Thursday, September 24, 2009

If I hear one more person say North Carolina is not part of the South...

ON WHAT PLANET DOES IT MAKE ANY SENSE TO SAY THAT NORTH CAROLINA IS NOT PART OF THE SOUTH?? LOOK AT A MAP, WHERE THE FUCK IS IT?? For whatever reason, I have run into several different people in the past year who have hotly contested this issue with me. I didn't realize until recently just how much this shit is starting to piss me off. I would guess that it has something to do with my identity with the culture of the Southeast as a region and the overall ignorance of their counterarguments. This issue surfaced the other day and before I knew what I was doing, I had blunk on the young lady that said it (blunk = past tense of blank. I don't like "blanked", don't judge me). So let's examine this step-by-step from most civil and unarguably to the shit that gets me most riled up:

DISCLAIMER: Once I get a little emotional, there may be more cussing than normal.

Conventional/Historical Measures:

1. The Mason-Dixon Line
I don't really agree with this method of differentiating between the North and the South, but it has been a "historical" method of establishing an actual tangible breaking point. The Northernmost tip of North Carolina is like 500 miles under that mug. I do not agree because Virginia (which I am 50/50 or less on being Southern), Washington D.C. (which is not at all Southern culturally), and even Maryland are under this line. However, old timers use it as their sure fire way to differentiate.

2. The Confederate States
During the Civil War, the infamous war between the North and South concerning slavery, industry, and other factors, what do you think the Black population in North Carolina was doing? Thank goodness we have come a lot farther since that time than deeper Southern States such as Mississippi and Alabama (in the urban parts of NC anyway) and I don't feel iminent danger in my hometown. However, there are still Confederate museums, displayed plantations and other remnants all over the state.

My justifications of Being Southern (both positive and negative):

1. The Sweet Ice Tea and Lemonade rule
As a Southerner, one way I know unequivocally that I have strayed North of my current comfort zone is when I go out to establishments and have a hard time getting sweetened (not unsweetened with some sugar packets, but sweet) iced tea or homemade lemonade. In Charlotte and throughout the South, in non-franchise restaurants, there are usually big see-through containers full of sweetened ice tea and handmade lemonade, conveniently placed side by side for mixing purposes. Hell no, it's not the same as Lipton and Minute Maid. I am borderline offended when someone looks at me like I'm speaking another language when I speak about mxing lemonade and sweet tea. Must be a SOUTHERN original.

2. Accents
I have a Southern accent, not to be confused with a country accent. You gain a country accent by living out in the boondocks a long way from anything that can be considered 'urban.' I have a hard time understanding them sometimes and I have relatives in Zebulon, NC (I don't think you'll find it on a map). I am from Charlotte, a city of about 2.5 million in the metro area with sports teams, amusements parks, skyscrapers, Fortune 500 headquarters, clubs, the works. It ain't Miami, but it damn sure ain't rural. But regardless, when I am around other Southern people, we have no lapses in communication. However, when I speak to people from the Midwest, Northeast, or far West, I find sometimes I have to slow down because they can not understand me if I start talking fast. Similarly, I can spot an New York/New Jersey native in a heartbeat because of the distinction of their accent.

3. Food
There is no debate when you talk about Southern foods. No one prepares fried fish (croaker, whiting, catfish, the works), macaroni and cheese, collard greens, CORNBREAD, seemingly every part of a pig, and numerous other foods like the cooks in the South. To take it a step farther, when I go visit my country relatives, it is not uncommon to be at a pig-picking with the whole pig on the grill with an apple in its mouth. All evidence indicates that my eastern NC brothers and sister originated pulled pork and vinegar-based Bar-B-Q and ribs. Up north, for region-unique foods, they go to corner stores, deep dish pizza shops and such. When I go home and want some Charlotte original soul food, I enjoy the culinary mastery of The Chicken Box, Floyd's, Simmons, and Price's Chicken Coop. Nothing like that Southern cuisine. Go up north, you can't even find Waffle Houses.

