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Although I’ve lived in the Northeastern United States for over half of my adult life, I grew up in the South – depending on who you ask. (Most folks don’t consider Florida “the South” per se; please believe me when I tell you that it’s Southern where it counts.)

I attended undergrad in upstate New York, lived and worked for ten years after college in New York City, and this October, I’ll be celebrating my third year in Philly. In many ways, the Northeast is still as magical to me as it was when my plane landed in LaGuardia all those years ago. Seasons and snow still amaze me, and they probably will until the day I die. I love it here, and I have no intention of moving any time soon.

But I’ve got something stuck in my craw – and that’s how so many of my dear Northeasterners think of and treat anything Southern. The misconceptions, prejudices and bald-faced ignorance I have encountered from friends, neighbors and colleagues is just… well, it’s not just infuriating. It’s embarrassing. So, if y’all don’t mind – some points to ponder!

1. We’re cute as all hell. We don’t generally get a lot of credit for aesthetics (thank you, “Deliverance,” for this and soooooooo much more), and you know I don’t mean to boast, but in addition to charm and grace, Southerners are a pretty good looking bunch. Southern born and/or bred stars like Julia Roberts, Christina Hendricks, Megan Fox, Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Lawrence are perpetual fixtures on even the finickiest “most beautiful” lists. And then there’s Beyonce. Enough said.

2. “Just because I talk slow doesn’t mean I’m stupid.” The smartest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing in my life all have discernible accents. An accent, be it Southern or indicative of any of the other billions of regions on Earth, does not indicate deficient intelligence. An accent is just an accent, and we’ve all got one. So do yourself a favor, and disabuse yourself of this notion altogether. Which brings me to my next point…

3. The word “y’all” is a contraction of “you all.” It is plural. It is a real word. If you don’t know how to use the word “y’all,” PUT IT DOWN. Do not make me say this again.

4. There is tremendous regional diversity in the South. And it’s weird that I have had to explain this more often in New York City than ANYWHERE ELSE I have ever lived. In New York. Where people from the Bronx don’t sound like people from Queens, and where those same folks bristle if you get their borough wrong, I’ve had to explain that the South is not a monolith.

Well, just in case no one ever told you, you’re hearing it here. A lowcountry Carolinian is not a Savannahian is not a Knoxvillier is not a Lexingtonian is not Austinian is not a Houstonian is not an Alabamian is not a son/daughter of New Orleans. This is why all those people look, sound, cook, act – and vote – very, VERY differently. Oh, and there’s also that “individuality” thing that makes everybody different and stuff.

5. Pork is a legitimate institution. It just is. While I grew up in a pork-free household (long story), all of my extended family is culturally Southern. What that means is that by the time I was five, I knew every kind of pork product by name, sight and smell – because I wasn’t allowed to eat that stuff at family functions. Baby back ribs, sausage, chitlins, ham, bacon, fatback, hog maws, lard, bacon fat, bacon grease, and cracklins were all pieces of the same verboten (and to me, exotic and possibly delicious) animal.

Years later, navigating the palate particularities of a Cuban-American boyfriend was a breeze for me because I understood the culinary centrality of the the Almighty Pig. (Pork, incidentally, is a food group in Cuban cuisine. Trufax.) Are there Southern vegans? There are. Right? There are Southern vegans. There have to be. Probably a lot of them. I don’t know how they do it.

6. “What?” is not a polite answer to almost all inquiries. A better answer is a sweetly lilting “Yes?” Even better: “Yes, may I help you?” or something similarly courteous and solicitous. Barking “What?” in reply to a regular question just tells everyone that nobody raised you right. Your manners are terrible. They’re shaming your whole family. Cut that shit out.

7. Tabasco is not hot sauce. Hot sauce is not Tabasco. They are two different but related condiments. Hot sauce – the Louisiana variety, anyway – is heavier on vinegar. Tabasco is more concentrated heat. Hot sauce comes in a lot of different kinds of bottles. Tabasco comes in a little tiny distinct-type bottle.

image

NOT HOT SAUCE.

You will often find them in the same establishments, and in the same kitchens. But under no circumstances are they interchangeable. Please make a note of it, and disseminate this info widely.

8. Many people of color are proud of our Southern roots. I’ve had folks in the Northeast tell me that they don’t consider me Southern. Not SO weird, since I’m from Florida, and many Southerners don’t consider Florida “the South,” but kinda unsettling to hear from… well, Yankees.*

When I’ve asked about it, I’ve found that a lot of White people don’t think of non-White people as being “from the South.” For years, I thought I was imagining this, but no, it’s the general consensus among a lot of liberal, progressive, post-racial White folks. I don’t speak with an accent, but I’m definitely – actually and generationally – Southern. Which brings me around to this next sticking point…

9. We’re not all frothing racists. I don’t usually really have this one thrown at me… mainly because I’m Black. However, I’ve asked around, and apparently it’s a common sentiment. While I can’t pretend that there aren’t plenty of contemporary instances of open racial bigotry throughout the South, I’ll also be the first to say that no region in the world has a patent on Mean-N-Stupid.

Actually, this is a point that cannot be overemphasized, so I’mma be real frank here: I’ve spent most of my adult life in the northeastern United States. In my 35 or so total years on this planet, I’ve experienced a lot of indisputably racist incidents, and of the ones that were violent and/or scary, 80 percent have occurred outside the South, and 90 percent of THOSE? All courtesy of the Empire State. Yup. New York. Horrible people know no borders, and that’s not news. So, hush.

10. Not everything we eat is fried. But we will try and fry any and everything. And what we do fry is fucking delicious. But, yeah. You know how the saying in New York is “Stand still for too long in New York, and you’ll get renovated”? Well, don’t stand still too long around a Southerner, or you’ll get deep fried. To crisp, golden perfection. And served with Tabasco. Or hot sauce. One or the other, though.

