I’m from the South — Atlanta, Georgia to be specific. And I love my home. Sadly, though, I find myself frequently having to defend it.
Often times when I introduce myself and include my city of origin, I can practically see the stereotypes raging through people’s minds about what exactly goes on below the Mason-Dixie line. Most of these stereotypes are derived from reality TV shows, exaggerated movies and memes made by people who have never actually ventured farther into the southeast than Washington D.C.
While Atlanta usually gets the respect that it deserves, if I fail to mention that I’m from a big city, I find myself getting lumped into an image of the boonies. I’ve had people ask me if I’ve ever gone “mudding” before, or comment on the fact that I don’t seem to have a Southern drawl, or just assume that I love country music, which I hate (except Dolly Parton’s “Jolene,” that’s a banger). Believe it or not, just as there’s not one single Stanford student that defines all of Stanford, “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” is not an accurate representation of the entire state and everyone who lives there.
Don’t get me wrong, there are certainly parts of the region that I am embarrassed about, and which I wish I could wipe entirely from its association. I mean, until 2012, the “Redneck Games” did take place in Dublin, another city in Georgia. And I can’t lie, if I drive through the outskirts of the state, I still encounter gas stations that sell Confederate flag hats and baby shirts, as well as older individuals who give me strange looks because of the color of my skin. Heartbreaking and unfortunate but obvious news flash (and if it’s not obvious, please open your eyes) — racism is everywhere. Yes, even in 2018. Yes, even in the Bay Area. Yes, even on this campus, though perhaps expressed more subtly than some of the blatant acts elsewhere.
The point is, while there are certainly less desirable aspects of the South, those aren’t the things that I love about it. I don’t love the South for its history of racism or the questionable traditions of some of its patrons. Every region has had and still has its own individual issues. Those are inescapable.
I love my home for the food. My grandma’s good, southern cooking is unparalleled. And I would take a nice, ice cold glass of sweet tea over açaí bowls on any day (and no, iced tea is not the same thing). Also, let’s not forget that Georgia is the home of Chick-fil-A. I love my home for the sense of community that can be found practically everywhere. Southern hospitality is real, at least in my experience, and I would gladly take that over the less than heartwarming interactions I’ve had elsewhere. I love my home for birthing so many musicians. I love my home for being the Hollywood of the South (“Stranger Things,” most of “Black Panther,” “Spider-Man: Homecoming” and “Love, Simon,” to name just a few of many, many more). I love my home for everything there is to love about it, and there’s no place I would have rather grown up.
Of course, I respect everyone’s personal opinions, but I’d just like for people to keep an open mind when it comes to the South. And I’m sure a lot of people have had to defend where they’re from at some point or another. It’s always hard to hear someone speaking negatively about something that you hold dearly to your heart, regardless of what that may be. I’m from the South — Atlanta, Georgia to be specific. And I love my home.