The Why: In Which I Defend Living In The South

Yesterday on Rachel Maddow’s blog, there was a question to all “blue dots.” Why do you stay in red states and do you ever want to leave? The question struck right at the issue most on my mind since the reelection of the President. It seems that writers (particularly from the Northeast) publish article after article along the lines of “What is wrong with the South?” Or, “Go Ahead And Secede Already.” They have been popping up like Honey Boo Boo references. Most of them are almost gleeful at the thought of dumping the South. (Because this is what Lincoln wanted ?!?)

Each time I see these articles, I get a little more angry. It would be dishonest to say that this isn’t a longstanding peeve for me. Bill Maher is a perpetual offender. The Simpsons, the media (old & new) and even my beloved Jon Stewart all take shots at the South regularly.

Now, let me be crystal clear. I get angry at all the hatred, bigotry and racism in the South every day of my life. But the jabs from other progressives are particularly hurtful. It would seem that with many red states trending purple (Virginia, North Carolina and Texas and Georgia soon enough) that this might be counter intuitive to winning elections, but the South is a dependable punchline nonetheless.

As I read through the comments of the Maddow blog post, a few themes began to emerge. There are two main groups of “blue dots.” There are those, like myself who stay because we feel an obligation, a connection and/or are immersed in activism. However, there were many more who expressed a desire to leave and be done with the whole struggle. I sympathize with those so isolated in their own communities. It must also be said without reservation, that I stay as a white, married woman with children. Even though I am not religious and a vocal advocate for equality, my circumstance is much more comfortable than for many in the lgbtqai community and for people of color. My friends in these communities have sometimes left because their safety was at risk and because no one deserves to be surrounded by people who hate them. I get this. I support these friends because I know what it means to stand out in any way in communities of cultural lag.

I left the Southeast for the first time for Grad School at Drew University in the early 1990′s. Previously, I had grown up all over the region because my father was a Baptist preacher. I was given a scholarship to Drew (one of two a year) due to my “minority status,” as Appalachian. I never once thought of myself this way, although my heritage and culture were and are very dear to me. It was a bizarre experience. By the end of my first semester, I went to my mentor determined to withdraw and head South. She was from Texas and told me she experienced a similar dislocation when first up North. She suggested I find a place to eat food I liked (had to go to Harlem for that), make friends with other immigrants and buy cowboy boots. In essence, she told me if people were making assumptions about my intelligence, then I should at least make them feel uncomfortable about it. I took her advice and finished the degree. Without a doubt, it was the loneliest time of my life.

Since my return, the South has changed in many ways, particularly in the cities. And like everywhere else in the world, the cities are where the growth is occurring. People are less religious, more open with regard to sexuality, gender and race and less tolerant of intolerance. Anyone who read demographic information from the election knows this is happening all over the country. The Millennials are different. Teaching in colleges the last decade, it has been no surprise to me the ways in which this generation differs from previous ones. In my Diversity class, I survey students the first day about many aspects of their socialization. Less than a third in any class I’ve taught in six years still attend the religious services they grew up with–and I live under the buckle of the Bible Belt. They are consistently more liberal about social issues. I didn’t need Pew to know this, although it is always good to have statistical evidence to back anecdotal information. There is also a rapidly growing Hispanic population.

This trend is bigger than one region, no doubt. But I believe it is also because there are many of us who have refused to abandon our own culture; the good (you are welcome for almost all modern music) and the bad (the racism, homophobia, etc.). If we all left, there would be no counter to ever pervasive right-wing yammer–on the radio, in the office and in the State Legislature. Young people raised here need to know that you can embrace where you come from and redefine it. Not so young people need to know it is okay to buck tradition, disobey the Church, distance themselves from the darker opinions of the past. Bottom line: We progressives are desperately needed.

Please don’t think this is a martyr move. I love living below the Mason-Dixon for many reasons. Here is a short list:

  • My family (99%) of them are still here. I see them several times a year…cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents and other relatives. Family is still a high priority here.  (It was rightly pointed out to me that this sentence is both bone-headed and inaccurate. Of course people the world over value their families.)  We don’t scatter as much as other Americans.
  • Way of life. One reason I hated living up North so vehemently was because it is all about work. We value leisure here. That is why we sit on porches.
  • Friendliness. I know this freaks people out at times and others think it is all a show. For me, banter with strangers makes society less hostile. Southern people aren’t known for their hospitality for nothing.
  • The land. Whether it is the beach, the mountains or the foothills–many of our ancestors came here for fertile land and freedom. My people are from Oconee County, South Carolina, which borders North Carolina and Georgia. When I see the Smokies, I breathe deeper and feel the power of the landscape each and every time.
  • Culture. Encompassing music, food and all else this word conjures. If I want to hear a banjo, I only have to drive a few miles. And if I want good biscuits and tea that is sweet, there is a meat and three down the road.
  • Faith. I sincerely believe that things are and will continue to change in the region. It is my hope that we can hold on to some of the aspects that distinguish us and still continue to evolve on social and religious issues. It may take longer than I want it to. It will surely take longer if me and all my fellow liberals flee and join the sneering ranks.

Perhaps it’d be a quicker evolution if our progressive peers would dial back the haughtiness. Each time people from the South are portrayed as dumb, inbred, more racist than all other Americans, fat, lazy, and backward, it makes it that much harder to change opinions. These stereotypes have long lives and only nurse resentments from another time in history. Recognize that both historically and presently, the United States is not all it can be without the South. Lincoln did.

Yes, we use more resources from the Federal government and also like to complain about it. Yes, we have a persistent strain of racism in our history and in 2013. Yes, we speak a different dialect. Yes, our students’ test scores are lower. Yes, we have more poverty. Yes, we are more overweight because we REALLY like butter. But, we did give you rock n’ roll, blues and country music. We are teaching some of you how to relax (because you keep coming here to retire). We can claim The Highlander Center, Molly Ivins and former President Carter. And as poor Notre Dame found out, we give you kick ass football.

The South contributes a lot to the country. We are not a lost cause. And to Stewart et al: feel free to mock our politicians mercilessly. Most of them deserve it. Just leave the rest of us out of it…we need to keep our anger focused on injustice.

