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William Rose Headshot

The Ignorance That Drives Regional Divisiveness

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I was born in the South -- Kingsport, Tenn., in fact. I grew up in a small town called Marion, Va., after moving from the even smaller town of Big Stone Gap. Just after high school graduation I moved even deeper south to Charlotte, N.C., but chose to attend college at George Mason University in the Washington, D.C. Metro Area. Though to some, the difference between northern and southwestern Virginia may be negligible, to native Virginians the difference in accents is quite substantial. It seems that these two parts of Virginia -- the imaginary line often being drawn around Roanoke -- are vastly unaware of each other's culture and have fewer similarities than many might assume. Frustratingly my accent, the product of a southern childhood, was one of the main "critiques" people gave me at GMU.

"Sorry, but where are you from" was a question I was often asked. It isn't a bad thing to be asked about your accent, but the assumptions that come along with it are often frustrating and almost always inaccurate. Surprisingly to some, I didn't grow up on a farm nor did my parents (both investment advisers) "just skip out" on college. Though the accent has naturally subsided as a result of my northward move at a fairly young age, much of my family still has the distinct (and, in my opinion ,quite charming) drawl.

We can look at statistics that tell us which states have the highest number of college graduates; these statistics do show a trend which slightly favors the North, but that doesn't justify the gross, ignorant assumption that all who come from the South are uneducated, uncultured, Christian, fundamentalist conservatives; furthermore, I think it's unfair for dogmatic, self-proclaimed experts to boldly proclaim that there's a direct connection between the four.

A statistic does not justify applying generalizations to people who have no obligation to live within their misconceived stereotype. As a family member of mine keenly pointed out, there has been a significant amount of righteousness coming from people who both condemn North Carolina's vote on Amendment One and link it solely to "the ignorance of the South." According to "CAPTOBVIOUS" on a recent ABC News article:

Should have let the South secede from the Union in 1860 since they have not moved out of the 1860′s anyway.

But is it really fair to condemn the South as being the sole perpetrator on this issue? Of course not -- the aspect of North Carolina's recent legislation which constitutionally banned same-sex marriage, which the prevention of I personally find to be a truly vile and despicable intrusion on the rights of others, stemming from the fear of the uninformed, was also once passed by the states of Alaska, California, Nevada, Oregon, and 26 others -- and I've got news for you, they ain't all in the South. Other states, though not making it illegal via their constitutions, have made same-sex marriage illegal through statutory provisions. So before you bash North Carolina, look up your own state's laws first.

Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich both supported a Federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Santorum was a Pennsylvania Senator while Gingrich was born in Pennsylvania. Mitt Romney, as the front-runner for the Republican nomination, supports a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and was the Massachusetts governor having been born in Michigan.

When we talk about all the hatred, fear, and ignorance in this country, I will never understand why people so quickly assume that the racism, homophobia, and brain-drain all comes from the South. Is the ignorance of the fact that we all share the blame not an example of the very problems we wish we could eradicate?

In sum, don't be so quick to judge a book by its cover. Not only is it offensive to effectively imply that a statistic should determine an individual's personality, but it's ignorant as well -- and that is something I learned down South.