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Explaining The Southern USA To NonSoutherners


debrand

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I included this in the snark section because everyone is free to snark on the south and it does involve some religion. Other southerners can add to my list or respond and I'll try to answer questions.

My qualifications for writing this are: I was born in S.C and raised in NC. After marriage, I lived outside of the south so I can compare the south to the rest of the nation. Also, many people in my family are crazy rednecks which provides me with some unique experiences. :?

First point...yes, the south is different than other parts of the United States. The south has its own culture, food and belief system. All my life, I have tried to escape my southerness but I can't. Recently, I realized that I, like many southerners. refer to myself as if I am part of a country. "I'm southern." Most midwesterners don't say, "I'm midwestern." as if they are part of a different country.

Second Point-rural southern food is delicious and fattening. It is not what the Duggars serve and you won't get it in a restaurant. You have to find an older cook to make it for you and most of those are dying out. I grew up eating very little meat. We had five vegetable dishes and rice. Those dishes included collard greens, okra, fresh tomatoes and cucumbers, little snap beans etc. My family was not vegetarian. We were just broke and meat is expensive.

Third point-there is no single southern accent. I'm in NC and most people here don't drawl their vowels out in the same way as they do in the deeper south. Actors doing southern accents usually sound false to me. When I speak pin and pen sound alike and dog and log don't rhyme.

Fourth point-rednecks are people from a rural, poor background. Some of them become educated and liberal but they are still rednecks. Bill Clinton is an example of a redneck. However, if you grew up poor and rural, that upbringing will be with you forever. It doesn't matter how far you travel or how extensive your education or how liberal your thinking. Rednecks are always redneck(Sigh. I have some redneck qualities)

Fifth-Many southerners are extremely polite and friendly. I was taught to always make my guest comfortable. And polite manners is a point of pride for a southerner. Saying yes sir and no ma'am isn't considered submissive. It means that the person is proud of themselves. It isn't done for you and doesn't mean the person has any particular respect for you.

Sixth-racism is very real in the south. Most racists are pretty obviously racist and you can avoid them. A few racist comments pop up in ways that are offensive but almost surreal. Example: My husband has very tightly curled hair. We visited an older woman who had never indicated any prejudice. This older woman thinks highly of her son's African American wife. So we were shocked when she told my husband that he had, n*gger hair and wanted to know if he had n*gger in him. :o However, a lot of southerners are NOT racist and are ashamed of the racists among us.

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Seventh-Religion is everywhere. People assume that you go to church.

Eight-The south is very, very racially diverse

Ninth-If your children grow up in the south, they will acquire the accent. It doesn't matter what your heritage, your child will have the southern accent.

Tenth-There are more crazy, conservative, outspoken rightwing nuts in the south than in other parts of the country. However, there are many left leaning people also. Only the extremists will share their opinions.

Eleventh-if a southerner is silent when you speak or makes noncommittal sounds, they don't necessarily agree with you. They are just being polite and refusing to argue but are also encouraging you to talk about something that they think is important to you. I've never experienced this anywhere else and it is strange, but I do it too. I have an insane relative who believes in alien. I do not believe in aliens. Yet every time she starts talking about aliens, I not only listen politely but I feel like it makes her happy so I don't discourage her.

Twelfth- Confederate Flag. I HATE THE FREAKIN" SYMBOL OF TERRORISM WITH THE PASSION OF HADES. Southerners are ignorant of their own history.

Thirteen-This point drives me crazy. For some weird reason, some white southerners consider any discussion of injustices committed by past white people against other races is somehow an attack against them personally. These same people think that slavery was good for slaves.

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You've just about covered it, DeBrand.

My Southern Cred: Born in Tennessee, grew up in Tennessee, Louisiana, and Texas.

I live in Nash Vegas, baby!

