was surprised to hear that we have museums in Georgia!
Such ignorant views of Southern culture (whether intentional or not) overlook the Souths immense contributions to high culture and pop culture alike. The Southern literary tradition spans from Flannery O’Connor to William Faulkner to Alice Walker to Pat Conroy to Lee Smith and includes playwrights like Tennessee Williams. Southern music ranges from Elvis Presley to Al Green to Hank Williams (Sr., Jr., and III) to R.E.M. to the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra — not to mention a thriving film and television industry based in the South.
Southern culture is so much more than the lowest common denominator, and thankfully plenty of us down here are working hard to prove it.
For some reason, theres a prevailing belief that Southerners are hostile toward outsiders. I imagine that this particular misconception probably originated during Reconstruction, when carpetbaggers and other Northern busybodies saw fit to punish the defeated South for the sins of slavery.
The well-worn phrase Southern hospitality doesn’t merely apply to our neighbors. Throughout the South we’ve grown accustomed to making the most of the tourism business, from high profile destinations in and around bigger cities to smaller niche tours specializing in show business, historical homes, or the haunted South. Many areas around the South also actively court bigger businesses from all over the world.
Come visit us down here in the South. Wed love to see yall!
Remember the idiotic Euro-techno hit song (and video) Cotton Eye Joe by Rednex? I was in college when that piece of trash came out, and I was appalled by the portrayal of hillbillies in overalls and straw hats spitting tobacco juice all over the place. I remember thinking, Is this what they really think of us?
Sadly, theres a certain misperception of Southerners, especially those in rural areas, thats not too far from that these days. Bill Maher referred to the 2012 presidential primaries in Alabama and Mississippi as Toothless Tuesday.
So its true that we have our hillbillies down here and they all seem to have reality shows but the South is a vibrant region full of professionals, artists, entrepreneurs, and hipsters boy, do we have a lot of hipsters. Those who look down on us as a bunch of hicks dont know what theyre talking about.
I could write so much on this subject — in fact, I already have. We can place the blame for Hollywood Southern accents at the feet of lazy casting directors and clueless dialect coaches. The fact of the matter is that there are more than one or two Southern accents, and they’re as varied as the people who speak them.
Interestingly enough, many linguists argue that the accents in the South most closely resemble the accents of their ancestral homelands — English, Celtic, and even Canadian French, in the case of the Cajun accents — than any other American dialects. Check out the video above featuring professor and former dialect coach David Stern (Hollywood must have fired him because his accents were too good), and listen to the audio clip at this link to get an idea of the origins of our beautiful Southern accents.
Oh, and brace yourself, because — to paraphrase the late, great Southern treasure Lewis Grizzard: “God talks like we do.”
We Southerners have traveled a long, difficult road when it comes to race relations, and we’ve had to atone for a multitude of sins when it comes to the specter of racism. But the truth is, the acts of racism that occur in the South these days are isolated and rare.
In many ways, much of the South has grown to fit the melting pot ideal the Founding Fathers set. As Glen Browder wrote in 2012, “…the southern people generally live their lives without constant, dominating thoughts about white supremacy.” It says a lot about how far the South has come since the days of segregation that the Supreme Court struck down the sections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that stood to punish the South the most.
Don’t get me wrong – race is still a touchy subject all over the country, but I’m proud to say that we’re not a region of backward, racist hicks.
He missed one of the biggest ones of all — that Southern Republicans and conservatives are responsible for the KKK and repression of black voting rights. The Dems have spewed this propaganda so effectively that Goebbels would be proud.
I’ve found the north to be far more racist than my home state of North Carolina.
These are good points, but they really don’t need to be made. If you’re from the South you already know this.
If you aren’t from the South, you should still know this to be true. And if you don’t - then wallow in your ignorance someplace else.
Well, 6-10 are still mostly true! (born in Florida, lived in NC and now Alabama).
1A - Being the Bible Belt is a Bad Thing.
I have actually found that the gentility, respect, concern and politeness instilled in people by Christianity make being in the South a very enjoyable experience.
In the South, they don't care how close you are as long as you don't get too big. In the North, they don't care how big you are as long as you don't get too close.
I've heard far worse racist crap hurled about up here than I ever did when I lived in the south.
’ Southerners Are All Racists.’
I worked for a few months for Chrysler building engines when I was 18 and we stood across the line from each other. Not a day passed that I did not learn something about race relations.
I had to ask what a spic was one day. Each day I watched and listened as a Polock, as the Chink called him, traded racial insults back and forth. Went on the entire shift and I think the Chink would usually win when he launched into some Chinese dialect that described the close relationship that the Polock’s mother had with the family dog, least I think that is what he was saying.
Northern folks are the most racist people on earth, for my money.
