The South

Here, men know how field dress squirrels, women glide when they walk.

“I hate the South,” he shouts to the bar. “I miss living in Philly.”

He’s an obnoxious fella, ten-times my size, drunk as Cooter Brown.

“Rednecks,” he goes on, ordering a whiskey sour. “Everyone’s racist, they don’t know jack $#!+ about the world, prolly can’t even SPELL Philadelphia.”

This is an affront.

Willa, the bartender, accepts his challenge. She concentrates, then scribbles the word on a napkin.

He cackles. “Oh my GOD! There’s no F in Philadelphia!”

He celebrates with another whiskey.

Willa’s embarrassed. She’s from Oxford—a city once named Lick Skillet before the Union Army came along.

“You ignorant girl,” he says. “Didn’t you even go to SCHOOL?”

Now wait just a hot minute.

Look, say what you want about the South. Heckle all day. But when you insult a woman’s intelligence, it’s time to have a little talk with Jesus.

The idea that those below the Mason Dixon are racist bumpkins—ridden with poor dental genetics—lacking enough smarts to spell Poughkeepsie, is loathsome.

First off: I just spelled it.

Second: spell Czechoslovakia.

We aren’t Philadelphians. We don’t eat much cream cheese. And we don’t drink whiskey sours—putting eggs in your bourbon would get you shot in some parts.

But we’re not so different. We’re humans, same as Yankees, Canadians, East Europeans, and good spellers. Sure, we have gross racists. So does Boston.

We also have exceptional people.

Such as, Caroline—a white-haired woman with fourteen black boys living in her house. They’re college baseball players. In exchange for room and meals, they maintain her antique home. They’re well-behaved, straight-A students.

Daryl—from a town no bigger than a postage stamp. His teachers noticed how smart he was when he practiced math on the sidewalk in chalk. Today, he works for the Pentagon.

Michelle—a six-foot-five, black, lesbian who found a toddler underneath a bridge, then adopted him. I dare you to stereotype her.

Don—a Georgia man who gave a minivan to a homeless woman.

Or: the Louisiana girl missing her leg, who competed in a triathlon.

What about the Methodist chaplain who sat with an eighty-three-year-old Muslim at his deathbed? Both had the gall to call each other brothers.

This is Dixie, not Idiotville, pal.

Here, men know how field dress squirrels, women glide when they walk. Lilies grow in ditches, kudzu grows on kudzu. The Bible gets quoted by old ladies, drug addicts, and everyone in between. Hospitality is free. Tea is sweet enough to give you kidney stones.

Maybe you are miserable here. And, well, I’m sorry to hear that.

Some of us wouldn’t trade it for all the cream cheese in Filadelfia.


  1. Pam Woodley - October 20, 2016 8:41 pm

    I believed this way for a long time. But then I realized I could not explain why every time there is an election–every single time–the deep South votes on the wrong side of history, votes its racist roots, keeps the stereotypes alive and keeps them alive because they are true, they are real. Yes, all of these people you list have done good things. So why, just once, won’t they vote their goodness?

    I was born and raised in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. My mother’s folks are from Columbus, Georgia, my father’s are from Hattiesburg, Mississippi. I’ve lived in Chattanooga, Atlanta, Houston, Charlotte, and Nashville. I now live in the panhandle of Florida. I know the South. I am of the South. Southerners are racists and they vote their racist hearts every.single. time. Give them the chance to do the right thing when it comes to an election and they will spit on it. I can no longer buy into the kind, charming, hospitable, sweet-tea-drinking, salt-of-the-Earth goodness of Southerners. Collectively, we can be a really rotten part of this country. So maybe the guy from Philly has something to say.

    But I still enjoy your writing.

    • Allison Erwin - November 11, 2016 4:21 pm

      Where you are located does not make you rotten. There are rotten people all over this country. There are also wonderful people all over it, as well. The broad brush strokes of people have got to stop.
      The guy from Philly clearly knew nothing of the south.
      I invite you to look at a map of the election results. It’s pretty red all over, not just in Dixie.