A couple more observations:

You will encounter southerners who cling to the old rugged St. Andrews Cross. Here's a little secret: The majority of the people who do that imagine their ancestors lived in palatial plantation homes. Their sons went off to defend the honor of Beaulahland. The truth? The majority of the rich white boys who were set to benefit from the bloodshed were away at school up north or overseas or just hanging out "governing" the CSA. Most of the combatants were poor to middle class farmers and the few plantation kids who felt a moral obligation to do military service.

I've seen the ancestral farm my great-great-grandfather originally signed up to defend. I have also seen his journal entries recounting military skirmishes in Tennessee and his distaste for war, his horror that Hood was given a leadership role, and his religious awakening that led him to realize that true Christianity abhors slavery. I don't love my ancestors less for the mistakes they made and it makes my chest hurt to think of the guilt some of them carried after they had that great spiritual awakening.

You know something? Many of the people who bluster the most about the CSA have no idea who their ancestors are, if they fought or where they did battle and what became of them. There is always that mythical Tara that the Union took away. It's sad, really. It's also telling that the writer who best captured the horror of the American Civil War was from San Francisco. I don't know if Ambrose Bierce ever saw any of Brady's wartime photography, but he certainly brought similar images to life.

I love the south. I love our people, our music, our literature, our foodways and our wild places. Sometimes I think I want to stay here and help make it a better place. Sometimes I talk to my brother, who lives in a fairly progressive place and think I'd be happier not being a Blue Dot.

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I'm going to have to disagree with several of your points.

My cred: My mom's mom's family were native to New Orleans, my mom's dad's family were from rural Kentucky. I spent my adolescence in South Carolina, went to college in Western North Carolina, and moved to DC after college. Now I live in New Jersey and visit South Carolina once a year because my family (and my in laws) still live there.

My disagreements:

One, I was born in Florida and moved to South Carolina when I was 11 or so. My husband was born in Connecticut and moved to South Carolina when he was six months old. (My mom has a Southern accent, Mr. Burps' mom sounds generic not-Southern.) Neither of us has a Southern accent, nor does my nephew who was born and raised in South Carolina. No one has guessed either of us has ever even been below the Mason Dixon line and often think we're kidding when we say we met in the South.

Two, I saw zero racial diversity in South Carolina (something that is painfully obvious to me every time I go to NYC). I did not know any Hispanic people until I was a teenager. The Hawaiian girl in my middle school was considered "foreign". Our schools were heavily segregated; in the "good" schools there were years I never saw a non-white face, when I went to the "bad" school for the IB program it was the opposite.

Three, (matter of opinion here) Southern food is the most disgusting thing I have ever eaten. Ugh. I like greens, but otherwise the food is plain (there are more spices than just salt and pepper!), porky, and heavy on weird stuff like okra, okra, and more okra. Don't even get me started on the soggy mess that is biscuits and gravy.

Four, Southerners are most definitely not polite and friendly. People loudly and publicly insult you if you are not the norm. They call my husband a "faggot" to his face because he has long hair. They called me a "Nazi dyke" (again, to my face) when I had short blonde hair. I had my car keyed for having a "coexist" sticker. A man brought his son up to me to ask if I was a boy or a girl "cause I cain't tell either, son." Now that I drive an SUV, have long hair and wear skirts, though, they're just sweet as can be. Bless their hearts.

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I grew up near Fort Bragg so my racial diversity is probably because of my closeness to a military base. Admittedly, I had not taken that into account. So, your point about diversity is a good one, SpiderBurps.

I grew up in Fayetteville and Spring Lake. According to Wikipedia this is the demographics of both towns:

Fayetteville:

The racial composition of the city was: 42.74% White, 49.76% Black or African American, 5.67% Hispanic or Latino American, 2.19% Asian American, 1.1% Native American, 0.22% Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, 2.53% some other race, and 2.78% two or more races.

Spring Lake:

The racial makeup of the town was 51.11% African American, 33.97% White, 0.83% Native American, 3.59% Asian, 0.37% Pacific Islander, 4.88% from other races, and 5.25% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 11.89% of the population.

