Wise up: Bias against Southerners misses the mark

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    Wise up: Bias against Southerners misses the mark
    By RICHARD COX
    Published July 11, 2005

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    Does prejudice exist in Pasco County, an area with a very diverse population and seemingly very progressive?

    I am certain that African-Americans, Hispanics and people from other countries, the poor and homeless, as well as members of certain religious faiths, experience treatment different from the mainstream populace. However, I am a member of a minority who has experienced attitudes and reactions from many individuals who assume that I am intellectually and socially challenged.

    A very large percentage of the population of New Port Richey in particular is from the Northeast. I personally like the outspokenness, mince-no-words attitude, the ability to criticize as well as accept criticism without being offended, that seems to represent the culture in which Northerners grew up.

    My family members seem to have the disadvantage of being born and living most of our lives in the South, in our case, Tennessee. I grew up in Knoxville, a city that many people seem to associate only with the fanatical behavior of our college football fans, and my wife is from a small city near Chattanooga.

    There still seems to be a stereotype that some people associate with Tennesseans. When those individuals heard the distinct accent of my wife, my stepdaughter, and myself, it seemed to conjure up that redneck image one might associate with the humor of Jeff Foxworthy and other Southern comedians. That image is of a culture of ignorant hillbillies (certainly due to inbreeding!), barefoot, living in a shack with no indoor plumbing (but certainly an outhouse in back), having a dog living under the front porch, and owning an overgrown lawn populated with broken-down, dilapidated automobiles. And, yes, we all chew tobacco and sit on the front porch swing playing the banjo. Everyone also flies a Confederate flag and reminisces about the War Between the States.

    I first noticed this attitude when my stepdaughter, an honor student, came home from middle school several days in tears because several other students harassed her daily, calling her an ignorant redneck and hillbilly among other derogatory terms. My wife and I have experienced the sudden change in facial expressions from many when they hear our accent. They seem to associate our accent with ignorance, and speak in simpler terms so that we can understand what they are saying. Telephone conversations often produce the same reaction.

    I beg to differ. Tennessee is the home of several major universities, four major metropolitan areas with all the drug and gang problems associated with other large cities, and the most visited national park in the United States. Oak Ridge, in the Knoxville area, probably has as high a percentage of residents with doctorate degrees as any city in the United States. Tennessee has a musical heritage equal to none, and it is not exclusively country or bluegrass genres. Many nationally prominent politicians are from my home state, including three former presidents.

    Tennessee has produced many famous musicians, actors, scientists and other intellectual and talented natives.

    Well, to set the story straight, rural areas of most states have their own populace and dwellings that approach this stereotype.

    My wife and I grew up in your average suburban neighborhoods, we both graduated from major universities and had successful professional careers, and, to risk seeming boastful, are probably as intelligent and knowledgeable, if not more so, than the average American. Believe it or not, East Tennessee, the section of the state we are from, fervently supported the Union during the Civil War.

    I have noticed in the Pasco Times notices of meetings for various groups from areas of the Northeast and from other countries. Perhaps Southerners in our area should form a similar group. With apologies to an African-American group with a similar title, we could call our group the NAASF, the National Association for the Advancement of Southern Folks, Pasco County Branch. I hope there are enough local Southern residents available to attract to our organization.



    http://www.sptimes.com/2005/07/11/Pasco/Wise_up__Bias_against.shtml
     

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