Article after article frames the South as backwards and ignorant. You would have to go there to know the truth.
Drive until the temperature passes the mid-eighties before eight a.m., the humidity is so thick it feels like breath, and the mosquitoes hunt in packs. You’re here. You’re in the Deep South. You’ll probably notice that most of the roads are paved, the plumbing tends to be indoors, and it’s full of people. Actual honest-to-God people not the caricatures that lazy journalists want you to believe. The Deep South isn’t the perpetually post-Civil War anachronism stew that journalists talk about when their deadlines are looming and they’re out of ideas.
New York Times released this article recently about New Orleans. One of the quotes highlights a lack of kale in the city which is patently untrue. What bothers me about this is that the journalist writing the article didn’t do any research. A Southern city being so backwards as to not have any kale (the most progressive of all the green, leafy vegetables) fits a narrative— the south is backwards and unrefined. Another person quoted complains that some of the buildings are run down and not just designed to look run down. Well, New Orleans has been around since the early 1700s and after three hundred years, the paint might start chipping. But, that’s not the way the story is supposed to be told.
This is how it’s supposed to go. Note the URL on that article: “maps-of-the-south-bad-place”. The article is supposed to “outrage southerners” but, considering the health and wealth disparities highlighted, I think every American should be outraged. Framing articles this way— look at how bad the South is— only serves to further a stereotype. The South is not some alien part of the United States that you stare at from afar. It’s disingenuous to imply that one part of the fruit is rotten and then say that the fruit itself isn’t rotting.
I noticed the same attitudes during the ice storm that crippled some Southern cities. The South was used as a punchline with no consideration of the actual lives affected.
If you’re from the South, or if you’re a transplant, you know what I’m talking about. You know that it’s not like Forrest Gump (except for the parts that are), and not everyone watches NASCAR or lives like Duck Dynasty minor nobility. Then again, some people do, and I say more power to them.
This has all been a moot point, though. Whole Foods declared that collard greens are the “new kale” and southerners have been eating collards for hundreds of years. Very cosmopolitan.
Photo/ Flickr— Shoshanah