What is wrong with being Southern? Even having a Southern accent can get you labeled as a product of inbreeding, or worse, a Jerry Springer panelist (some of these people are interchangeable.) I have a rich southern heritage, so I feel I can talk. You see, both sets of my grandparents were from the South. My paternal grandparents were from the great state of Miser...oh, sorry...Missouri; and my maternal grandparents were from Arkansas. I loved both sets of grandparents for the rich history they gave me as a child, growing up.
Growing up, I had a speech impediment. To hide it, I learned to talk with a drawl. It worked well unless there was a word that I totally butchered; then my secret got out, and I became possessed by Elmer Fudd. When I got to junior college, the speech impediment was all but gone, but the drawl lingered. Because of the drawl, there came slurs that I wasn't too intelligent, nor was I capable of stringing together a complicated thought. Some of these sensitive, caring colleagues of mine, told me that I either belonged to the Klan, or that I had a "George Wallace for President" sticker on my car, and I could care less about any type of civil rights. Although I was raised in the sixties and seventies when we, as students, were preached at constantly about the importance of civil rights for all walks of life, I was still looked at differently just because I said things with an accent. I learned equality, not through public education, but rather the biblical principle, "Consider others better than yourself," because it was the only fair thing to do. This ideal made me realize that everybody deserves a better life, and if that meant sacrificing yourself to obtain your goals, whatever they may be, and if I considered you as a friend, then I would support you in your endeavors; whether it be staying in school longer in the quest of higher education, or chasing a better paying career to bring contentment to you and your family.
I cite two examples on how my accent caused people to prejudge me: One of the courses I had to take, doing my undergraduate work, was Political Science. It was a great class. One day, I was approached by a young woman in the class, and was asked about one of the assignments that were handed out. She had missed the previous meeting. I told her what was expected in the assignment. She then asked me what part of the South was I from, and I told her, "Southern California." She said, "No, really, what part of the South are you from?" Again, I told her that I was a native Californian. She then asked me what political party I was affiliated with. "Democrat*," I replied. She told me there was no way I could be a democrat. I asked her why. "Because of the way you talk and the way you dress." Since when is a person's affiliations determined by the way they dress or talk? "Well, you just look conservative." All my life, my speech rhythm had been an obstacle to me; now I had some bimbette labeling me because of the way I dress and talk. I wondered what would happen if I told her that I was a Bible believing, born again, Jesus is comin' soon Christian? I probably would have been labeled a nut as well!
The other story has to deal with the office that I worked at while attending college. I worked in Extended Opportunities Programs and Services, EOP & S for short, at El Camino College. It was a service that offered peer counseling, help in filling out Financial Aid forms and helping out with students' course planning during registration. It was fun working with these people, but being one of four practicing Christians there did lead into some interesting discussions. Again, the talk involved people from the South. I was told that people from the rural areas are less sophisticated than those in the big city. They're less educated, and more ready to believe anything that came down the pike. When asked why they believed this, I was told, "there is just something about the accent." "An accent," I replied in my best drawl, "has nothing to do with one's sense of gullibility. After all, just look at the occult idols in the cities." I also pointed out that in the country, you are more likely to find someone who will come to your aid when in need than in the city, because you lean on your neighbors for help and comfort.
In the Halls of Higher Education, the god they emphasize the most is the great god of TOLERANCE! It seems that when someone challenges this great god, and shows it as the mockery that it is, they are often ridiculed, misrepresented, slandered, or worse, become the brunt of many a cruel joke. We as southerners, and I hope you will receive me as one, are reminded that we are in great company. When Peter was before the crowd of people at Pentecost, 3000 people got saved, and the leaders of the Temple wanted to know who this uneducated fisherman was, speaking in the language of the foreigners that were in the city that day. It is said Christ had a country accent, for Nazareth was out in the sticks, even though the Prophets and Old Testament writings said messiah would come from the sticks. Therefore, my southern brothers and sisters, unite! We have a proud heritage to stand on. Remember the immortal words of Charlie Daniels, "the South's goin' to do it again!"
*I have since then change political affiliations. Hey-we have all made insipid mistakes in our younger days:)
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