Bless their hearts; don't they know not to stereotype the south

Alexandra Woolbright


Living in the Deep South is never something that causes me embarrassment. Whether living abroad in Brussels, Belgium for a summer, riding a train through Washington, D.C, walking down the streets of New York City or drinking lemonade on the Amalfi Coast, I’ve never tried to deny my heritage, not even my slow, syrupy sweet Southern drawl. Though I must admit, being asked to say certain words a million times does become annoying.

While most of the world thinks of the South as an overall-wearing, tobacco-spitting pit of hostility and Bible thumping, it’s surprising when someone outside of the Mason Dixon line notices how completely normal and open minded we can be, which is exactly what Al Madrigal did.

Last week the “Daily Show” sent Madrigal to both Alabama and Mississippi to see if there was any validity to statistician Nat Silver’s claims that Alabama and Mississippi would be the last states to approve gay marriage.

With two stunt men acting as a redneck gay couple using hidden cameras, the reactions were highly positive in both states.  While kissing at a fair, holding hands walking down the street or proposing to one another in a Waffle House, the two men were met with acceptance. In fact, the Waffle House proposals in both Alabama and Mississippi were met with applause!

What the “Daily Show” found completely contradicted Silver’s statements. In fact, while the outside world often stereotypes the South as being a raging center of hostility toward gay, lesbian and transgender individuals, Madrigal proved this wasn’t necessarily true.

So why is the Deep South portrayed as a place that is so hateful?

The problem is that too many assume too much about the South.

There is certainly no denying we have conservative opinions. However, the accusation that we are full of people committing hate crimes would simply be untrue. Though headlines about Ole Miss players antagonizing homosexual actors in a school play certainly don’t reflect well on us, the fact is that most hate crimes don’t occur in Mississippi or Alabama.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s reports on hate crime as of 2011, the top places for hate crimes were the District of Columbia, Massachusetts and New Jersey. In fact, Mississippi ranked as the lowest state in the country to have hate crimes.

These statistics come as no shock to me, as I have grown up in a very accepting environment.

Throughout high school I knew of homosexual individuals, and it never bothered me. In fact, I openly talked with my gay friend about his feelings. Never once did I think he was disgusting; I only recognized a person who loved and cared for someone else, just as I did with my own boyfriend.

Attending Mississippi University for Women opened my eyes even more. I met even more people struggling to find their identities, many of whom were gay or lesbian. One of my most cherished memories of college will always be with a boy who has more sugar than a Mason jar of my Mama’s sweet tea, but is one of the most honest, genuine and caring people I know. Never once did I look at him and think, “Something is wrong with that boy.”

I always thought perhaps I was an anomaly in the South, a girl who loved books and John Lennon a little too much. Maybe all the flowers in my hair and ideas of peace had made me think outside of the crooked lines that bordered my state. Then something happened that made me realize it wasn’t just me.

One night behind a local bar a gay friend of mine was attacked and robbed. He wasn’t robbed because he was gay; he simply was in the wrong place at the wrong time. However, this cruel and unjust act angered my heterosexual friends. Most of the guys that frequented the bar were furious. Instantly, they were defending my friend; inviting him to parties, teaching him how to defend himself should he ever be attacked again.

So, I ask, where was the hatred there? Why, if the South is so determined to use words that start with “f” and “q,” so convinced that the souls of the homosexuals will be thrown into the fiery pits of Hell, why were these flannel-wearing, Budweiser-drinking good ole’ boys taking up for someone who loved Madonna and mini umbrellas in his drink?

Though I certainly think the South still has a way to go, the stereotypes applied to us may not be fair. Perhaps my generation is slowly contributing to the change we need. Though we may still succumb to the traditions we’ve grown up with like “slappin our grandma” over good food and saying “yes ma’am” no matter how old or young we may be, we aren’t incapable of moving forward, and we aren’t so backward that we throw stones at people for being different.

Maybe it’s time that the world outside allow us to display that change, one Waffle House proposal at a time.

So, y’all come back now, ya hear, Madrigal…. And don’t be shocked to find we are as sweet as pecan pie.