Where I live, it is racially diverse but I suppose that the rest of the south isn't. :(

I am sorry that people were so cruel to you, Spiderburps. You are right. There are southerners who are terrified of anyone who is different. I should have included a point that some southerners only like those who are just like them.

There is a lot of sexism in the south also. It isn't just directed at women. Guys are supposed to act in certain ways also. It is wrong.

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Guest Anonymous

I'm finding this fascinating, though difficult to tell in some cases whether you are being tongue in cheek or trying to stay neutral or what?! When you say 'redneck' are you using that as a pejorative term? Do you really believe that a redneck is a redneck for life and cannot escape or change whatever it is that makes you follow up your assertion with a 'sigh'? It seems harsh.

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I grew up near Fort Bragg so my racial diversity is probably because of my closeness to a military base. Admittedly, I had not taken that into account. So, your point about diversity is a good one, SpiderBurps.

Where I live, it is racially diverse but I suppose that the rest of the south isn't. :(

You made me curious, so I looked up the demographics of where I lived.

Simpsonville, SC - The racial makeup of the city was 82.69% White, 13.76% African American, 0.23% Native American, 0.79% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 1.23% from other races, and 1.27% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 4.65% of the population.

Boone, NC - The racial makeup of the town was 93.98% White, 3.42% Black or African American, 0.30% Native American, 1.19% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 0.46% from other races, and 0.60% from two or more races. 1.64% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

No wonder we had such different experiences regarding diversity!

Thanks for the sympathy regarding the asses. After moving from the South and realizing people just don't act the same up here, I can't help but wonder if Northern people are genuinely less judgmental/more tolerant--or if they're just so used to "weird" people that they don't feel compelled to say anything.

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You made me curious, so I looked up the demographics of where I lived.

Simpsonville, SC - The racial makeup of the city was 82.69% White, 13.76% African American, 0.23% Native American, 0.79% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 1.23% from other races, and 1.27% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 4.65% of the population.

Boone, NC - The racial makeup of the town was 93.98% White, 3.42% Black or African American, 0.30% Native American, 1.19% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 0.46% from other races, and 0.60% from two or more races. 1.64% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

No wonder we had such different experiences regarding diversity!

Thanks for the sympathy regarding the asses. After moving from the South and realizing people just don't act the same up here, I can't help but wonder if Northern people are genuinely less judgmental/more tolerant--or if they're just so used to "weird" people that they don't feel compelled to say anything.

I have discovered that people who are outwardly nice aren't always kind and thoughtful, if that makes any sense. It is why I included the explanation in my post that southerners aren't being polite because for the other person but for themselves. There is a certain level of arrogance beneath some types of Southern behavior, even positive behavior, that is difficult to explain to people outside of the south.

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I'm finding this fascinating, though difficult to tell in some cases whether you are being tongue in cheek or trying to stay neutral or what?! When you say 'redneck' are you using that as a pejorative term? Do you really believe that a redneck is a redneck for life and cannot escape or change whatever it is that makes you follow up your assertion with a 'sigh'? It seems harsh.

I actually have a twisted, dark humor that never comes across in my posts. My family laughed about a lot of hardships that others would not find funny because it was a way of gaining power over a bad situation. So, I am both tongue in cheek and trying to be neutral at the same time.

The comment about the woman who asked if my husband had n*gger hair infuriated me. We have tried to avoid that woman but I also find it difficult to understand why she is so accepting of a black DIL when she is racist. That doesn't make any sense(Never try to make the south make sense! Your head will explode and that could be messy)

I really do detest that damn Confederate flag and consider it a symbolism of terrorism

To me, redneck is not worse term than blue collar, working class etc. Yes, I do think that your background influences you. You can grow as a human, experience the world, educate yourself but aspects of your personality have been formed by your childhood. Bill Clinton is a redneck. He isn't ignorant or uneducated. He seems like a genuinely nice guy but he also acts like my baby brother does.

