Monthly Archives: October 2007
I get this question a lot: “Where are you from?” People always seem surprised when I say that I’m from the South: “You don’t sound like you’re from the South.” Even others who have little accent say this. You would think that they would realize that you don’t have to speak with a stereotypical accent for your home region. So what the hell do they mean?
I suppose that they mean “You don’t sound like an idiot.” The South has been so stigmatized in popular media as a land of morons, inbred yokals, good ol’ boys, and incompetents. This image pervades society to the point that even educated people cannot break the stereotype.
But it gets worse. I have had the same reaction from people who have lived their life from the South! These are competent people who are smart enough to have risen in their company by merit. So are they surprised? Because the stereotype cuts the other way. If you are smart, well educated, ambitious, and talk confidently, you must be from the North (or the Pacific states).
Another of these types of statements is “He/She speaks so well” when referring to a Black person. This is really an unfinished sentence that ends “…for a Black man/woman.” The nation has been fighting stereotypes about Black Americans for nearly 150 years (I’m saying that it began at the abolition of slavery) so why is it so hard to believe that Barack Obama speaks well?
I’m not saying that these stereotypes are not well deserved. Many Black people don’t speak English well and don’t express themselves well in any language. Many Southerners are inbred yokals, ignoramuses, and good ol’ boys. I don’t begrudge anyone to have these stereotypes, they help us quickly ascertain peoples’ abilities and characteristics when we assign them to a group*. But I am dismayed by the fact that people are surprised by an individual who doesn’t behave according to a certain set of actions they have been assigned after only a brief encounter.
*I’m not saying that the perceived characteristics are accurate, just that it makes it easier to quickly determine how to interact with a person. Right or wrong, this is a useful tool. While the grouping is not necessarily based on skin color or accent, these two physical qualities certainly help determine which group we place individuals. Of course these are not the only stereotypes people may have, and they are not necessarily the only grouping criteria. For example, if a person is well dressed and manicured, these features may overshadow his race.
Last night I had a 3 hour flight delay. The plane was on the ground in Atlanta and ready to go, it had come in from Syracuse, NY a bit late, but not too bad. But the flight crew wasn’t there. That’s because they were on an aircraft that was having some work done in Springfield, MO. What was wrong with the plane? It ran into some birds shortly after takeoff and had to return to the airport for repairs. That would have been a wild flight to be on. I wonder how often that kind of thing happens.
A quick update, as I’m getting ready to walk out the door to my next destination. Indianapolis has a cool little downtown area. It’s like you ripped out four city blocks from a major metropolitan area and set them down in the middle of a Midwest town. There’s a nice central roundabout like the famous one in London, but it has shops around it. They call this the Circle Center Mall. Then opposite that across a few hundred yards is the City Hall. There are tons of parking meters and decks, but a block or so in any direction and you’ll be able to park pretty much anywhere. It feels odd, but it’s a nice place.
I ate at a couple of places while there and by far the better of the two was St. Elmo’s Steakhouse. Their shrimp cocktail is awesome, as is their steak. They grind their own horseradish on premesis and it’s always fresh and fiery. It’s highly recommended, though it is on the pricey side — $15 for the shrimp and $35 for a steak.