4. Southern Hospitality
Self-explanatory. I go up north, people I don't know act like jerks or just completely ignore me. I expect it when I go so it doesn't make me mad anymore.

5. Southern trends
I went to high school in the hood, so I saw a lot of ghetto balling trends that were fully Southern in identity. I saw the wave of popularity with dreads, gold and silver fronts, big plain color tees accompanied by plain black and white Air Forces, gold jewelry, and other things that made our lunch break look like a Cash Money music video. Although I'm not proud of all these trends, they are Southern and distinctly different that the Northeastern trends of the time (I picked the Northeast for comparison because my people live up there and I know the region better than the Midwest of far West). At this time, Northeasterns were rocking skinny jeans and Philly shorts, Lot 29 gear with the cartoon characters, crazy colored urban gear and matching colorful shoes, and the Freeway(the rapper) style shaggy beards. As far as cars, if you had some money in the South you wanted a Caprice or Impala sitting on some big rims or spinners. As far as dancing, they were Krumping, Blanking, and popping on headstands. Southern, through and through.

and last but not least,
6. The "Oh Shit, I don't venture out there" rule
Luckily I am from a city, where people deal with one another in a modern and civilized manner. In North Carolina, just as in every Southern state, if you venture too far from the metropolitan areas, you may find yourself somewhere where the scenery and the attitude of the inhabitants is that of our society as it was in the 1960s or so. As a young black man, these are places I feel I may be at risk for a lynching. So I run into people who say "Oh, you're from NC, so am I. I'm from [insert small hick town in eastern NC]." For the moment, I embrace my fellow North Carolinean as if we bonded. But in the back of my mind I'm thinking "Oh shit, I don't venture out there."

Now, to get a little less logical about things, here are some of the ridiculous counterarguments I've had to suffer through:

"Nah, it's just not Southern like Tennessee or Kentucky"
Once again, this level of ignorance brings out my anger when I hear this. I know that word association with the name of these two states may give you a more Southern image than North Carolina. But look again at the map at the beginning of this blog. I'll wait....................................... Ok, now I'm from Charlotte, which is at very bottom of the middle of North Carolina (I certainly hope you know which states are which), NC shares a Northern border with Tennessee, which is UNDER Kentucky. Explain to me how in any way they are in the South and North Carolina is not. I know culturally, Tennessee and Kentucky may still hold onto some Confederate ideals more than NC, but geographically, there is no logic to this argument.

"I got relatives from Mississippi, you got an accent, but you don't sound like them"
I won't spend much time with this one, I've already discussed the difference between sounding Southern and sounding country. Read between the lines. People from Baltimore, DC, and Philly, and NY all have different accents despite them being in close proximity, so this argument also doesn't hold up.


"But, it's called North Carolina. It's gotta be Northern"
For the life of me, I can not understand how people can say this to me while maintaining a straight face. THIS IS SOME OF THE DUMBEST SHIT I'VE EVER HEARD. There's two Carolinas you ignorant bastard, it's called North Carolina because it's on top of South Carolina. My usual response is to use their logic against them and have them try to justify South Dakota being a Southern state because it starts with "South." Last time this happened and the guy truly attempted to justify calling South Dakota southern to keep his point intact, the only response I could muster was "Shut the fuck up, I don't wanna hear it."

So no need to drag this argument out too much longer. With the exception of my very intellectual cousin who made this argument because "Southern" and "Confederate" are synonymous to him (I admit we are not nearly as Confederate as someone from say, Jena, Louisiana), there is no logical geographical or cultural justification to back up any claims that Charlotte is not in the South. This is my verdict, if you still have some half-brained idea to the contrary, go read a book you simple bastard.

Overreacting, maybe. Judgmental, yes because I doubt people's intellect after they make claims like this with all convention and no reason behind their argument. But, I've been called worse...

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