While I have stressed the importance of southern progressives sharing about our incredible work at the grassroots level in the South, I also know that we need people to listen to us. We cannot shift the narrative if our thoughts and words are not seen or heard because of people perpetuating the negative stereotypes. When people from other regions (or within the South) automatically negate the South and prevent any chance of positivity being seen, we can struggle to share of our work. I have never understood putting a group of people down in any way, and these regional hierarchies form power struggles. How is it helpful to put the South down without offering some form of positive possibility for a situation? So while I want us to push these progressive works out into the rest of the country, I also want the rest of the country to listen to us. For far too long, Southerners voices have been ignored, silenced, or discounted, and we have been left out of the conversation. Listen to us and see all of our work down here, y’all.
I have probably been reading way too many blogs and commentary about why some people dislike, despise, or even hate “The South.” Through reading a variety of these entries that a basic Google search will provide, I am left with more questions than answers. I find it interesting the number of people who claim an authority to dislike the region. I find it even more interesting how folks from other regions of the country who have briefly visited the South display strong sentiments against the South. When such pieces are written, how are our progressive works even being heard? If we are trying to shift the narrative of the South, we need people to listen.
I readily concede that the South has had its history of dilemmas and systemic oppressions, and it certainly still does. One blogger from Philadelphia explained that the South had a racial divide, was stuck in the past, doesn’t care about the environment or public health, has people who primarily drink light beer, and lacks Dunkin Donuts. Evidently we also need to “learn to talk” because “y’all is not a word.” I plan to tackle the “y’all” comment in a future blog post. Certainly, of course, this is just one example out of many such blogs.
Such blogs treat the South as a monolithic entity and promote long-standing stereotypes without providing any in-depth commentary on how to improve particular issues in the South. When people complain about an issue (such as education in some areas of the South), do they take some form of action to improve it? Have they researched it? Have they written to representatives or gotten involved with advocacy networks here? People enjoy putting the South down without interrogating some ways to improve parts of life, such as graduation rates.
These stereotypes and popular opinions of the South also neglect the South on the whole. We have fantastic educational research institutions, wonderful professors, and bright students. We have some great publications, conferences, and areas for minds to be sculpted. We have activists working diligently to fight systemic oppressions. We have strength, resilience, and work to do. These stories resist the long-held stereotypes of the South that continue to be spread. It is time for us to be heard. Once again, we are more than just a vacation spot or recipe book entry.