      • Doug - April 18, 2017 3:37 pm

        You are Definately not describing all southerners. Everyone has the right to choose the way they want to vote. There’s racists EVERYWHERE! If any of you don’t like southern people, the road is open for you to leave. There’s just as many non-white racists out there. So many believe anyone different from them are not equal. Not true. Stop blaming white people for everything. There’s racists in all races! ALL RACES!

    • Martha M Wilson - November 11, 2016 4:44 pm

      Who says we vote on the wrong side of history? History has always been written by the winners, not the ones who lost.

      There are kind, charming, good people everywhere, just as there are mean, nasty, bad people everywhere.

      As for racists, I have been the victim of racism many times…and I am a white woman. Some of the worst racists I know are blacks. Some of the nicest people I know are blacks as well.

      Clumping people into stereotypes shows your ignorance. Sean is correct. We are not all “racist bumpkins—ridden with poor dental genetics—lacking enough smarts to spell Poughkeepsie.”

      Just because someone votes differently from you it is not okay to disparage them and assume that they are ignorant bumpkins. If everyone voted the same there would be no reason to vote at all, and if you want people to respect you and your opinions, then you need to respect them and their opinions. Respect is a two-way street.

      I am proud of my Southern heritage. I am proud of the fact that my ancestors tried to instill good manners and respect into us as we was growing up. I am proud that people in my family stand up for their beliefs. We are not idiots.

      I have friends from all over. I don’t look down on them because they grew up in places with different customs. I don’t hate them because they have a different history from mine. I don’t consider them ignorant because our life experiences have taught us different things. I do not try to shove people into cubbyholes or judge them based on race, sex or religion..nor do I base my votes on such things. I vote my conscious and am not swayed by the masses. And when my candidate loses, I do not throw a hissie fit and run off to destroy other peoples’ property, hurt total strangers or threaten the life of people I don’t like. My Mama raised me better than that, because we come from a long line of sweet-tea drinking women who believe in respect and good manners.

      So, as one Southern woman to another…Bless Your Heart.

      • cindy - April 19, 2017 1:36 am

        Your response is absolutely perfect – couldn’t agree more. I’ve lived lots of places, but the south is home, and far less prejudice than most places I’ve been up north and west. Stereotyping is far less common in the south than in other parts of the country, and that is probably why we are the ones who get stereotyped the most.

      • Judy Bludsworth - April 19, 2017 2:40 pm

        Amen !

    • Christy Atwood - November 11, 2016 5:07 pm

      Pam Woodley sorry you are so angry. President-Elect Trump certainly deserves a chance. Sean Dietrich I loved this story. I was born, raised and still live in the South. Louisiana and now Texas. I love sweet tea, SEC football, deer chili and anything made with Velveeta. I respect my elders and still say yes mam and yes sir to them. Thank you for writing stories about real people in the South. We aren’t all bigot racists as some would like to believe. #proudtobesouthern #teamDietrich #ImwithSean

    • Martha - November 11, 2016 8:08 pm

      Pam Woodley, bless your heart.

    • Charlotte Crapeau - November 12, 2016 12:53 am

      Bless your heart!

    • Peggy Black - April 18, 2017 1:12 pm

      Wow! You see Southerners as racist and not others? How ignorant is that?! We are all racist or prejudiced against someone else.

    • Lee Love - April 18, 2017 1:14 pm

      Speak for yourself! Obviously I live in a different South than you.

    • Linda - April 18, 2017 1:30 pm

      Pam, you are wrong on so many levels, but I respect your right to say it.

    • Suem - April 18, 2017 2:08 pm

      Maybe you are the racist Miss Florida Panhandle. Maybe you should not judge others. There are two ways to take this statement, you choose what you think I mean, “Bless your heart honey.”

    • been there - April 18, 2017 2:21 pm

      Bless your heart as we Southern women say.

