Tag Archives: William Faulkner

What is the South?

16 Jan

This semester, my colleague is teaching Southern U.S. History, and, on the first day, he asked his students to answer a simple question – what is the South? As it turns out, the question is not as simple as it appears, and the students have been trying to answer it for a couple of days.Question

I have been listening to the discussion as it takes place outside of my office door, and it has brought to mind a blog that I recently read. The person wrote about how they wanted to visit a southern city because they had never been to one. They had been to New Orleans but did not think that counted. The Big Easy was too diverse to be truly southern.

I was taken aback by the blog because New Orleans is one of the most southern of cities. Apparently, the blogger thought that a southern city should be a place where people put on their camouflage caps and rebel flag t-shirts; hop into their pickup trucks; and crank up the country music station.

Of course, those people exist. However, the South is more than that. It has different geography. It had different foods. People speak with different accents. In short, the South is a diverse region, and New Orleans is a perfect example of that.

However, that does not answer the question that was asked of the students. What is the South? Well, it is a matter of perspective. It depends on area. It depends on race. It depends on the person who is answering the question.

Obviously, people have different opinions about the South. Some think of its faults, and others think of its more positive qualities. I can only think about it from my point of view. When I answer the question, this is what I come up with.

The South is:

drinking sweet tea.

having people from other parts of the country make fun of your accent when their accents are just as strange.

the Blues.

reading Flannery O’Connor and William Faulkner.

not being able to live without air conditioning.

eating black-eyed peas and hog jowl on New Year’s Day.

driving on country roads on a Sunday afternoon.

being washed in the blood.

hiking the trails of the Great Smoky Mountains.

eating baloney on crackers with a little hot sauce on top.

growing up as a non-football player in a region that worships football players.

going to college football games and worshipping players on a Saturday afternoon.

listening to the Allman Brothers and the Marshall Tucker Band.

feeling shame when watching film of Bull Connor’s forces using fire hoses and dogs on protestors.

saying I want a Coke when ordering a soft drink and knowing that someone who calls it pop is from somewhere else.

attending a NASCAR race and thinking I could do that.

driving the Natchez Trace from Nashville to Natchez.

going to church and having a “dinner on the ground.”

walking in the footsteps of Elvis at Graceland.

drinking Jack Daniels.

eating at a locally owned Meat and Three.

greeting strangers as you walk past them.

knowing that the region has had some serious issues.

being proud of where I live despite knowing about those problems because there are some great things about it, too.

To me, that is the South.