I live in Chicago, but I hail from the South. That means I have a Southern drawl. I could get rid of it, I guess; I know a lot of Southerners who have muted their accents and now talk like bland Midwesterners. But I like my mine, and, in fact, it has gotten me out of a few traffic tickets.
“I’m sorry officer; we don’t have that rule in Naaashviiille.” And then I get a warning and am sent on my way. So I do take advantage of the accent. I do use the fact that people see those from the South as a little dumber than everyone else in the country. (However, I would like to point to Bill Clinton, Walker Percy, Martin Luther King, and an endless list of others to prove that false.)
What I dislike is when people mock my Southern–ness. And that can happen in several ways. For example, I have been at a restaurant with a group, and as we began to order, one would say, “Sorry Terri, there is no baked ‘possum on the menu.” And after looking at them stunned, I might reply, “Well, I like mine fried.” That serves to soften the blow and to show others, No hard feelings. (But there are hard feelings.)
And on many occasions, to my incredulity, people mock my Southern accent. But not very well. When they attempt to speak Southern, they ramp it up and sound like someone from the South with an IQ of about 45. “Do they think I sound like that?” I wonder. “Are they saying I’m stupid?” Even good actors do bad Southern accents.
Now, this may sound petty. But even my friend from England feels the same way. When people mimic her British accent, it sets her blood a’ boiling. And people love and admire British accents. So it’s not about feeling stupid (people tend to take 10 IQ points away from a person with a Southern accent), it’s about setting people apart.
What I find most fascinating is that it is primarily Caucasians who do the mocking, and it is people who would never, in a million years, attempt an African American accent or a Mexican accent around their black and Latino friends. Nor would they point out to their friends that there are no chit’lins or menudo (tripe) on the menu. Sorry.
I also find it interesting that some of these people work for non–profit organizations (like ours) who pride themselves on being “justice oriented.” Now, I am far from a saint, and if anybody deserves a good makin’ fun of, it is me. I dish it out pretty well, and I should be able to take it. But these experiences have taught me that it is not Christian to ridicule someone who is different from me because we never know when we’ll be “the other.”