I don’t have a single, female friend within my inner circle from the South. This is curious because I’m so Southern; I’m crunchy and crispy fried. Moreover, I am very proud of my Southern heritage, take no issue with my family’s legacy of slavery, and, indeed, revel in the fact that not only did we overcome, but we became one of the largest landowners in our small southern town.
I posture that more than me choosing friends who are not Southern, friends pick me–as my Southern sensibilities don’t jump at you from the outset, but once you see me go “ham on a hog-maw,” all is clear. My situation becomes problematic when I think about the fact that these non-Southerners have some blatant and reviled hate for the South. I live in Atlanta which, if you’re from anywhere within 500 miles, might as well be New York City. I say this to alert you that the real country folks–the ones that still make hogshead cheese and hang clothes on the line–don’t live here. Nonetheless, my non-Southern friends think Atlanta and it’s people are country, backwards, and wish Google made a translator to facilitate a greater understanding of what it is they say. Apparently, “skreet,” “scrimps,” and “shawdy” aren’t real words. Who knew?
Maybe it’s not so much a hate for Atlanta or the South per sé, but, damn, do southern people really grind their gears? They tend to make these gross, wild, and wicked generalizations down here, as if all southerners are a monolithic, academic-less cancer, making life difficult for these new-age carpetbaggers who roll into town daily. These friends who hail from the Midwest and Northeast–both areas of our nation that I love–are not without their own deserving barrage of critique, and dare I say it, lack of jobs—the main reason why these “friends” have flocked to the ATL in the first place.
When I think about my country cousins, who live in the real South–you know, the ones who think it’s cool to “crank that Roy,”–they have no desire to come to the big city–be it Atlanta, Charlotte, or Birmingham (if you consider “B’ham” a big city). They love their small towns, huge communities, and lack of pretentious non-Southerners.
I had to ask myself: Do I subconsciously share the same prejudices as my friends? Looking at my social circle, you’d kind of have to wonder if I don’t. What does it mean that the people I truly consider friends think my love of wide open grassy spaces, napping in trees, mud bogging, and tanning thyself on rocks in middle of rivers is strange? I can’t even engage my homies with my most sacred Southern practices; Something is wrong with this. So as I explore my Southern self-hate, I question, do I want Southern friends? Is that really the remedy? Perhaps, I’m more alienated than I even knew from people who share my regional home, but not my veneration of it’s land and lore.
What does it mean to be a Southerner? Certainly, it isn’t limited to one experience. Is there something at the heart of me that wants to transcend Southerness? I’ve surrounded myself with infidels who only seek to exploit my precious South for it’s low cost of living and favorable professional conditions.
Tell me about your instances of internalized regionalism. I’m curious, moreover, I want to know I’m not alone.