One of the things that follows Clancy whenever we move somewhere non-southern when they find out that she is southern is “You don’t sound like you’re from the south”
To which she wants to respond (and sometimes does) “Yeah. amd I don’t have two heads or scales, either…”
They usually mean it as a compliment, though it doesn’t always come across that way. It’s generally bad form to dig at someone’s background even in an effort to differentiate themselves from it. Because sometimes, you see, sometimes we’re actually not ashamed of where we come from and what we are. Even if we’re quite dissatisfied with the aspects of it that give it such a negative reputation.
I think I’ve been on my soapbox about that before (in fact I know I have because I’ve linked to said soapbox), so let me move on.
One of Clancy’s responses is to say that not all of the south is what people think it is. We’re both kind of on the fringes of the south. Her because she’s from a German Catholic enclave and me because I’m from a big city that houses people from all across the world. I think her response raises some good points, though I fear that people will come away with the impression “Oh, so parts of Delosa are not like the rest of that backwards region of the country.” While that’s true, it’s not the whole picture.
The truth is that the south is not a monolithic thing and it’s unfortunate that the totality of the south is defined by Alabama and Mississippi (I’m going to ditch the fictional locales from this point forward in the post) to many from outside the region.
Alabama and Mississippi are only one facet of the region. If you go east to Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia you get a different kind of south with more of the gentility sometimes associated with the region (Mississippi? Not so genteel). Florida (except the northern part and particularly the panhandle) has significant Spanish and Cuban influence. Cajuns from southern Louisiana that take more from the French are their own thing and not only different from other southern states but also from the northern part of their own. Texas of course has southwestern influence. Eastern Tennessee is full of mountain types more like one would associate with West Virginia. Ditto for parts of Arkansas. Many states, such as Missouri, Kentucky, and West Virginia, may or may not count as southern depending on how you count it.
While I think that people from border states and states that pull influences from distinct places are sometimes referred to as “less southern” I’m not sure that’s the best way to think of it. It falls into the trap of defining the the south as completely backwards and less backwards places to be considered less southern (by which, less backwards). It’s no coincidence that most major candidates for the presidency that come from the south come from places considered “less southern” (Texas, Tennessee, Arkansas).
Even leaving aside for a moment that Alabama and Mississippi have things going for them as well, we really should resist the temptation to think of these less populated areas as the epitome of the region.
I understand the need to categorize regions and to think of the south as an entity the same way that I think of the mountain west or north as an entity. I just wish more people would keep in mind that because it’s a thing that does not mean that it is a monolithic thing.