** Link to Maddow Blog post from 1/17/13: http://on.msnbc.com/Sef4bE

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About Kristen Chapman

Loosely connected facts: Former Social Worker. Lifelong politico. Social media junkie. Poet. Performer. Storyteller. Decade teaching in Higher Ed. Master's Degree in Theology. Married to an Irishman. 3 darling kiddos. Preacher's kid. Content creation in digital marketing. Exuberant about Nashville. Appalachian. Music maker. Music devour-er. ENTP. Bohemian. Geeky. Obsessed with thrift stores and all things vintage. Lover of species.

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171 Comments on “The Why: In Which I Defend Living In The South”

  1. mlseward74 Says:

    Great post. I am a Yankee and Notre Dame alum living in the South. I have been here 10 years and still adjusting. What I find interesting is the contradiction of southern hospitality and blatant racism. I also find it hard to wrap my head around people, both black and white, who still believe thar black people have ‘a place’. For an African American woman who grew up being told that I had no limits, could go wherever I chose, and had the right to soeak up for myself, the black and white people who see things different are disturbing. Yes, I know the history of this country and the South but it’s 2013. People may age and younger should not be afraid to.speak up when being mistreated or offended. White people should not assume that property values depreciate when black families move into their neighborhoods. But they do. It’s sad and frustrating.

    Monise

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    • katherinebla Says:

      I have to say that I have lived in the south all my life and not all areas are that way. I lived in Texas for most of my life and times were good. Then I moved to Georgia and began to see what everyone talks about. Mostly I have experienced racism towards me because I am white, now isn’t that crazy…racism in its self is down right crazy. I have been accused of being racist in public places just because I like my personal space when doing my laundry, no offense to anyone but I don’t like anyone of any color hanging over my laundry basket seeing my unmentionables : P. I have never assumed that when black families move in that property values drop. I get tired of people pouring everyone in the same bucket. I’m white, I’m Southern and I don’t believe in rascism

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  2. downriverdem Says:

    No offense, but I would never live in the south. Their views are against everything I hold near and dear. They would hate me there and I’m white.

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  3. John Disque Says:

    I often want to leave TN. I often feel unwanted, unliked, unaccepted, unwelcome, left-out, discriminated against and alone.
    People migrate to like minded groups. We automatically segregate ourselves to wherever we fit in and surround ourselves with 0 stress and conflict as best we can. It’s simply easier and good for the ego when everyone agrees with everything you say and do.
    The problem is: when we live like that we don’t evolve and grow. There’s nothing to learn or change and there’s no one to enlighten. When there’s no outside perspective there’s no change and the community stops growing and stagnates. Also – when we do that… we divide and break down into little self-governed communities and the result can be devastating.
    I’m free to go anywhere I wish and that includes most of Planet Earth but I stay in the south to bring my experiences to the table and, as mentioned in the article: to help end or at least enlighten people on hatred, bigotry and racism amongst many other issues.

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  4. Amber Adams Says:

    I agree with everything you say. I’d add another thing that irritates me about Northern condescension towards the South is how anti-progressive an attitude it is. The South is predominately ignorant and violent because it is predominately very poor. Yankees like to point out that Southern states are welfare states, in that we don’t pay in to federal coffers the same or more than we get back. Southern conservatives are hypocrites in the sense that they preach we should pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps, but yet our poverty and economic opportunities are so terrible we can’t support ourselves. This isn’t necessarily divided along racial lines anymore; studies after the recession showed poor Southern whites face the same diminished life expectancy as poor Southern blacks. The progressive response to such circumstances should be compassion and understanding, if not activism for change, but instead the South receives ridicule and dismissal when we’re not being ignored. Insofar as Yankees are interested in developing the South it’s in our urban pockets of relative liberalism where they can pretend they’re living a Northern cultural life with the benefit of a Southern winter.

    Southerners have never been wealthy or educated. Like most populations who are accustomed to poverty, we have learned to appreciate what we do have and take pride in ourselves despite the fact we are not successful by other people’s measures. Ridiculing a Southerner isn’t going to inspire a Southerner to change to meet the expectations of the people looking down on them. Just the opposite, in fact. We will often stay the same out of a spiteful insistence that we are still human beings worthy of consideration and respect even if we’re a little more poor, or ignorant, or even uncouth. We’ll definitely stay the same when we love what is despised, or when our life circumstances make the change too difficult. That is also human nature. Southerners have a tradition of good manners to go with their tradition of racism, misogyny, and violence. We know all too well what it means when good manners are suspended in favor of disrespect. It is not becoming to Yankees or the principles they espouse when they are delivered to Southerners with ridicule. I’m sure it makes the Yankee feel a rush of superiority, which is quite gratifying, but it does nothing to convince the people who need convincing that some things about our culture need to change. It’s not just the Southern conservatives telling us to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. The Yankees are guilty of it, too.

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    • John Disque Says:

      Amber – I am not a “yankee” and you are not a redneck. We are both Americans. This is one country. If you really wish to not be stereotyped it starts with you.
      The first 21 years of my life were spent in the North (Philadelphia) and in that time I don’t remember anyone even mentioning the south. If they did – we did not throw blanket statements around about the south because most of us had never even visited the south. All we knew of it was “The Beverly Hillbillies” but most of us knew it wasn’t an accurate reflection.
      Sure I’m sure some moron in the north said, “All southern people are this or that…” but it wasn’t a daily thought or conversation.
      Anyone in the country can go set up their life in any state – none of is owned by any group of people. It’s all The USA.
      The same way you don’t want to be stereotyped, most people in the north don’t want to be stereotyped either.

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      • John Disque Says:

        PS – None of us had a choice on where to be born. To dislike someone for what they have no (0) control over is ignorance.

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      • Amber Adams Says:

        I am no more responsible for people stereotyping me than they are responsible for me stereotyping them. Prejudice is the responsibility of the bigot. I assure you my statements about Yankees are based on actual field observations. There’s some truth to every stereotype and generalization, that’s what makes them so persistent. If you feel it does not represent your own behavior, then discard my sermon. I’ve met a few good Yankees over the years, too. We are discussing the ones who wish their countrymen would “just go ahead and secede” in the name of progressivism. If my criticism hits a little too close to home for some readers, frankly my dear I don’t give a damn.

        For the record, you are right, I am neither a Yankee nor a redneck. I am a scalawag.

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  5. Naykishia D. Head Says:

    This is real… I respect the fact that a White woman has respect the South and not the Confederate flag,Ku Klux Klan, and all of the horribly ignorant things that those people respect..

