Sweet Home Texas

Sweet Home Alabama is one of my favorite movies. I watch it at least 3 times a year and even though I recognize that many of the characters have just been picked from the romantic comedy archetypes list, that doesn’t make me love the movie any less. Much like a good steak, I didn’t fall in love with this movie because of the meat. I fell in love with this movie because of the seasonings and the marinade that make it unique. Just like Melanie, Reese Witherspoon’s character, I ran off to find a career after high school. I didn’t get the Hollywood job of fashion designer, but I did get a scholarship to attend one of the most prestigious schools in Chicago which really did seem like living a fairy tale in a lot of ways. I am from the South and even though I love where I grew up this was an opportunity I needed to take.

In Chicago, when I tell people that I am from Texas the responses can be maddening. For example, I was once told by a professor that living in Texas was just like living in a Third World country, where no true middle class existed. When I attempted to argue with him and defend my status as a truly middle class Texan, I was told that my privilege and bias was getting in the way of me seeing just how backwards the state really was. This man had never been to Texas (I asked). He had never immersed himself in the culture and minutia of my home state, yet he presumed to know everything about the place I have spent my life. Texas was recently named the fourth best state to make a living due to its lower than average cost of living, low unemployment rate, and decent median household income. Illinois ranked 22nd and New York State ranked 47th out of 50 states. Texas median household income is quite close to the national median household income, if there was no middle class would this number not be skewed? Additionally, it’s low unemployment rate gives me hope that many people fall closer to the middle of this median income than not (although I’m not going to go looking for those precise statistics today).

It’s important to note here that while Texas is doing quite well, the South as a whole has less money and education than Northern states and in most cases still does. To mock someone because they are from the South is akin to mocking someone because he or she is living in a poor urban area. However, we deny the Southern poor the dignity of outrage. We have a dictionary of words to describe people from rural southern areas of the country: hick, redneck, white trash, inbred, and racist to name a few. There is no taboo against calling someone a redneck or white trash. It’s rude to be sure, but you will not get the same response as you would calling someone a hood rat or a welfare queen. The term redneck is used to describe a poor (normally white) person with very little education living in the south. Imagine if this “redneck” was black and living on the south side of Chicago? Would it then be acceptable to belittle him for his lack of wealth and education?

Those from the urban elite who laugh at distasteful redneck jokes or profess that you would fear visiting the south, remember that you are laughing at poor uneducated families. You are laughing at people in poverty which is often just as severe if not more so than those who live on the South Side of Chicago or the wrong neighborhood of New York. After all when you live in a city like Chicago or New York there is normally a plethora of education programs available to help a few bright and motivated children give themselves a brighter future and go to college. In most rural areas there is one high school and no non-profits to be found.

I’ve discovered that there is something to be said for home sweet home and nothing to be said for those who mock it except good bye.

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