    • Jason Johnson - April 18, 2017 3:13 pm

      I’ve thought the same, but ultimately, I don’t think people are who they vote for.

      Just because someone prefers Trump to Clinton (or vice versa), that doesn’t mean they embody or stand by every decision and policy of that person. That’d be like me saying that everyone in New York doesn’t understand free market economics because the majority of the state voted for Clinton — overlooking all of Wall Street and other areas throughout the state.

      Nothing is as simple as a single decision.
      Politics is a poor indication of a person’s goodness.

    • Linda Tucker - April 18, 2017 5:31 pm

      …and we love you, but…we don’t like you.

    • Terry - April 18, 2017 6:06 pm

      I have worked from Key West, FL all the way to Kenai, AK. There are more racist in the north and mid-west than there are in the south. In case you haven’t noticed it’s not 1960 anymore. Shameful things happened here many years ago, but it’s a different time and different place. If you want to stereotype our voters, you might want to use words like Patriotic or Christian instead of Racists. People like you spreading false information is the problem.

    • Clint - April 19, 2017 8:51 pm

      Spoken like a true progressive. Try to not let the media think for you and you might learn something.

      • Clint - April 19, 2017 8:54 pm

        Apparently I did not understand how the comments work. The “reply” under individual comments is confusing. My comment was in response to Pam, not Sean. Sorry.

  2. Elle - November 11, 2016 4:53 pm

    I must echo Pam above….this seems like such an odd take on what is an awful situation. I don’t live in the South but I did grow up in Philly. (And now I live in Ohio and my parents are in Florida, so I know a thing or two unfortunately about racists.) And I am shocked and saddened by what has happened in this country. I always read your writing, Sean, b/c it is simply divine. But I had hoped you would have had more of a take on this dreadful situation, which will surely impact some of these souls you discussed here in a very bad way.

    • Sue - April 18, 2017 2:11 pm

      Here’s another one. What are you if not a racist. Southerners are a group of people therefore a race.

  3. Deanna - April 18, 2017 1:02 pm

    Gainestown, Al smaller than a postage stamp

  4. Mary Ann Ellison - April 18, 2017 1:11 pm

    Preach it, Sean.

  5. Elaine Walizer - April 18, 2017 1:18 pm

    I’m pushing 70; it’s pushing back. I was born in the South, but I’ve lived pretty much all over, having crossed both the Atlantic and the Pacific (on boats!). And I have been a close observer.

    There is no corner of this nation that does not have the taint of racism, bigotry, prejudice, hatred, discrimination. The folks up North must be very grateful to have the chunk of country below the Mason-Dixon Line to distract them from the realities in their own territory. Mote. Beam.

  6. Chris - April 18, 2017 1:21 pm

    My husband a lifelong southerner would probably argue that your parents being residents in Florida probably don’t give you much of a feel for southerners – since the ratio of yankee transplants is much too high in comparison to the rest of our blessed region. I must ask if we are doing it all wrong then why won’t all the Yankees just go home? We are some of the happiest people on the planet – is it possible to just let well enough alone? Chances are if you actually took the time to get to know the south – you too -wouldn’t want to leave – just saying – don’t judge a book by its cover or what others say – judge from your personal experience- that’s what we southerns do – we have networks in the south that could blow the doors off any social media outlet. And we hold that first hand or second hand knowledge of someone’s history is good enough to assist us in choosing who to vote for in an election. Sometimes we’re right and sometimes we’re wrong. Either way we don’t typically blame others for our bad choices and we don’t burn the city down in retaliation – because we have WORKED too damn hard to get what we have. We will continue to worry about ours and you worry about yours – and we will still be here tomorrow just plugging right along… and you well1… “bless your heart”…(and I wouldn’t trust a non southerner as to the definition of that phrase either if I were you) #writeonsean

  7. Marlene Willis - April 18, 2017 1:57 pm

    I don’t know how the South got such a bad reputation. Perhaps it started with Reconstruction, but somehow it stuck. How in this “enlightened age” people still think racism is confined to the South, and that racism applies only to blacks is a mystery to me. Maybe idiots aren’t confined to the South ( Pardon the word “idiots” I believe everyone deserves respect).