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  6. Anna Says:

    This is a beautiful post that encompasses the vast majority of how I feel about staying in the South. My story is different than yours but it is in so many ways the same. Me and my husband do think about leaving but so far, we’ve mostly stayed in the Southeast. It’s home and I do believe it will change–that it is changing. Making those of us who stay feel like part of the problem is a jackass move that is too often done by people with whom I share a political allegiance but not a regional one. It makes me sad. The more anyone portrays Southerners as ignorant rednecks, the more insular and ignorant they will stay.

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  7. Jessica (scATX) Says:

    My response to the Maddow post is basically: “It may be nice if people would stop acting like liberals in the south are some sort of exotic creature to study.” Mainly because it starts from an assumption that the South is a shit place to live and if you do live there, you must have to do some sort of mental gymnastics to explain it to yourself (and now are being asked to explain it to everyone else).

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  8. Patrick Diehl Says:

    Interesting defense of the South. My parents relocated to Georgia from Michigan more than 20 years ago and still think it was an excellent decision. Since Motown was born here and we were the Car Capital of the World until y’all started luring our factories down there, I think Michigan stands up well in comparison to Tennessee – but your region definitely scores points for producing Jimmy Carter, one of my all-time favorite presidents, and giving us the extraordinary Patsy Cline. Next time I drive through Tennessee on the way to visit my parents, I’ll shout your name out the window really loud. You can send me a message in Facebook if you hear me.

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  9. Stella Says:

    Thank you for this! I fled East Texas for Austin, but I don’t want to leave Texas, and this is exactly why.

    Although I don’t actually *do* much, except annoy my relatives. :)

    And I disagree with you about butter. I don’t think that’s why we’re fat. I think it’s a confluences of several issues, mainly around industrial food and poverty.

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  10. Rachel Marcy (@RipeningReason) Says:

    I’ve been trying to figure out how to engage with this issue constructively. I’m about as Yankee as a person can get, and I deeply love New England. I live in LA now, and I miss it. I miss the land. I miss the food. I miss having four seasons–yes, even winter! (The key is to embrace it. Don’t try to fight it, because you won’t win, and you’ll just tire yourself out trying.)

    There absolutely is condescension toward the South. I fully recognize that. I vow never to participate in it, and to call it out when I see it. I grew up in the countryside (which does still exist in the North, in spades), and I strongly object to derogatory portrayals of rural people. As I’ve grown and traveled, I’ve come to appreciate the regions can never be treated as monoliths. As I’ve become more active on the internet, I’ve come to appreciate the hard work of Southern progressives.

    I would like to note that in my experience, many in the North also feel disdain coming from the South. Perhaps this isn’t as true in the cities, but it is true in the country. I’m not going to pretend it’s remotely equivalent to the condescension frequently expressed toward the South in the media, but that feeling exists. On this thread, Amber used “Yankee”, a term I embrace as part of my identity, essentially as a slur. I want to say this because I’m not sure if many Southerners realize that Northerners sometimes also feel maligned. Again: I’m not saying it’s equivalent, because it’s not, but it exists, and it can make people retreat from positive engagement.

    I’m sure that you didn’t mean to imply that Northerners value their families less when you wrote that “family is still a high priority here”, but I think a lot of people would read it that way. I doubt you meant to imply that Northern society is hostile because people tend to be more reserved, but a lot of people would read it that way.

    Northern liberals need to stop the sneering. It’s a really big problem. But do please realize that people in the rural Northeast, who could be really good allies, are also hearing things like, “they don’t have family values”, “they’re so cold and unfriendly”, “the winters are so dreary there”, and it doesn’t make them want to engage.

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    • John Disque Says:

      Quote – “many in the North also feel disdain coming from the South”

      In fact there’s rarely a day that goes by that I don’t come face to face with distain from the south. Many are obsessed with it. My accent, mostly influenced by the South-Philly Italian immigrants, is heavy, and every time I speak I get dirty looks, stares and the occasional – “Where ya from, boy?” – “I’m from America, boy! Planet Earth – just like you, boy!”
      Since the Civil war – the hatred and ignorance has been passed down through the generations and many feel entitled to it… as if it’s a piece of property they must protect.

      I think it’s mistake for people from the north to embrace the term “yankee”… not because of the word but because of the negative definition of the people using the word. / The same way black people should not embrace the word “nigger” – again, not because of the word-itself but because of the definition behind the word – which often comes down to whoever is using the word.
      It’s also quite absurd to suggest that people in the south are closer to their families than people in the north. Go mess with an Italian in South Philly and see how close they are to their families.
      Most people who hate someone for what they cannot control (skin color, where they were born, nationality, gender, etc) have 0 or very limited experience with anyone different from themselves. Most prejudice to the north is coming from people who have never been outside their neighborhood… and if they have visited the north they didn’t understand the pace, culture, lifestyle, etc… They also tend to think the north is all big cities and no farms, no greenery, no mountains, no clean air, etc… Again – it’s a matter of ignorance.
      It is fine to not adapt to a culture, it’s fine to not understand a culture, it’s fine to be proud of your heitage – it is not fine to throw blanket statements on people or hate people for their culture.
      There’s great things about living in the south. The lack of acceptance to people different from themselves is something to be ashamed of and needs to be rethought.

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      • kchapmangibbons Says:

        Agreed. I apologize for the statement about families. It was sloppy and not accurate. Of course other regions value family too. Apologies for the blanket statement.

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      • Rachel Marcy (@RipeningReason) Says:

        I looked up “Yankee” in the Urban Dictionary last night, and I was honestly surprised by the level of vitriol attached to the term. If you want to see examples of what Northerners think Southerners think of them, it’s a good place to start.

        I was surprised because within New England (NOT the rest of the Northeast), it’s simply used to refer to someone from New England, particularly rural New England, particularly someone of English descent. It was always used as a pejorative by others; first Dutch settlers against English settlers, then British regulars against colonial soldiers during the French and Indian War, and again during the Revolution. Although it was used as a pejorative against Union soldiers, in New England we don’t use it to refer to the Civil War, at all. We associate the term with the Revolutionary War (Yankee Doodle went to town, riding on a pony…), which was originally a song made up by the British regulars to mock the colonists, and which the colonists in turn absorbed as part of their identity.