Have you ever read, Look Homeward Angel by Thomas Wolfe? One thing that struck me was that the writer seemed to admire his drunk, abusive dad over his more quiet mother. Despite loving the writing, the writer's attitude angered me. However, there does seem to be a love among the rural poor of over the top, friendly, outspoken individuals who can joke and make them laugh. Bill Clinton is not abusive but he does have redneck traits. I like Clinton a lot but even some in the press called him a Bubba.

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I should probably point out that outside of this thread and the south, I would say I was from a blue collar background. Redneck is deemed negative in most areas. However, I've heard southerners say they are rednecks even though they might be more liberal in their thinking. They are using the term to mean a working class, probably rural, poor back ground. When my mother worked, she was a waitress at some of the local bars and also a secretary. She was from an family that worked as migrant farmers for a portion of her childhood.

And my use of the word, redneck was meant partially humorous and partially because it is true. I do have redneck tendencies that embarrass me so I'm making fun of myself

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What would you say are Bill Clinton's 'redneck' traits? What are your own? I'm just not sure what you mean, I suppose, having never visited either the north or the south of your country. :)

ETA: I understand 'blue collar'. I describe myself as working class - and proud of it. "Redneck" seems to have a more negative connotation though... like "chav" possibly, in the UK. It sounds like the sort of name that is most often used to describe other people, and not ourselves, and to me, implies... I don't know exactly, but from the ways I have heard it used, it seems to imply uncouthness and stupidity, maybe?

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I should probably point out that outside of this thread and the south, I would say I was from a blue collar background. Redneck is deemed negative in most areas. However, I've heard southerners say they are rednecks even though they might be more liberal in their thinking. They are using the term to mean a working class, probably rural, poor back ground. When my mother worked, she was a waitress at some of the local bars and also a secretary. She was from an family that worked as migrant farmers for a portion of her childhood.

In my experience... Outside the South, "redneck" is an insult, but in the South, "redneck" is something you'll proudly call yourself after you use duct tape to fix your six-tired truck's gun rack.

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I wonder if some of these things aren't specific to the south, but to a rural upbringing in the US? Because much of it is frighteningly similar to what you might encounter in rural North or South Dakota - other than the racial diversity, of which we have NONE.

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I come from the far north and am a damned Yankee. I love this thread.

I'm gonna go there and ask a question. Opinions on Gone With The Wind?

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I live in NC and my experiences are a lot like debrands. A lot of the obvious racism is now towards the hispanic community and Muslims. IME southerners can be polite about a lot of things, but not things like equality for gay people or not being a Christian. People will pretty much tell you off and cut you out of their lives for those two things. There are churches everywhere and everyone just assumes that you have a church.

I got bored half-way through Gone With the Wind.

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I realize this isn't exactly an AMA thread, but I'm curious about the word, "redneck." Could you say more? How is Bill Clinton a redneck and does that include Jimmy carter? (btw, even living in Ohio, I thought the tv show, "Carter Country" was in poor taste, making fun of Southerners).

When I think of "redneck," I think of someone who's angry.

and just a statement of a personal pet peeve of mine - I hate it when anyone who tries to depict someone being dumb affects a Southern accent. There is one Sesame Street character with a Southern accent and his name is Forgetful Jones.

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Simpsonville, SC - The racial makeup of the city was 82.69% White, 13.76% African American, 0.23% Native American, 0.79% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 1.23% from other races, and 1.27% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 4.65% of the population.

Well, there you have it. In my nearby big city, Charleston (SC): in 2010 it was roughly 63% white, 31% African American, 1.4% Asian, remainder other, two or more or Pacific Islander. Hispanic ethnicity was less, though, about 3%. But on a daily basis, I see people of each race; when I pick my daughter up at school, it looks like the UN. And that's a good thing.

I grew up in the midlands of SC, went to college in the upstate, spent 3 years of professional school in NC, and, after another brief sojourn in the midlands, am now in the Lowcountry to live till I die. This is the most diverse place by far. I grew up in what was then the whitest school district in the state, and I remember the concern people had when black children started to go to school with us in 3d grade. But by high school, those same kids had been in the band and on the football team with us for years, and no one cared anymore.

