I don't care what you've heard. We aren't a bunch of dull sticks in the knife drawer. We're every bit as sharp as your grandaddy's pocket knife...
Last week, I met a high school science teacher from Boston. He sat at the bar, slurping oysters, speaking with a voice loud enough to qualify as a long-distance phone call.
After he'd worked up a good glow, he announced, "Hey, you know what? You Southern folks aren't as bad as I thought."
This gathered confused looks.
"Yep," he added. “I always thought Southerners were uneducated racists, with FryDaddies in their kitchen."
The bar fell silent.
Even Cheryl, the bartender, who graduated from University of Alabama with a doctorate, got quiet.
"Jeezus Bryant," said the man beside me. "What does my FryDaddy have to do with anything?"
This kind of notion is increasingly common above the Mason Dixon line, and it's nothing short of sad. One study found an overwhelming percentage of Americans perceive Southern accents as unintelligent. And it doesn't stop there. They also think Southerners are racist, sexist, and overweight.
Well, son of a biscuit.
I don't care what you've heard. We aren't a bunch of dull sticks in the knife
drawer. We're every bit as sharp as your grandaddy's pocket knife — and leave our FryDaddies out of this.
How about some statistics? Eighty percent of Southerners graduate high school. And most of us go to college. In fact, University of Alabama can't keep up with all their students; they erect a new building every 120 days.
And racism? Well, we can't deny that it's here. But, by God, it's also everywhere else. Don't believe me? According to one 2016 survey, among the highest-ranking racist U.S. cities are: Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles, and (drumroll please) Boston.
Furthermore, if Northerners look down on Southerners because they talk funny, why not Canadians, too? Those fellas pronounce everything wrong.
Look, I'm sorry fried chicken livers rub you wrong, or that my Uncle Frank still breeds prize-winning hogs. And I'm sorry folks dislike tobacco farmers, hunters, and church ladies. These folks…
It's not every day you meet a beer sipping Southern Baptist who looks like Barbara Bush. But she's more than a church lady. She's a teacher.
Ninety-nine-year-old Eleanor has lily-white hair, and a drawl thick enough to wade through. And the only thing she likes more than visitors, is playing hymns on her piano.
Something else: every day at six on the nose, Eleanor drinks a Miller Lite from the can — using a bendy straw. “I don't get drunk,” she says. “'Course, I've been drinking beer since childhood, when the doctor prescribed them for my ulcers.”
It's not every day you meet a beer sipping Southern Baptist who looks like Barbara Bush. But she's more than a church lady. She's a teacher. Eleanor began teaching elementary school at nineteen, in a poor rural Alabamian community.
“Them kids," she said. "They'd come to class without shoes on, and they'd have the ground itch real bad.”
“Ring worms, up in their feet.”
“We had all kinds of kids," she went on. "Once, we had a child who was genius. Poor thing, he didn't talk to nobody. It was too much for him. They have a name, nowadays,
for what he had. I can't think of it."
Autism. Aspergers. Take your pick.
“Mercy,” she said. “He was smart, but he nearly drove our teachers plumb nuts, acting out. He failed every class. After being held back so many years, he was a head taller than others in his grade. That's when I decided to help.”
She took a sip of beer and winked.
“I gave him a special desk in the back of the class, it had paints, brushes, crayons, pencils, paper, and such. I told him, for each assignment he aced, he could spend the rest of the day on art. Sometimes I let him spend entire days painting. That year, I tried to let him know he was loved.”
“He tore through four years of math in one school-year." She laughed. "Our classroom wall looked like a big geometric painting, without…