June 13, 2017

The Hard Truth: I'm a Southerner

So here's the thing...I simultaneously love and loathe the denigration of the South. When we propose or pass some asinine law that expands gun "rights", taxes hybrid/electric vehicles and police transgender bathroom usage or when we commemorate Robert E. Lee with a holiday I think we are deserving of derision.

On the other hand, every time I hear Mike Huckabee talk about "flyover country" and "bubbaville" I cringe. This recoil is because Huckabee generalizes the South as a group of simple people who somehow represent the "true America". While I disagree and counter that we are merely a part of America and not the totality of America, I take umbrage most with his implication that the Southerners are by large simple people.

(Credit: Allison McCann and Walt Hickey/FiveThirtyEight)

Don't get me wrong, I do disdain the South more often than not. However, when someone like Huckabee appoints himself as the unofficial champion of a group that I am unintentionally apart of...I dig deep and rail against his commentary on behalf of my birthplace. As someone who has a Ph.D., a Mother Jones subscription, listens to NPR and leans liberal, it's safe to say I fit the "coastal elite" mold as per Huckabee's guidelines. Despite this, I'm a Southerner. I was born, raised, and educated in Arkansas. This gives gives me the unique privilege of confounding Huckabee and those like him with my criticisms.

I deplore a description of Southerners as simple because I'm a Southerner and I'm not simple. What I detest even more so is when the South leans in and owns this moniker of ignorance. The South is the origination point of J. William Fulbright* who aided in the creation of the United Nations. The South produced writers Harper Lee (To Kill a Mockingbird) and Maya Angelou (I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings). The South gave this country civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and LGBT icon Ellen DeGeneres. It also yielded Jimmy Carter who, regardless of your views of his presidency, established an organization that has nearly eradicated Guinea worm disease.

So there it is. I'm inundated with these confederate-loving Clampett caricatures so yeah, when a pundit or satirist rightly lambastes the South, a part of me loves it. But then the other shoe drops and I realize I'm a defacto Southerner. So the only choice I have is to shine a light on all the Southern scholars in hopes that I can help elevate society's view of this region. The only other option would be, since I am in Rome, to do as the Romans...but I refuse to lower myself to stereotypical southern standards.
*While Senator Fulbright stood up to McCarthyism, railed against the Vietnam War, supported international relations and advocated for education, he was also a staunch segregationist which makes my stomach turn. This is by no means a defense of his position but when your state is best known for Walmart, the Duggars and slick Willy it's hard to conjure a prominent native that is truly beyond reproach. 


  1. If you aren't friends with/reading http://www.tylerlucille.com/ - definitely start! She's another smart, informed Arkansas woman with whom you would find MUCH in common! Great post!

  2. I'm an East Coast snob (not really). But I loved this. I admit, I have a whole host of stereotypes ingrained in my head about the South so I love that someone I admire as much as you is challenging my unfair judgments :)


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