I grew up in Panama City Fl. I could tell which state and which part of the state (AL, MS, TN, GA, SC) visitors came from based on their accent. But that was years ago. Much more difficult now.
Ive found the north to be far more racist than my home state of North Carolina.
Being born in the north and having spent my entire youth in a mostly northeastern culture, I was fortunate to move to the South after my spouse got out of the Navy.
What you have stated is ABSOLUTELY true!!!!!!
Number 4 is true. It’s called the High Wall. If you are not part of the good ole boys network, you will not find a job regardless of how qualified you are.
Both my wife and I dealt with that when we moved to Texas. Now the head hunters and companies that blew me off 6 years ago now send us Christmas gifts and call me once a week about a job.
I smile at them, thank them and say bless your heart.
Southerners are generally friendlier than yankees in my experience. My paternal grandfather’s middle name was Dixie and he was born in Tennessee, 1899. Sadly, he died before I was born.
This isn’t about Mississippi exactly or Thad or the Ole Miss Rebels in the College World Series. :-)
I'm getting mine soon.;-)
This guy isn’t the best defender of the South, with his underlying hint of inferiority he sounds like a young guy that is largely conditioned by modern media, and much of what he says implies that the South has overcome something that all used to be true, growth which can be attributed to modern media and TV, in other words, Yankee influence.
Why write like this? “Lots of men, women, and children throughout the South hunt and fish every chance they get, but todays hunters and fishers tend to do so responsibly, rather than wantonly killing animals for the thrill of it.”
I’m a Yankee born and bred, and proud of it. But I have to say that the Southerners I’ve dealt with in my life have generally been decent, honorable people I’m equally proud to call my fellow Americans.
And to the degree the South stubbornly holds to the traditions of family, community, individuality, and liberty that echo our Founders, I find myself much more aligned with its values than the post-modern humanist North.
Or how racists in the South supposedly forsook the Democratic party after it radicalized in 1972 and transferred their bigotry to the Republican side.
Only in the fevered imagination of Morris Deas & Cynthia McKinney.
The “Solid South” was racist for as long as the region was absolutely dominated by Democrats. FDR himself never laid a glove on it (he let Eleanor do that), and kept their undisturbed support until his death.
The Republican party in the South is far more inclusive than the Dems ever were.
Thanks for sharing this. I’ve lived in Michigan all my life and love many things about my state. That said I love the south and am planning to retire there. We are vacationing in southern states to get a feel for different areas.
I’ve never really bought into any of the ten stereotypes listed (although I’ve certainly heard them all), except I admit my perception of Florida is a bit different than say GA or AL. Anyhow I have maybe ten years until retirement and welcome any suggestions for conservative southern areas to visit. Sorry for hijacking the thread a bit. MP
Isn't the South made up of as many culturally, politically, and historically diverse regions as the North?
No one would lump Idaho and Southern California, Western Washington and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, or upstate New York and the Greater Chicago area together into one undifferentiated mass labelled "The North," would they? Then why do the same with regards to the South?
But it’s true that y’all eat breakfast regularly at Waffle House, right??
#7 Greasy Foods.
I told my doctor several years ago, “I grew up in the South, where if it ain’t fried, it ain’t food.”
Damn straight we do. Can’t beat the All-Star Breakfast!
They haven't been to Oak Ridge, Tenn.
Obviously hasn't been on some of the Civil War threads around here, or on any of the ACW chatrooms out there.
And Southerners also have a long and proud tradition of serving in the military. . .north or south. . .up to today.
I grew up in the South, where if it aint fried, it aint food.
That’s funny. I grew up on a farm in Kansas and we ate what we raised. T-bone or porterhouse steak and eggs for breakfast and yes it was all fried and accompanied by homemade biscuits and steak gravy made from the pan drippings. But we did use our own lard which my mom rendered. Of course the cracklins were used in homemade cornbread. Just plain good.
Lots of Damned Yankee jokes, but they are not taken seriously (these days)
plus i have found that whole southern hospitality thing to be very true!
Every region of the US is misunderstood and subject to generalities by outsiders. This is not unique to the south. Americans typically stereotype their fellow Americans and people from around the world stereotype America and visa versa...this isn’t news, it’s human nature.
...or Huntsville, Alabama.
We have some fine universities and top notch hospitals.
Most of the rural areas have air ambulance svc. you can join.
I live in a small town 45 miles from Tusc. and 90 from B'ham. Locally, we are suffering from lack of jobs, but it has made the housing market far more affordable for retirees moving back, and a fairly good retirement means a high standard of living here.
Our small local hospital has a state of the art operating and ICU unit, and helicopter ambulance svc.to B'ham's specialty hospitals. We have a jr. college and it is 45 miles to UA, Tuscaloosa, so many commute.