        So I’m going to continue to embrace it as part of my identity as a rural New Englander. If you want to see what New Englanders associate with the term, I suggest looking up Yankee Magazine. It’s all about lilacs and maple syrup and historic houses. Their current front article is an interview with a snow plow driver in Vermont.

        And I do beg people to remember that most of the North–most of the country–is indeed rural. Somehow that seems to get lost. Looking at a rural versus urban divide can sometimes be more useful than looking at a regional divide.

        I think I began to challenge my own assumptions about other regions when I moved to Britain. I encountered a lot of sneering about the United States (while being assured that I wasn’t like THOSE Americans), and I heard some fantastically ignorant and offensive statements. They lambasted the ignorance of Americans while displaying it themselves. I found myself emphasizing the diversity of the country, emphasizing that the U.S. isn’t one huge urban jungle, telling people that, yes, we have mountains and not all roads are straight and flat, that large parts of the country get snow and the temperature doesn’t magically drop when you cross into Canada, that people have lots of different accents and ways of speaking. I told them not to joke about stupid Americans who don’t even have passports, because excuse me, the country is huge and if you live in the middle of it, you have a long drive to reach an international border.

        I’ve lived in enough places to know that, while somewhere might not be your favorite place, while it might not be home for you, you can probably learn to appreciate at least some things about it. I feel sad when I see people close themselves off from the place where they’re living, although I also understand that culture shock can be overwhelming. And there’s a difference between pride and love for your home and closed-minded chauvinism.

        Sorry to leave another long comment, but I feel like this is an important conversation to have.

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      • katherinebla Says:

        People who travel to different areas get the same thing. My husband took a trip a few years ago to NYC and he was mocked all the time for his accent. People would look at him crazy when he said y’all and people would mockingly throw it back in a slow drawed out fashion as to indicate that they knew he was southern and that he was for some reason not able to comprehend speech. I get what the author was saying about the family statement and I have to say that I would have fully agreed with it 15 years ago but technology has a lot to do with that one ( and that is a whole different subject). However, to get mad about blanket statements is to fuel the fustration and anger that creates them in the first place. It’s an ugly catch-22

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    • KittyWrangler Says:

      Re: your comment below in this thread, my mom said when she was a kid in Japan in the 50′s “Yankee” simply meant, “American,” with no North/South distinction. Do you know if British people use the word that way, too?

      I also get the sense that urban / rural is becoming an increasingly important distinction rather than North / South. Rural Northerners and Southerners aren’t so isolated anymore because of modern media (and talk radio), so I think they probably have more in common culturally than they did 100 years ago. While Northern and Southern urban centers have always had more in common, I’m guessing.

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      • Rachel Marcy (@RipeningReason) Says:

        Yes, I think the British do use Yankee that way, although they don’t use it that often. I think in most places outside the U.S., Yankee is used as a generic term for people from the U.S. I’m not really sure how that happened–was it actually a holdover from colonial days that made it through WWII?

        And I completely agree that urban/rural is really relevant, and I think under-analyzed.

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      • John Disque Says:

        Again – the problem is not the official definition of the term but the definition of whoever is using the term.
        In the south (I live in Knoxville and Norris) the term “Yankee” refers to an outsider, someone who killed their ancestors in the Civil War, someone unaccepted and unwelcomed. The main southern definition is: the enemy.
        The same way some black people use the word: “nigger” to refer to a friend or someone they relate to – when used by a white person – it means something completely different
        The word, “cracker” comes from the sound of a cowboy’s whip and was once considered an honor and reference to an elite group of people. Today – it means something completely different.
        The word “redneck” was used to refer to farmers who got sunburned when working in the fields… originally it was not considered a bad thing. Today it’s a derogatory term to reference low-income southern people.

        We have a baseball team named The New York Yankees. If that team had been created in the south, by southerners, it would be an insult and should not be tolerated. If someone from Boston created a team called “The Atlanta Rednecks” – it would be an insult to those in the south and should not be tolerated.

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      • Rachel Marcy (@RipeningReason) Says:

        Well, I wouldn’t use the term as a provocation, but I don’t think people who use Yankee as a pejorative get to control its use. If I’m traveling in the South, I won’t refer to myself as a Yankee, because I’ve realized that it would be seen as provocative and insulting, but within New England I’ll continue to use it as New Englanders understand it. It’s not an oppositional identity versus the South.

        I think the difference arises because the Revolutionary War is still writ large on the New England landscape, and people use the term Yankee to identify with that heritage. In the South, the Civil war is prominent in the landscape–both physical and emotional–and that’s how they identify. Do other people think that’s accurate?

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  11. kchapmangibbons Says:

    Thanks for that Rachel. I didn’t even realize how my statements might have been construed. You are right and gracious to point it out. Sincerely…thanks. In many ways, I think rural people the world over have more in common than those raised in an urban environment.

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  12. Carolyn Faith Says:

    As a white Jewish woman there wasn’t a day that went by where I could not wait to get out. Civil War this and Civil War that. Rebel flags all over the place. Racism around every corner. I was afraid to put my Menorah up for the first few years. Oh,yeah, more people than you think had never met a Jew ( where were my horns?) I had been stationed in the Air Force at all southern bases. Intelligent Airmen. People from every walk of life,all colors of the rainbow,gay and straight, all getting along. But in the civilian world~not at all. I came running back to N.Y. I saw all the stereotypes. For real. Not hype. The only things I miss are a few friends and a lower grocery bill. Never again.~~

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    • kchapmangibbons Says:

      I’m so sorry you had this experience. I grew up mostly in SC and didn’t meet my first Jewish person until after college. Now I know there is are thriving Jewish communities in each Southern state. I was raised to believe that even Catholics weren’t “real” Christians, so it isn’t a stretch to feel the agony of your experience.

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  13. DAS5150 Says:

    My earlier reply got ate by Bill Gates. Nice writeup. I really enjoyed the read.

    I spent many years in the south as a kid and found it to be both heaven and hell. The heaven part included living in and around Pensacola, Fla and being a bayou/beach kid. We loved it. Pure heaven in the summers swimming, fishing and being kids. The hell part was being in the school systems where corporal punishment was common and there was lots of tension amongst the kids of different races. I guess that was true anywhere in the 70′s. Being involved deeply in the local baptist churches taught me one thing. Don’t go to church! Those were my worst memories of those days and I don’t attend church to this day because of the zealots and hypocrites that ruled our lives on a daily basis back then.

