I'm a progressive, old lesbian from Birmingham, Alabama. Yes, the conservatism in Alabama is enough to make a progressive, old lesbian mad as hell--so mad in fact that I left in the 80s. But I plan to return in a few years once I retire. And I'll live smack dab in the reddest rural region, surrounded by beautiful mountains, good (if ideologically-addled) family, and damned good food that will shorten but sweeten my life.
Like many progressive Southerners, I am deeply conflicted about my home region, its history and its politics and its pernicious brand of religion that in no way resembles the Christianity of my grandmother, who was a saint on a mountaintop during the Depression, raising nine kids on what she could scratch out of the land and giving whatever she could to people who had even less. But that's another diary.
But while I acknowledge the flaws, I get really really really pissed off when I encounter negative stereotypes of the South. Just like I get really really really pissed off at stereotypes about ANY people because stereotypes are ignorant.
They are also politically stupid for Democrats and progressives. If you want to turn some Southern states blue, you can. Yes, you can. You need to engage and energize the large numbers of Southerners who don't vote because they figure what's the point?
You don't engage and energize by snickering at those dumb hillbilly Southerners with their dumb hillbilly accents. Oddly enough, Southerners don't like to be made fun of and will be less likely to hear what you have to say if you do.
And why bother to reach out to the Deep South at all?
Notice that a "gay" couple can hold hands and walk down the street in Mississippi and Alabama without drawing fire. Notice that they fail to outrage folks at a livestock exhibition. Notice that one can loudly propose to the other in a Waffle House without causing mayhem. In fact, in both Waffle House scenarios, the marriage proposal is greeted with a smattering of applause.
Next time someone around you bashes Southerners for their bigotry, please remind them that it is bigotry itself to assume the absolute worst about a group. And that's no way to make progressive inroads in the South.