One thing I would add, debrand, is that Southerners (especially me :D ) can get an enormous chip on their shoulder when people from other regions go straight to hatin' on us before they know us. I was raised with many things (collard greens) and ideas (racism) that I wholeheartedly, 100% rejected long ago, and have never looked back on. Many of us wear shoes full-time now, and some of can even read. :evil: So when you hear a charming southern accent, please, do not condescend to call us southern belles or southern gentlemen, rednecks or some other patronizing name. Let us prove ourselves to you one way or another before you decide to automatically consider us racist, close-minded, Bible-thumpers, right-wingers, NRA supporters, Faux News lover, or collards lovers. Please and thank you.**

**Should mention that Charleston was repeatedly named the Most Mannerly City in the US by the late Marjabelle Young Stewart, but there are assholes here, to be sure!

ETA a word I left out.

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I think that there are a wide variety of experiences in the south, and one person's experience can differ greatly from another's. I was born and reared in the deep south, near the gulf coast, in a medium-sized city that was the state capital. Seafood and rice-based dishes were common. However, my father was a 'meat and potatoes' person, so we ate a lot of basic beef dishes. I have never eaten collard greens. I agree that there is no one single accent - for example, Tennessee sounds very different from Louisiana. I do find that people are generally polite, but that people are willing to argue with you if they don't agree with your opinions.

I never associated with anyone who displayed the rebel flag, though I know it's out there. My mother was liberal, and my father was more conservative, though not in a crazy way (he was actually pro-choice, but focused more on economics). My region was heavily Catholic, and Catholic schools were common, so many people did take communion every week. I am not Catholic, and I rarely attended church.

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I'm finding this fascinating, though difficult to tell in some cases whether you are being tongue in cheek or trying to stay neutral or what?! When you say 'redneck' are you using that as a pejorative term? Do you really believe that a redneck is a redneck for life and cannot escape or change whatever it is that makes you follow up your assertion with a 'sigh'? It seems harsh.

I am bit at sixes and sevens with debrand on this one. I do agree that "rednecks" are from a poor, rural background. But I believe you can escape from it, more or less. I would not call Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton a redneck anymore than I'd call my mom one, and my mom is a lot closer than they are, having done well to graduate from high school and never living out of the same county her whole life. I think rednecks are the poor rural type who for whatever reason don't try to lift themselves out of that condition and who end up being resentful and angry at those who they perceive to have moved "above their raising."

I also wouldn't agree that rednecks are only found in the south. They are also indigenous to Ohio and Arizona, to cite two places I've encountered them.

So when I say redneck, I think of it as a perjorative, but maybe that is not what the OP thinks.

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I wonder if some of these things aren't specific to the south, but to a rural upbringing in the US? Because much of it is frighteningly similar to what you might encounter in rural North or South Dakota - other than the racial diversity, of which we have NONE.

You have a good point. People in larger cities tend to have more exposure to different people and ideas, and probably more educational opportunities as well.

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I realize this isn't exactly an AMA thread, but I'm curious about the word, "redneck." Could you say more? How is Bill Clinton a redneck and does that include Jimmy carter? (btw, even living in Ohio, I thought the tv show, "Carter Country" was in poor taste, making fun of Southerners).

When I think of "redneck," I think of someone who's angry.

and just a statement of a personal pet peeve of mine - I hate it when anyone who tries to depict someone being dumb affects a Southern accent. There is one Sesame Street character with a Southern accent and his name is Forgetful Jones.