    Most of my family still live outside Pensacola and we visit every few years. There is a huge divide between the beliefs my wife and I hold and what they (the southerns) believe. We avoid a lot of that on each visit. They are religious to the point of intolerant to new ideas and borderline racists. They know that crap won’t fly with us and you can tell they hold it back. Like I’ve joked about before. It’s a great place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there!

    I know that almost all of this can be said about a lot of places. Just had to share some of my experiences. Thank You

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  14. http://sacspliagelongchamps.webnode.fr Says:

    Very handy info. Hope to see more threads soon!

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  15. kchapmangibbons Says:

    Wanted readers to know of another blog post spurred by this one and featuring additional perspectives….I give you: http://www.shakesville.com/2013/01/home-in-south-notes-of-non-native.html#disqus_thread

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  16. Denise Stewart-Sanabria Says:

    I’m a 12th generation Masshole married to a Puerto Rican from rural Worcester county who migrated to Knoxville, TN in 1986. I was nervous- I thought we would be treated bad, and be the subject of racism, what with a hispanic last name. We went through living hell living in Reading, PA, and left when we had our 1st child. The place was full of Nazis who came over after the war. We had Mein Kamph quoted at us at a Civil Engineer Society dinner and meeting. We were threatened regularly. I heard more racist slurs in one afternoon from children in a playground in Reading than I’ve heard n all the years living in TN. And heck, as for the Civil War-all East TN was Union. I love the South. Coming from rural NE, let me tell you if you think you are going to see enlightenment up North, think again. I do think living in a city is better than the countryside down here, just like up north. We aren’t religious and don’t like being questioned by church people, but you get just as much of that in areas up north, too. Ever drive through Indiana? Ever do business in Grand Rapids, MI? Even while living in NH, we had to protect our kids from other children, who were rather horrifically violent. Down here, none of that. People have, 98% of the time, been outrageously nice to us. And, it is always who you hang out with and where you live. I do business in Asheville, Nashville, and Charleston. I adore those communities and people. Unlike many northeners living down here, I don’t hang with other northeners, either. Most of my friends are from here, or have, like me, lived here so long we identify as Southerners. In the best damn possible way.

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  17. KittyWrangler Says:

    Maybe I’ll leave the South, where I was born and raised, eventually, perhaps even for another country alltogether. I went to college in DC, which claims to be the South but didn’t really feel like it, then spent a year or so in Seattle. I’d been looking forward to all the lefties in the Pacific Northwest, as I’d always been a lonely little hippie in a sea of Good Christian Folks. But to my surprise even though there are plenty of wonderful lefties in Seattle I found the overall political culture grating. Calling oneself, I don’t know, a “socialist” for example, came so easily it seemed almost meaningless to me because the socialists I knew back home were trial-by-fire risk takers simply by using the label. On one hand I experienced their ease as insincerity (and I’m know there’s another perspective on the merits of expressing one’s views with ease). On the other hand the Southern “blue dots” I knew couldn’t help but be partially reactionary in their beliefs rather than more nuanced simply because of their harsh political landscape– more “war stories” and protesting, which is fun, but also more firy anti-racism rather than the nuanced stuff I read online. So calling oneself a left-leaning label in Seattle was easier, but calling oneself an anti-racist in the South is probably easier because after all you’re automatically being compared to Bubba in the white hood over there. Ultimately I felt more cameraderie with Southern “radicals.” So I came home.

    I don’t think that non-Southerners who joke about ditching the South alltogether and letting it secede really understand that it feels like when conservatives impy that liberals (or lgbt or poeple of color or many many others) aren’t “REAL Americans.” It feels like our non-liberal allies are embracing the same philosopy– that the South isn’t REALLY America– at the same time that they’re lending support to conservative Southerners who don’t think of other Southerners who are different from them as, “REAL Southerners.” Just as liberals are also patriots and entitled to be belong to their own country, the South is full of people who may “blue dots” but still share a culture, heritage, friends, jobs… they deserve to call their home, “home.” So the “secession” jokes really feel like a betrayal. I realize most people are just going for a quick harmless joke but the truth is that many “bue dots” at whose expense the joke is made are already quite vulnerable and we could really use some alliance here. Even though, as John D points out, Southerners make jokes about Yankees, it still doens’t make it right.

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  18. John Disque Says:

    I think the TV Show “The Beverly Hillbillies” truly set the south back. / For many people in the north – this was our only access to southern living and the show is LITERALLY stating that southern people are ignorant and making fun of them.
    In many parts of the southern tourist industry there are dinner shows doing the same thing and people, including southern people, laugh historically at the stereotype which basically says “southern people are stupid and lets entertain people with their ignorance.”
    The southern people should be opposed to these shows and refuse to allow the world to believe the stereotype.
    You can celebrate and entertain tourists with the pride of your culture but when you cross a line it’s not about culture at all… it’s about making fun of people.

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  19. Just Wondrin Says:

    What is absolutely ridiculous when you read or hear about “Southern injustice” on blogs or political shows is the complaint of racism, obstructing voters, etc, is that their first example after citing “Southern” is Wisconsin or Ohio or Pennsylvania. Never mind that the problem happens in the North, Northwest, or states practically kissing Canada, it’s always the “South” that gets the blame. Prop 8 was voted down in California, and Wisconsin is killing unions, and they’re nowhere near the South. If they don’t pull off the blinders and accept that these problems are “American”, nothing will ever happen.
    I’ve been all over the country and found some people in other parts to be quite ignorant when it comes to “Southern”.When I worked at a dealership, I attended a Harley-Davidson retail training seminar that was held in Long Beach, CA. One of the attendees actually asked me what we did for “roads” in Tennessee. I politely asked her if she had ever looked at a road map, and informed her that those lines on the map were not just roads, but interstates, four-lanes, and streets and that they were even paved. I also reminded her that she really shouldn’t believe what she saw in the movies when it came to Southern and Tennessee.
    It is discouraging to read the vitriol aimed at Southerners on “liberal” websites. They make a lot of assumptions, hurl a lot of insults, and generally just make the situation worse in their smug self-righteousness. I always remind them that their attitudes are why Southerners are so resistant to their self-righteous know-it-all wisdom, and that a little honey and a little help goes a lot further when it comes to changing attitudes than vinegar does.
    I also know that it’s a lot easier to cultivate a political stance when everyone around you has the same attitude. But it takes some real backbone to politely put forward an opposing view and then still function in your own community and keep friends.
    I’m not going anywhere. Besides, it’s too cold up North.