  8. Suzanne - April 18, 2017 2:23 pm

    I don’t wanna go “back home”…..been here 26 years! I once asked a southern gentleman, “How long must I be here before I am accepted as a southerner?”? His reply, “Miss Sue, where was you born?”.

  9. Karen Bethea - April 18, 2017 3:20 pm

    Oh Lordy, Sean – Bless YOUR heart…simple writing of one’s feelings and thoughts can get us in so much trouble. Like, like the post I made on like Facebook, like, about how many times, like the Kardashian sisters’ like, said like on their last show…55+ times. My point? It seems we all pay too much attention to the arguable facts of our lives instead of the sweet and endearing things. I am very much like Ms Elaine…pushing 70..pushing it hard and every darned time I come back from traveling to our small 10 acres of birds, coons, deer, skunks, fishponds to catch bream out of, and our home, I kiss the house. Yep….let the “Filley” guys say what they want, let other moan groan and complain – the world is just in one heck of a mess…but not here on our little place…my son-in-law called for Easter – he told me he didn’t want to talk – he just wanted to listen to my Southern drawl which his wife & her Daddy don’t have because they are both military brats who never stayed anywhere to develop an accent – thereby they have a “military accent”…so, love you, the South…and never, ever want to leave you. I have sand in my shoes, clay between my toes, scars from wild blackberry bushes, memories of knocking down wasp nests as a child to fish for bream, my Grandmother’s WONDERFUL cook, Minnie Lee = platters of fried chicken and a different favorite cake for my Dad & two uncles when we all got together…so complain ye all…we all have that limited time on earth…make it sweet….as in sweet tea…and add an extra helping of ” Bless Him or Her”///won’t hurt – might help….

  10. Margaret - April 18, 2017 3:31 pm

    Well then bless your heart! If the North and other areas are not racist then why did they have such violent riots? Ferguson and Baltimore to start with erupted in complete turmoil with destruction, savagery, and looting? Compare that response to the Deep South. In Charleston, when a demented and troubled young white racist killed nine of our black brothers and sisters, after a prayer meeting, in church no less there was none of that. Outsiders were told to leave, the Community needed to heal. The community which consisted of all people of all races and genders, came together peacefully and prayed, worshiped, hugged, held hands, cried and grieved. Together. As One. There was nothing but support from the entire community. It affected us all. But then, this is the *Racist South*. Its just a shame that the rest of the country isn’t as *Racist* as we are. Bless your ignorant, shallow, un-racist heart.

  11. Teresa Hamm - April 18, 2017 4:40 pm

    Pam, you ain’t got the sense God gave a piss ant. Bless your heart.

  12. Sandra G - April 18, 2017 6:14 pm

    So good. So good. So good.

  13. Preposition Proposition - April 18, 2017 6:50 pm

    Here, men know how field dress squirrels, women glide when they walk…

    Missing a “to” in there 😉

  14. Nancy Kane - April 18, 2017 8:22 pm

    Sorry dude, this made me laugh my hind end off!! The guy from Filly… well, that road he took down here, goes the other direction too!! hahahaha…

  15. Cathy Holcombe - April 19, 2017 12:29 am

    Once upon a time the South was very much BLUE. When the Dem Party began forgetting about the working man, American values, pushing gun control (You don’t mess with a Southerner’s gun(s), and basically messing with Mom and Apple Pie America ( and you don’t mess with our Mama’s either!!), we began jumping ship. And this began long before Mr. Trump ever thought of running for Pres. My family voted Democrat for generations. When I turned 18, eons ago, I registered as a Democrat and the first election I voted was for governor. And the way the drunk aka Yankee liberal in the article talked about we Southerners is exactly how the current Dem Party sees us now.

