“How can you be proud of the south? Look at what it stands for – slavery, hatred, backwards-values. Is that what matters to you?” he asked.
I paused. Took a deep breath. The question was being asked by a classmate, hailing from a northern state, who clearly had little knowledge of current events. Falteringly, I tried to explain to him that loving where you’re from doesn’t mean blindly worshiping everything hour homeland has done. But he wasn’t getting it.
Okay. So I guess that some people do still think of the American South as a pre-Civil War sprawl where we run around barefoot in overalls hollerin’ “Git ‘R Done!” And, like all stereotypes, I know that there is an ounce of truth in that, though it is certainly not a correct summation of the majority of the South.
I never realized just how proud I am of my southern roots until I joined the cultural amalgam that is UNC Chapel Hill. And nothing has bolstered this surge of pride quite as much as the role my home state played in the election of Barack Obama. For the first time in over thirty years, North Carolina awarded its fifteen electoral votes to a Democrat. And, as an eighteen-year-old first-time voter, I was overwhelmed with excitement at being able to contribute to the cause. I cannot describe the swell of emotion that swept over my peers and me as we stormed Franklin Street on November 4th, screaming “Yes We Did!” until our voices gave out. The mere fact that this state took such a huge step forward on the so-called road to change speaks volumes about the people who live here.
So the next time I hear this area, so rich in its culture, traditions, and beliefs, written off as the epicenter of racism and bigotry in America, I’ll be ready with a response. Yes, we once allowed King Cotton to rule our part of the country. But now we have elected Barack Obama to uphold and protect everything we love about this country – and, yes, that includes being southern.