Beautiful country here, and you can get a lovely home 2 to 3 thousand sq ft. for 150 to 250 thousand. Also go out of town a few miles and get some acreage. Property taxes are one of the lowest in the nation. In Tusc. and B'ham, probably 300 to 500 thousand for same size house.
AL also has the Robert Trent Jones golf trails from north to south, and we are half a day's drive to mountains in TN or white sand beaches of the FL andAL panhandle.
I was born in the Bronx, grew up outside philly, lived in Springfield, MO for 13 years, and after being in Jville NC for 1.5 years I had to come back to pa. Boy am I homesick for NC! And I don’t even like the beach. I would be in earth/heaven if I was in the Appalachians but was truly content in Jville.
The panhandle and northern Florida is as southern as GA or AL. Southern Florida is pretty much Yankee wall to wall.
“Texas is Texas”
Thank you I was wondering if someone was going to say that. :)
I found your response even though you clicked someone else’s message to reply on.
Thanks so much for this information. Alabama is on my list to check out, but I wasn’t sure which part. I have been to the Birmingham/Tuscaloosa (sp?) areas on business...first thing I noticed was the highway from the airport to hotel was litter-free. I only stayed a couple days but the area seemed nice, and people very friendly. If they muttered ‘damn yankee’ after I walked away, I never knew it. :)
Is there a decent vacation destination (with things to do) that would also allow me to check out those areas, even if we have to drive a couple hours? Thanks!
Actually that makes perfect sense to me. My mom lives an hour north of Orlando, and I’d call it a blend, but leaning toward northern a bit.
That can be true of many parts of the country where a person from a big city moves into a small town. I live in Wisconsin. My siblings and I grew up in a medium-sized city. When one of my sisters got married, she and her husband moved to a much smaller town about twenty-five miles away. They lived there five years. She was never accepted as one of the townsfolk. She was always an outsider.
I knew a co-worker who experienced the same thing. He's been living in another small town for thirty + years, and he said he's still an outsider to the locals.
In NYC, they move money around and publish books. Pretty good food as I remember.
In the ignorant South we:
Put men on the moon
Shoot probes beyond the limits of our solar system.
Drill for oil in one mile of seawater and we can send down our robots to repair breaks in the drill string.
We have food to die for.
The former is AAU ball, the latter is the pro league.
Five big NASA centers are in the South. Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Michoud in Loisiana, Marshall and Stennis in Mississippi, and Johnson Spaceflight Center in Texas. Not bad for a bunch of redneck states, eh?
My huge error. Marshall SFC is in Alabama. How stupid of me.
When I played golf I used to joke that other golfers should pay my greens fees. That way when someone muffed a shot badly he could point to me and say, “Well, at least I don’t suck like him!”
The stereotype of the South (no shoes, inbreeding, lynch mobs, etc.) exists for much the same reason. Despite being the home of Mitchell, Faulkner, Welty and MANY other notable authors, despite the racially motivated violence in L.A., Detroit, Watts, Howard Beach, Crown Heights, the busing riots in Boston and all the blood on the collective hands of the rest of this country, some people have to have someone else they can feel superior to. The South is homophobic, but where was Matthew Shepard pistol-whipped to death? The South is anti-Semitic, but where was Yankel Rosenbaum stabbed to death? The South is a cultural desert, but the International Ballet Competition is being held in Jackson, Ms. this week.
I could go on, but why bother? We in the South have long realized the rest of our countrymen have been indoctrinated to this pap, and nothing will change their low-information mentality. Yes, we’re evil, we shoot Bambi, we eat mudbugs, we all drive pick-up trucks, we juggle cats, whatever. You should stay away from us and move somewhere you’ll be happier. Try Detroit, I hear it’s a buyer’s market for retirees right now...
P.S. And despite Cleveland’s overblown fatuous claim, the South is the REAL home of rock ‘n roll!
You're right there.The first time I tried grits was at Ft Knox in '69.I didn't make *that* mistake again.I thought I was gonna die!
All you need to to do to find the South in Florida is get away From I75 & I95 south of I4. There is is still plenty of old Florida outside of those areas.
I agree. There seems to be an underlying attitude of "Don't hate us...we are more liberal and enlightened now!"
In an interview, the English actor Andrew Lincoln, who plays a deep Southerner in "The Walking Dead", said that he was surprised at not really having to work at a Southern accent. He said he slipped easily into it & it seems very close to his own dialect.
I've noted that British actors almost always do a much better job with Southern accents than American actors.
I bet if Texas and Oklahoma shut off all gas and oil lines at their borders, the technology people would be begging for more energy.
I am not real fond of grits either. I think it is an acquired taste.