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  20. expatsophie Says:

    I love your post! I left Louisiana when I was 18 to go to school in DC and did so to get away from all of the things cited as being negative about the South. I also discovered by making that move that there were things that I had as a result of growing up in the South that my Northern, equally liberal peers did not. But what I also encountered was a whole host of assumptions about my education level, my formative years, and where I came from that astonished me. I was actually asked how I got enough education in Louisiana to get into the college I was attending as though they were shocked that I could read, whether I voted for the Klansman, David Duke, when he ran for governor the year before (an international embarrassment), and whether I had ever met any Jewish people or spoken to a Black person before before (no joke, these were serious questions). People actually said this in a superior tone, to my face, not realizing they were displaying their own ignorance and elitist bigotry in the process.

    In spite of the northern ignorance and bigotry about where I come from and what that means about me, complete with sneering from my professors on occasion, I am still more at home up north and more free to be myself. I’ve lived in New York City, Chicago, Colorado and am back in DC. I agree with all of the things you cited in your list of what’s great about the South and I can only hope I can bring most of those things with me in some small way. But as the South becomes more virulently conservative in what seems to me to be whole new level of nastiness, I feel like a refugee who can never go home again. I miss the landscape in Louisiana that I find so beautiful. I miss having total strangers ask me how I am as though they expect a response (though it is now startling, I have to admit) and people actually making eye contact with me. And in spite of the proliferation of cajun restaurants all over the country, they just can’t get it right! But I can’t live surrounded with the hostility that seems so prevalent now, even though my entire family is there except for one sister who lives in Brooklyn. So my hat is off to you for representing for the rest of us and holding ground!

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  21. bluegrasspb Says:

    Great reflection and ensuing discussion. As a New Englander (NH), I moved to Louisville, KY in 2004 and haven’t left. I love it here–it’s also a unique combination of midwestern/southern. I wrote about living in a flyover state a while back on my own blog:
    http://mindfulstew.wordpress.com/2012/05/18/living-in-a-fly-over-state/
    Besides Nashville, Atlanta, and Austin, I can’t think of many “Southern” cities that East or West-Coast educated types desire to live in, and that’s a shame.
    I think most of the condescension relates to the massive gap between quality of public education and general clustering of elite universities and colleges in New England and the east coast. People want to be around like-minded and educated folks and there’s no denying the education/higher education gap.
    If you spend time in small towns outside of the coasts, it’s easy to understand why so many southerners are conservative as it relates to big government issues.

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  22. ateachertellsthetruth Says:

    An interesting perspective in this post. I left NYC and RI for Atlanta, and now we are in NC and if I could leave tomorrow it would not be soon enough. I agree with you about the vistas, but that’s about it. I hate the close-minded mentality among these communities, people asking me if I cook tacos because my skin is brown, the racism is so palpable it virtually slaps you, and everybody down here walks so freaking SLOW!! But seriously, the only advantage has been a lower cost of living than up north. I hate hate hate petty, small-minded, hypocritical bible thumpers who shout their hallelujahs twice a week, then cut you off in the parking lot as they leave church, in a hurry to go “hiking” where they have secret gay sex with young male junkies. I only pray that when I do finally leave, I will not have acquired any remote semblance of a southern drawl.

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  23. anbrooks2013 Says:

    I’m a conservative, well moderate, and l live in the South. Honestly, when I visted the north, there is as much bigotry there as it is here. If they are so tolerant then they need to leave the negative comments out of their mouth. It’s funny that the top relocaters are from New York and other Democratic states. The South is changing for the good, but the true reason they are purple because the liberal can’t afford their expensive real estate so they come down here because it’s cheaper for a bigger space. If the South had several news stations like the North, we would probably jab at them to. Just saying let’s all put everything into perspective. No culture or region is perfect. Its just the South is more perfect than the North.

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  24. shizknit Says:

    I love this post. I’m a Southerner as well, though my family is not originally from this country at all. My father and mother came to America found comfort in the Southerners because of their generosity and manners. They made them feel welcome and they embraced the Southern culture as well as the American culture. I don’t want to go on a North vs. South rant but no matter where I am, I feel more comfortable down the South. I feel sometimes that Southern culture is underappreciated and that a lot of it is the bad attitude that they feel towards it.

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  25. millefleur504 Says:

    I feel like there is still prejudice across the country against African-Americans. I have a job which takes me all over the country and some of the worst racial slurs I’ve ever heard came from the mouths of people in small-town Pennsylvania and Arizona. I will not defend Mississippi – the experience I had there was racism personified.
    I’m sure there are racists everywhere, but I grew up in a farming community where the schools were equally African-American and white (save the few Hispanic children), and we played together, went to each others’ homes and everyone spoke Southern. The only prejudice that showed up was when kids from other areas of the U.S. moved in (military base nearby) and tried to start trouble. The outsiders quickly learned you don’t mess with the local kids when it came to who they chose to be their friends.
    I am glad that you are standing up for Southerners – I have also been discriminated against because of my accent and address, in the workplace and out in towns I visited. My brother had a cure for this – when he traveled North and went into a bar, people would ask him to “talk” for them so they could laugh at his Southern accent. He’d say, “Buy me a drink,” and they gladly obliged. He never bought any liquor on his visits north. Who was the smart one?

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  26. msdulce Says:

    As a “blue dot” who’s loved (aspects of) the South from afar, I really enjoyed your post. Thank you for addressing a possibly divisive topic and responses with such grace. By the way- could not agree more with the Supreme Goodness of front porches, bluegrass, biscuits, and friendliness. Thanks again.

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  27. Jessica Says:

    I grew up in California and went to college in Tennessee. Chattanooga, to be exact. I still consider that to be one of the best periods of my life. I love the beauty of the countryside and of the people in the South. I got used to hearing the Southern accent. The thing that cracked me up was when, upon learning I was from California, people would ask me if I knew any movie stars and if I knew how to surf. (The answer to which is no, and no.) I agree that the condescension from other areas of the country towards the South is terrible. Sure the South isn’t perfect. But neither is anywhere else, either.