*I never say “Yankees” unless we’re talking baseball. Most Southerners I know don’t. In fact, in much of the South, the catch-all term for Northeasters, Midwesterners, and Left Coasters is “New Yorkers.” Seriously. The only people I hear use the word Yankees descriptively are from the UK or Caribbean. I’m convinced that “Yankees” is one of those archaic, nearly obsolete labels that the group it applies to uses more in self-conscious self-reference than outsiders actually do. (SEE ALSO: “Honkies.”)

XOJane

This post originally appeared on XOJane. Republished with permission. Click here for more
Shafiqah Hudson on XOJane!

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  • Justus

    “The South” Region that begins literally at Maryland and ends in Texas. Its very difficult to say that something is Southern due to the diversity of this region. People speak diffrently, act diffrently, and that Southern Hospitality myth, please don’t let the smooth taste fool u. I see this completely diffrent people from the south that are from the major cities are significantly different than their rural area counterparts. Houston, Dallas, Memphis, New Orleans, Miami, Atlanta, Miami, Baltimore, and Washington, DC which is where I am from. These are city folks there is nothing remotely country or slow about people from these cities, however they are all southern. Another thing most of these southern cities are usually your most dangerous. Everyone also has a very distinct southern accent depending on your location. Ohh yeah Florida not being the south is foolishness str8 up. There is just to much history past and present to even aknowledge that foolishness. I just find that ots best to speak specifically about where u are from. The South is too big too diverse to lock down to a couple of silly and ill informed stereotypes.

  • GlowBelle

    Love this list! I love being a born and bred Southern girl!

    #4 and #9 are on-point. This is what baffles people about the South, there are some liberal areas and we are very diverse. Even with our ugly history, the silver lining was that it brought so many different cultures to the area and I’m grateful that I get to be around lots of different people daily…not to mention it brought all the great food that is here. I live in Texas and we get the best of both worlds — amazing BBQ, Mexican food and great catfish (if you’re on the coast). I always say that our taco shops are the equivalent to hot dog stands on corners in NYC. There is really no excuse for not knowing where to get a taco when your in Texas…and no you do not go to Taco Hell or Chipotle…there is no need to when you’ve got Mom and Pop places that are the real deal and taste a thousand times better!

    You also forgot to mention sweet tea the official drink of the south after Dr. Pepper and Big Red (a big time Texas staple), of course!

  • Nika

    This article is right on point! I live in the DC metro area and folks here are cluess about the Mason Dixon line and are dead set on being apart of the North as if that’s something to be so proud of while being from the South is something to be shunned. They obviously have no clue. I’m from North Carolina but have lived in Florida, and South Carolina. I think the Southern Hospitality is true, regardless of what anyone says. I’ve never experienced “Northern Hospitality”. I’m at the point where I avoid making friends with women here because they try to make themselves appear to be better the minute they realize I’m from the South with their sly comments about me sounding “so country” . I’m done with ignorant folks.

    • Actually, NO. I live in Maryland right now…5 blocks away from DC. This is the cultural north. Maryland fought for the union in the civil war…it is a heavily catholic state…AND…the mason dixon line, if drawn straight, goes through PA and cuts off a portion of south jersey…It was only the border between PA and maryland…not the dividing line between north and south.

  • rhea

    Just a few points from a proud GRITS:
    1. Florida is VERY southern. Floridians don’t WANT to think that they are southern, but they are. My father’s people are from Florida, and I know. If you doubt me, read a newspaper to see the kind of country stuff that happens there. Not southern…GIRL, STOP!
    2. Tobasco is NOT hot sause because Tobasco is not even hot! Southerns generally put all kinds of peppers and sauces on their foods to spice it up. I don’t use Tobasco because it’s like a joke to me. I married a Caribbean man, and I put that bonnet pepper sauce RIGHT in my mouth. Now, that’s hot!
    3. Black people aren’t southern? Really? Where dey do dat at? >:-/
    4. The general concensus from black southern transplants is that the North is more racist than the South because the South has a reputation for racism that cannot afford any current blemishes. Northern whites, on the other hand, tend to feel that being born or raised above the Mason-Dixon makes them immune to racism, so they can say and do things that southern whites would feel guilty for doing. There are planty of black folks from the South who will tell you they were never called the N-word to their faces until they got North.

    Good article!

  • guest

    I think the south sucks. I’m from the mid west and made the horrible mistake of moving down south. I’ve never met ruder people than in the south, hands down, I’ve never felt like I’ve had more of my rights especially as a woman violated. It’s like an unspoken sexism that pervades the culture of “knowing your place” and there are very little programs that actually help women or empower them. The most disturbing thing was how young a majority of these women (many still teenagers) marry. I’ve met a good many that aren’t even out of high school. Another thing I find disturbing is how quickly men and women hook up down here. It’s almost like they can’t stand to be single, enjoy their own company.

    I’ve never met people more heartless to the suffering of others. Class and what class someone comes from is also very big in the south. All in all very bourgeoisie. Gossip is horrendous and a lot of people that I’ve met from the south have a very hard time getting past their high school days. They don’t seem to understand what is appropriate to discuss in business settings or public and what should be kept private.

    Worst is the customer service. God awful. Many who work with the public have a major attitude problem like they’re mad at the world they have to work. Or they go the other route and have the super preppy high pitched accent that is so patronizing, it’s very insulting. Very few of your issues get resolved from something as simple as returning a shirt to renewing drivers license.

    Anyway, I will never make that mistake again. Awful. Now two places that did shock me was New York and New Jersey. Every one talks about how rude they are but they have all been extremely polite. And conducting business in these states is a joy, the people aren’t patronizing or mad at the world.