The term "redneck" was originally used to described a working class person who worked outside. The back of one's neck would sunburn, hence, "redneck." It used to mean that your family worked hard and it wasn't something to be ashamed of. The term is often used now as an insult, something along the lines of someone who chooses to live according to the least common denominator, glorifies his/her own ignorance and is a snob about not having an education. Like a lower class, uneducated white person who does manual labor and has no interest in "bettering himself." Oh, and anyone a redneck knows that moves away from the hometown is "rising above their raising" and thinks "they're too good for us." In short, I would say being a redneck is being proud of being stupid and poor. (Bill Clinton is so not a redneck. A redneck would never go to college, much less up north, much less be a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford.) Rednecks aren't confined to the South. Go east of Portland, OR, and you'll see some of the reddest rednecks ever in the Columbia Gorge.

[My Southern cred: born and raised in the South. But I left for good as soon as I could. I can't stand the racism and the way the South chooses ignorance. Some of the cities in the South are okay but the rural areas, well, all I'll say about them is that there's a reason most horror movies are set in the rural South. *shudders*]

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Interesting, I just realized that I usually say "I'm a New Englander" or "I'm an Easterner" rather than "I'm an American" because the differences between the East and the rest of the country can just be so glaring.

I have a really hard time explaining this to non-Americans when I travel. One of my colleagues in Russia kept asking me what "Americans" believe about particular topics and how they behave, and she didn't seem to understand what I meant when I tried to explain the culture wars here.

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You have a good point. People in larger cities tend to have more exposure to different people and ideas, and probably more educational opportunities as well.

A REALLY good point. I know I have said this here many times before, but my husband is from a kinda rural area in Ohio, and a lot of the small-mindedness there truly eclipses what you find in the south as a whole (not every little pocket, to be sure). He did not know any African Americans till he moved south and found himself working side-by-side with them. To his amazement, they worked as hard as he did and were pleasant to know. This wasn't the experience he had been led to expect, but then again there were no black families in his town AT ALL till probably the late 90s.

I work with an African-American man now who had been stationed at the Air Force base in North Dakota. He said when he went to the mall, he always drew a crowd of kids who wanted to touch him--they'd never seen a black person before. This was in the early 90s.

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I come from the far north and am a damned Yankee. I love this thread.

I'm gonna go there and ask a question. Opinions on Gone With The Wind?

What kind of opinion do you want? Vivien Leigh is beautiful, the costuming is to die for, the melodrama is palpable and, by the end, tiresome. Why do you say you are going to "go there"?

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I think that there are a wide variety of experiences in the south, and one person's experience can differ greatly from another's. I was born and reared in the deep south, near the gulf coast, in a medium-sized city that was the state capital. Seafood and rice-based dishes were common. However, my father was a 'meat and potatoes' person, so we ate a lot of basic beef dishes. I have never eaten collard greens. I agree that there is no one single accent - for example, Tennessee sounds very different from Louisiana. I do find that people are generally polite, but that people are willing to argue with you if they don't agree with your opinions.

I never associated with anyone who displayed the rebel flag, though I know it's out there. My mother was liberal, and my father was more conservative, though not in a crazy way (he was actually pro-choice, but focused more on economics). My region was heavily Catholic, and Catholic schools were common, so many people did take communion every week. I am not Catholic, and I rarely attended church.

I was using redneck to mean rural, poor person not someone who refuses to change. There is definitely a population in the south who relish in being ignorant. I suppose that they would be similar to Chavs. In that regard, I am not a redneck, although I do have some traits from growing up in a working class home with a single mom.

The family on my mom's father's side(Hopefully that makes sense) is Chavistically redneck. :lol: :oops: At my mother's funeral, one of her cousins asked if my mom's former boyfriend was available. During the viewing, another cousin told us an off color story and then proceeded to try to witness to us. He started praying unasked by us and loudly. Another family member proudly told me that my grandfather-who I've never met- was the type of person who would give you the shirt off his back and take your last dime. That isn't a positive trait to me but the woman obviously admired my drunken, abusive grandfather. Luckily, I don't come in contact with these people except for funerals. My siblings and I were pretty horrified by them.

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      There's always just one more thing to do before I turn off.  Blink!  And it's 2 hours later.  
      · 0 replies
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