  16. Nathalie - April 20, 2017 9:57 pm

    @Martha M. Wilson
    Are you seriously claiming that whether the South was on the wrong or right side of history is up for debate? As in – there is a chance that fighting for slavery was the right choice, but evil abolitionists won and got to write the history? Or was it perhaps the fight against the segregation that was misrepresented by the winners? Or the fight for women’s rights? Which fight, exactly, did you have in mind where the South was in the right side of history, in spite of what history books tell us?
    Oh, and bless your heart.

  17. Clint - April 21, 2017 4:39 pm

    You do understand that segregation and women’s rights were not just a Southern phenomenon, right? Its amazing how historically illiterate most folks are. Hollywood and Books-a-Million are not where history is written.

    “If slavery is to be the barrier to our independence, I say let it go to the devil !”
    —Pvt. Samuel McAbee, 1st South Carolina Inf.

    “I think it is better that we should give up slavery and gain our independence.”
    –Private Robert Patrick, 4th Louisiana Inf.

    “With me independence is the paramount question.”
    –William P. H. Chambers 46th Mississippi

    “We are fighting for independence and that, or extermination, we will have. You may emancipate every negro in the Confederacy, but we will be free. We will govern ourselves . . . if we have to see every Southern plantation sacked, and every Southern city in flames.”
    —Jeff Davis, July 1864

    “It is stated in books and papers that Southern children read and study that all the blood shedding and destruction of property of that conflict was because the South rebelled without cause against the best government the world ever saw; that although Southern soldiers were heroes in the field, skillfully massed and led, they and their leaders were rebels and traitors who fought to overthrow the Union, and to preserve human slavery, and that their defeat was necessary for free government and the welfare of the human family. As a Confederate soldier and as a citizen of Virginia, I deny the charge, and denounce it as a calumny. We were not rebels; we did not fight to perpetuate human slavery, but for our rights and privileges under a government established over us by our fathers and in defense of our homes.”
    —Colonel Richard Henry Lee

    “Every man should endeavor to understand the meaning of subjugation before it is too late… It means the history of this heroic struggle will be written by the enemy; that our youth will be trained by Northern schoolteachers; will learn from Northern school books their version of the war; will be impressed by the influences of history and education to regard our gallant dead as traitors, and our maimed veterans as fit objects for derision… It is said slavery is all we are fighting for, and if we give it up we give up all. Even if this were true, which we deny, slavery is not all that our enemies are fighting for. It is merely the pretense to establish sectional superiority and a more centralized form of government, and to deprive us of our rights and liberties.”
    – Gen. Patrick Cleburne C.S.A. Jan. 2, 1864

  18. Clint - April 21, 2017 4:50 pm

    “So far from engaging in a war to perpetuate slavery, I am rejoiced that slavery is abolished. I believe it will be greatly for the interests of the South. So fully am I satisfied of this, as regards Virginia especially, that I would cheerfully have lost all I have lost by the war, and have suffered all I have suffered, to have this object attained.”
    —Robert Edward Lee

    “My people are going to war, & war for their liberty. If I don’t come & bear my part they will believe me a coward–and I will feel that I am occupying the position of one. I must go and stand my chances.’ …I told [my commanding officer] we were going to fight for our ‘ liberty.’ That was the view the whole South took of it. It was not for slavery but the sovereignty of the states, which is practically the right to resume self government or to secede.”
    –General E. Porter Alexander

    “Richmond papers advocate the abolition of slavery. This is my platform; We have to fight the world on slavery-it must fall and the sooner, the better for us.”
    –Col. John Washington Inzer, 58th Alabama Infantry

    “Ladies and Gentlemen I accept the flowers as a memento of reconciliation between the white and colored races of the southern states. I accept it more particularly as it comes from a colored lady, for if there is any one on God’s earth who loves the ladies I believe it is myself…We have but one flag, one country; let us stand together. We may differ in color, but not in sentiment.”
    -Nathan Bedford Forrest

    Southern is Southern red, yellow, black, or white.


Leave a Comment