A Lesson in Southern Livin’

Erin - Christiansburg, Virginia
Entered on February 21, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30

I am a southern belle diluted over the generations. I come from “tabacca” spittin’, rocking chair sittin’, and a front porch overlooking an Appalachian valley. Even the southern drawl seems to come out in my most excited moments. Southern roots run deep in my family twisting and curling around the very soul. Some of it, that is.

Christmas with my family is always something that brings back memories to me and fills me with warmth and of course gravy—‘tis the southern way of life. I have come to love my family but through time I have abandoned much of my southern heritage to cope with the fast pace of my life. This has changed me and opened my eyes to some rather interesting characteristics of Southern life.

I’ve always associated a few things with Christmas. I remember my grandmother and her tacky lawn decorations lit up on Christmas Eve and the amazing gravy that would make rocks have a gourmet taste. The past few years I have noticed something about one special plastic Santa that my grandma has put up since I could remember. It is black. There is nothing wrong with that until you realize that it has been painted with snow-white spray paint to cover its original color. The first time I saw this I admit I laughed, but this year it struck me that maybe there was a different tune to my loving Appalachian family and it goes by racism. There was another time when I noticed it because I egged on a conversation about the upcoming presidential election and the Democratic candidate Barack Obama. My great aunt specifically said, “Lord help us if (insert dirty word for a Black American) starts runnin’ the country.” Then, I almost lost it! I had to shove in a dumpling the size of New York into my mouth to keep from being disrespectful to her.

Sadly, this was not the first racist comment that has come out of the mouths of my family elders. My grandfather and various uncles always have something to say about other races. If they are not white then they look down upon them with “White Superiority” in their minds and hearts. I have grown up around a family who doesn’t accept others. I have asked myself, how can I be as accepting as I am? I have many respectable friends of many different races whom I love and cherish. I finally came to the point that I believe that I am not a product of my heritage. Cultural standards are not something I have to live by and I can and will accept everyone as my family bound together by one round globe that we all call home. This I believe.