I have a Southern accent that becomes even more Southern when I talk with my people in North and South Carolina. My Southern accent doesn’t mean I’m unintelligent although that’s often the stereotype.
It doesn’t help when Southerners indeed say unintelligent things, but Southerners haven’t cornered the market on stupidity, and ignorant things, unfortunately, come out of the mouths of people from every corner of the earth.
Some of my favorite Southern voices are/were these:
For the record, all of these people are or were brilliant.
As our nation debates the meaning of the Confederate flag once again this week, I am saddened to hear people with Southern accents say foolish things. I can almost hear the rest of the world whisper “redneck” under their collective breaths.
I remember too many times when people with Southern accents have been mocked because “Southern” = “stupid” for many. I also remember the White Boston police officer with the strong southside accent tell two Black friends that they were not allowed in a certain neighborhood after dark (although that’s where they lived.) And I remember my former parishioner with the upstate NY accent tell his hospital roommate that “we don’t allow Black people in our church so don’t bother visiting.” And I remember my White neighbor with the Midwestern accent ask me why I would ever drive through Harvey, IL when I could take a “safer” route.
People say ignorant things in every accent. The hope is not that we learn how to speak in a more neutral accent like newscasters. The hope is that we learn to speak with more wisdom and tolerance. The hope is not that we speak louder. The hope is that we listen better.
Image of Reynolds Price and Eudora Welty who had Southern accents. Source.