A Primer on Understanding Southern Culture: Truths, Untruths and Stereotypes

Truths, Untruths and Stereotypes

The stereotypes of the South are often perpetrated by Hollywood, the mainstream media and academia. Movies often show Southerners as being uneducated, uncouth and backwards. Even Hollywood’s renditions of John Grisham’s novels use the stereotypes of Southerners to continue the myths concerning the South. In the minds of many Northerners, the people of the South are lazy, violent, uneducated, bigoted and uneducatable. The more poignant question is not so much what are the stereotypes, but rather why do people keep such stereotypes going.

To the Northerner, people who live in the South are lazy. From a Southern perspective, they people do what they need to do in order to get by. They believe in enjoying life and the fruits of their labours. To a Southerner, the idea of working every hour possible just to accumulate material things is not a way to live. The Southerner wants to enjoy life and believes it is to be enjoyed. The Southerner views working every hour of the day possible like the Northerners just another sign of greed and selfishness. The view that mindset as one of living life just to make money rather than enjoying it.

Southern Culture is shaped by history

Southern culture has been largely shaped by its history. Although there has been a wide assortment of people from many nations that have contributed to the South, there is a unified culture and mindset that has developed over time. The people of the South have had a different way of living that the other peoples.

The Southern identity began during the days of colonial settlement. During the colonial days, those who settled in the South were known as “Southrons”. A large number of the people settling were from a Scots-Irish mix with their Protestant beliefs and Huguenots. This is distinctly different from the influential English and Puritan settlement seen in the north, which held largely Puritanical ideals and values. These groups maintained different world views. Those settling in the South held many common values. These values include polite manners, landed gentry, love of sports (including fighting), hospitality, quiet living, love of vocal music, pride in their ancestry, loyalty to local chieftains rather than a central authority and dangerous adventure.

They also maintained a fierce love of independent thought in intellectual pursuits and religion. They maintained a “live and let live philosophy” as opposed to the Yankee/Puritan north that wanted to ‘save’ the world and tell others how to live their lives because they sincerely believed their ways were superior to those of other areas or religions or other areas.

The polite manners combined values, pride in ancestry and love of titles led to the establishment of a Southern chivalry. Even in the days of when dueling was allowed, exhbiting polite manners in speech and conduct along with showing respect toward women were important. Even when duels occurred they were conducted in an orderly manner according to established rules. The rules of chivalry also allowed for blood vengeance when a family member seeks to settle affairs when a fellow family member had been done wrong. Despite having Biblical roots, many in the Northern States considered such actions as ‘barbaric’.

Despite the fighting, duels and blood vengence, there was a high regard for God’s word and religious practices in general. The term ‘redneck’ originated from Scots Presbyters who wore a red ribbon around their necks. The mindset of the importance of having a church independent of a centralized state controlled church was important to the people of the large rifle primers South. This was a view also shared by Huguenots who had suffered at the hands of a centralized church with the ethnic cleansing conducted in the St. Bartholemew’s Day Massacre.

Southerners still view their beliefs as important. When the phrase “separation of church and state” is used, the different regions interpret it in vastly different ways. Although English is the common language, what it means to each is another matter. To a Southerner, “separation of church and state” means that the government has no business trying to control any aspect of the church or worship. Southerners want freedom to worship without government interference. If the South wants to elect persons who hold religious values and moral standings, it is their business. To a Northerner, the phrase means that those holding religious office should not take strong moral or religious stands, and that the government needs to make sure that churches do not get out of control or fanatical in the South. The South is known as the Bible Belt for a reason. In large, there continues being a high regard for the Bible and its teachings despite the wide variety of various Christian sub-groups.

Southern Traits

Being largely from Scots-Irish backgrounds, they also knew the importance of maintaining their weapons. Many had lost family members to the ethnic cleansing known as the “Highland clearances” when the highlands of Scotland were purged of many of its inhabitants. During those clearances, many inhabitants of Scotland were disarmed by their oppressors, which left them defenseless to depredations. Those who survived the clearances and made it to the American colonies learned the value of firearms for self-defense and took action to prevent such events from happening in their new homeland.

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