SURRATT: We are the best educators about the South
Published 4:00 am Friday, March 11, 2022
A few weeks ago while surfing through the Internet I came across an article headlined, “Mississippi has the Worst NFL Stadium in the country.”
I was stunned by the headline since Mississippi doesn’t have an NFL franchise anywhere in the state. I probably should have gone on and read the story, but I didn’t because the headline was so outrageous that for some reason I just couldn’t.
Of course, that headline was not the first such ridiculous headline I’ve seen about Mississippi. Did you know Vicksburg has a major league ball field? Did you know it’s the worst in the country? Did you know we’re also a bad tourist destination and a bad place to retire?
I have in the past read such stories just to see what they say about Mississippi and Vicksburg. A lot of the articles have nothing to do with the state or the city and some of them quote some study or poll conducted by an organization I’ve never heard of or can’t locate on the Internet.
And there’s one thing these stories have in common — they all have, in small letters, the word “ad” before the headline. When I see that word, folks, I don’t read what’s inside because it means someone or some organization is paying for the story and they could care less — in some cases — what is written.
That’s one of the problems with the Internet; too many people and organizations pushing their platforms with disregard of whether it’s accurate.
Over the years, the South has received a bad rap. Some of it in the past was deserved, such as the disdain for the treatment of Black people during the civil rights era. Some of it was not — the portrayal of Southerners, Black and white, in the movies and television shows. It’s those images that have stuck with the rest of America over the years and for some reason, we can’t shake.
I’ll give you a good example. In 1989, one of my wife’s brothers was getting married in Vermont and the family went north for the wedding. One thing I remember from the reception was one of the bride’s aunts remarking that we all looked “normal.” Normal as compared to what? I don’t know if the woman thought we were going to have tails, or if we were all going to show up wearing overalls, Red Man caps and large wads of chewing tobacco protruding in a lump from one cheek.
As a Southern boy who grew up in Louisiana and who has worked in the South, it bothers me to hear such comments and read inaccurate accounts of life here. Of course, we sometimes encourage the bad press. Just when I think we’re about to shed the good ole dumb country boy image, some legislature in some state will enact a piece of idiotic legislation that brings us down again.
So it seems the best way to beat the bad images is to enlighten those snowbirds and other tourists who visit us by being friendly and by showing them that we are intelligent folks. If the Internet, TV and film won’t provide the proper education, we should. We’re the best educators of ourselves.