    Great post! Congrats on being freshly pressed. :)

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  28. Britt W Says:

    I grew up in Maryland and attended college (and still live in) southwest Virginia. I have seriously had people ask me if I’ve ever seen a cow! And if I’ve ever touched grass!! It’s been amazing the difference in cultural perception just 5 hours down the road.

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  29. waynelaw Says:

    The South gave us rock music (we thank you for that) and it is freezing up here (Upstate N.Y) in the middle of winter- no resentment from this guy in a cold blue state.

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  30. writethequeen Says:

    “Now, let me be crystal clear. I get angry at all the hatred, bigotry and racism in the South every day of my life. But the jabs from other progressives are particularly hurtful.”

    This statement alone makes you look like an asshole.

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    • kchapmangibbons Says:

      Can you explain without calling me another name? I don’t shy from criticism, I’m just not sure what you disapprove of…

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      • writethequeen Says:

        If you honestly fucking think for one second that any jabs at you based on the region where you live, something you can easily change, is at ALL bigger than racism and bigotry that POC experience on a daily basis in the south that gets us KILLED just for existing, then yes you are an asshole. You getting angry at racism, something that you as a White passing individual does not experience, and then saying “but what really makes me mad are the jabs from progressives” makes you an asshole.

        Trust me, you belong in the south with that ignorant attitude.

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      • kchapmangibbons Says:

        Sorry that you feel that way. I thought I made it pretty clear that I knew the experience was drastically different for POC and for the LGBTQAI communities. I did intend to diminish the racism and homophobia. The experience is certainly different for me, as I indicated. I am not ignorant of privilege. I am not saying IN ANY WAY that jabs from progressives are worse than racism and homophobia. The post is from my own experience only. Thanks for at least explaining why you think I’m an asshole.

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      • writethequeen Says:

        For future notice, when you say “I’m sorry you feel that way” it’s actually a bull shit apology and usually all that follows it is bull shit.

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  31. whatwereyathinkin Says:

    Hello from Macon , Georgia. Home of Otis Redding , Little Richard Penniman , The Allman Brothers Band , Jason Aldean , Nancy Grace , Capricorn Recording Studios and many , many more! I love the south for all the same reasons you do.Free concerts in the park on Sunday just bring canned goods for admission. Lazy summer days floating down the Ocmulgee River in a canoe and eating lunch on a sand bar in the middle of the river. Fried green tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. Mason jars filled with cold sweet tea and good ol’ golden brown southern fried chicken. I’m in my mid fifties , a registered Independent , who goes to a Pentecostal church and believes same sex marriage is a civil rights issue and should be legal and please legalize marijuana because I don’t want to move to Colorado.

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  32. longhornsandcamels Says:

    Very much agree with you. I’m from Texas and have noticed that it always seems acceptable, regardless of if you are an esteemed journalist writing an op-ed or a person leaving a comment on an online article, to make snide comments and generalizations about Texas and the south in general. Drives me nuts! Congrats on being FP’d!

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  33. marymtf Says:

    I’ve never come across that term before, what is a ‘blue dot’?

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  34. Toner Laser Says:

    Thank you for sharing this story with us, it´s kind of inspiring!

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  35. fireandair Says:

    Most hipster progressives think as little of the urban North as they do of the South. Bunkers and Bubbas, that’s all we are, both of us.

    I’m still torn about the whole thing. I love my own urban Northern culture as an east coast Italian-American. There are ways in which it was constrictive, which motivated me to leave, but that upbringing was what gave me the wings I needed to leave in the first place.

    But somehow, all those happy little latte progressives think when they see me is Archie Bunker and Jersey Shore. Working-class is shit in this country, no matter where you’re from.

    Any arguments between us about who is more racist and shitty, Bunkers or Bubbas, is wasted air. We snipe at one another while the white collar jerks drive by in their 12mpg Hummers with the Sierra Club bumperstickers on the back bumper, and point and laugh.

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  36. fireandair Says:

    And by the way … I do go back and visit. Regularly. :-)

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  37. Andreas Moser Says:

    I’d rather move to Mexico.

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  38. IdenticalTwinge Says:

    Yes!! I grew up in Seattle and ended up in North Carolina due to my husband being in the military. We’re now stationed in England and I’ve been so homesick for the South. Moving to NC was a much larger culture shock than moving to Europe. Everything was just so different from what I was used to: the food, the people, the pace of life, and yes, even the racism. Like many others from the North, I saw the South as all the stereotypes you described. Certainly, some of that prevails, but it’s not the majority.
    I think we are willing to embrace other cultures if they’re not in our own country. I would never travel to the Middle East, for example, and expect them to conform to my way of living. We should extend the same respect for our own neighbors at the very least. Embrace the good (oh the biscuits!) and work to change the bad.
    Excellent post and congrats on being freshly pressed!

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    • kchapmangibbons Says:

      Thanks so much for your lovely comment. The Middle East (in general) is also a region frequently misunderstood. I have never been, but have a dear friend who has been in Abu Dhabi for several years now. I hope to go one day.

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  39. segmation Says:

    Sounds like a great way to connect the blue dots! Thanks for your awesome blog!

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  40. Kerry Dwyer Says:

    Congratulations on being freshly pressed. It is lovely to come across blogs in this way that I wouldn’t normally see. Some of your reasons for living in the south match mine for living in France. I love Ireland and so does my French husband. I haven’t visited the USA very often and the last time was many years ago. This was a very interesting read.

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  41. Melissa Barlow (@mcbarlow36) Says:

    I generally agree with you, with a couple of caveats. Having lived in Kentucky my entire life, I can assure you that not all Southerners are fat and ignorant. I’m college-educated, employed, 5’4″ and 115 llbs, and I’m white and adopted a Latino child as a single mother. That being said, it is true that we are ideologically in the minority in the red states. I try to change or affect opinions of some friends and family members by calmly stating the reasons for my own opinions. Of course, that rarely works, but we must keep trying.

    Btw, I think you hit the nail on the head with one of your reasons for not being able to leave the South: sweet tea and biscuits! Yum!

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  42. soundslikeorange Says:

    Having just just returned from the South, I can understand how some might have mixed feelings. I lived in the city (OK, the never-ending suburbia) and I could go from generic American culture to southern stereotypes in 20 minutes. That did me a lot of good since it was quickly obvious that the difference was mostly on the surface. When I met with one of the world-renowned experts in my unnamed field of work and got lectured in strong stereotypical southern accent, I could tell I was WAY too attached to the stereotypes.

    That said, I’m happy to be in the more climactically diverse west. Humidity: something that should be reserved only for showers!

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  43. Evez Says:

    The South is great (have been there several times!) The people that live there are friendlier (at least that’s what I think) and the best of all they seem to care less about how many degress you have. You are what you are down there. I miss being called “sweety” :3 and I miss their great ice tea :) The South is great!

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  44. Lilly Moscato Says:

    Why is it that people who reject “religion” seem to be so self-satisfied with their own ideas of what is right, true and acceptable?
    Everyone has opinions, (many), and people’s opinions change. Real truth is unchanging. And only God offers that. And it is found in “religion” that teaches His Word. There is a reason that people in the Bible Belt are friendly- it is because they are raised around believers who demonstrate the character of Christ. Certainly not all Southerners do, but it permeates our society.As a whole, we have not (yet) rejected it.

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    • kchapmangibbons Says:

      You certainly have a right to believe in God via any religion you choose. My point is (regardless of belief) that the data reveals that people under 30 are far less inclined to join religious institutions. One in three. As to why Southerners are friendly, I think your claim that it has to do with Christianity is dubious. There are Christians the world over and many societies in which it is the predominant religion. There isn’t a corollary with friendliness. As to why Southerners are perceived to be (and in my case, are) more hospitable…I’m not sure this has been quantified. Perhaps religion is one factor. As to truth, it may be simple for you and found in one book, but for many of us, truth is much more complicated and dynamic.

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  45. surfskiesp Says:

    Great post! I am following you now. My name is Carlos, if you ever want to know about Ocean Paddling, follow us back! Cheers

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  46. candidkay Says:

    Mea culpa. I often stereotype the South and will think twice next time. Interesting–I never thought about the dislocation factor inherent in you moving North. I guess I’m not as progressive as I thought I was–thanks for the jolt.

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  47. Jim Says:

    I personally don’t like the South. Its not the people I don’t like but their ideas and morals/values.. I hate how they allow Corporal Punishment at schools, i mean come on, who paddles students at school anymore?? What is this, the 1800′s hahahaha…. Hitting can cause more violence later in that child’s life and everyone knows that two wrongs don’t make a right PARENTS DON’T WANT TO DISCIPLINE THEIR KIDS, SO THEY LEAVE IT UP TO THE SCHOOLS????? RAISE YOUR KIDS YOURSELF OR DONT BOTHER HAVING KIDS AT ALL!!!!!! Thanks for making school girls such a sex symbol , morons.. Now people think of school girls and rulers and paddles.. I bet the teachers and principals love their jobs, LOSERS…. Where im from, the kids enjoyed going to school and even miss the teacher after the year is over.. I could never sign my kids up for a horrible school that would do such a thing.. I still see teachers and other high-school staff, we still talk and are friends.. I have other friends that have lived in the south and that relationship between student and teacher is non existent.. Some do of course but a lot just dont care.. I have been to the south, still a lot of racist around.. I love where I’m from, I have gone to the elementary, middle, high-school and college all in the same town. i am currently on the Deans List at my University..

    GOD BLESS ALL THE ( GREAT ) PARENTS OF THE WORLD AND ESPECIALLY PARENTS IN THE USA THAT MAKE A ( POSITIVE ) IMPACT ON THEIR CHILDRENS LIFE………………..

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    • kchapmangibbons Says:

      I am on your team when it comes to corporal punishment. In my kids’ school, we are given the option to deny this. Congrats on the Dean’s list! Bless all parents…it is the hardest job in the world. Thanks for your comment.

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  48. East Coast Ele Says:

    I totally agree. I was ashamed of North Carolina when we turned down the right to Gay marriage in our constitution and voted for Mitt Romney in the recent election. However I appreciate the southern hospitality, the deep rooted sense of community, the beautiful land and sweet tea.

    There are plenty of liberal leaning southerners, but as long as the south continues to be an easy punchline and gain a few laughs from the ignorant and uninspired, the repetitious articles will most likely continue. The South isn’t made up of 100% overweight white racists, similarly the North isn’t made up of 100% healthy educated diversity.

    Personally, I don’t know where I’ll end up after graduation, but surprisingly to some, I don’t encounter racism or even sexism on daily or even weekly basis, thank goodness.

    xoxo,
    -E

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    • kchapmangibbons Says:

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. The vote in NC was heartbreaking. The comments from progressives in the rest of the country were very unhelpful. The crazy thing is that I am proud the vote got as much support as it did. Gay marriage in NORTH CAROLINA? We joke here in TN..what will happen first…legalization of marijuana or marriage equality. My vote: the fundies hate gays more that they hate pot.

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Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Living in the South « Speaker's Corner in the ATX (scATX) - January 18, 2013

    [...] My friend kchapmangibbons, who lives in Tennessee, has written a wonderful post about this on her blog: The Why: In Which I Defend Living In The South: [...]

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  2. The Sunday ‘Report;’ 01/27/2013; Part 2 « Justincase505's Blog - January 27, 2013

    [...] http://kchapmangibbons.wordpress.com/2013/01/18/the-why/ [...]

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  3. The Way Forward — Thoughts on the #WarOnWomen, Moral Mondays, SCOTUS rulings and How We Fight | Big Blue Dot Y'all - June 27, 2013

    […] off the South completely.  This brilliant Storify is a MUST READ. I’ve written about this previously from my own point of […]

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  4. Abstaining from Religion and Changing the Face of Politics – Millennials Are at it Again #demographics | Big Blue Dot Y'all - March 13, 2014

    […] these changes will also impact cultural change, religious institutions and elections. Even in the South…demographics is […]

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  5. Thanks but No Thanks National Media – Please Do Your Homework #tnleg #lgbt #equality | Big Blue Dot Y'all - March 27, 2014

    […] The Why: In Which I Defend Living In The South Yesterday on Rachel Maddow’s blog, there was a question to all “blue dots.” Why do you stay in red states and do you ever want to leave? The question struck right at the issue most on my mind since the reelection of the President. Kristen Chapman […]

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