Why I'm Proud to be from Mississippi
Growing up I wanted nothing more than to leave my home state and move to a place more “sophisticated” than Mississippi. I figured a big city with all the hustle and bustle would have the culture and refinement I yearned for. Like Reese Witherspoon in the movie “Sweet Home Alabama,” I was embarrassed of my state and definitely NOT proud to be from Mississippi. I wanted to distance myself from the obesity, poverty, and ignorance that smears Mississippi’s reputation. I’m so much better than that.
So I hid my southern accent as much as I could, immersed myself in foreign cultures, moved away several times, and changed any part of myself that resembled the bigotry, isolation, and rebel ways of the south. Despite the fact that the majority of my large family lives here, I never felt very rooted here. I was convinced that the activity, prosperity, and belonging I yearned for could only be had somewhere else, somewhere better than in Mississippi. But then something happened.
My Perspective Changed
I fell in love with a South Mississippi man. Joel is a self-professed “bayou boy” who enjoys doing unsophisticated things like riding motorcycles and fishing in the bayou. He’s a “Git’r Dun” kind of guy. At first I didn’t want to love him. I told my mother I couldn’t possibly date a man with a Harley Davidson — not classy enough for me. But Joel charmed me with his unabashed southern accent, genuine kindness, and refreshing simplicity.
Unlike the other men of my past, Joel is from the Mississippi Gulf Coast. He’s not the most formally educated man; he doesn’t know the capital of Peru or the meaning of “cantankerous.” Really? He’s notorious for using verbs incorrectly and being proud of his sexist jokes. Yuck! He drives a big truck and listens to country music. Oh God! But I’ve never met someone so loyal, so hardworking, and so honest. It surprised me how well we got along.
“Even the poorest person has something to give, the least educated has something to teach.”
As much as I enjoy learning about the world outside of Mississippi when I hobnob with people who aren’t from here, I’ve come to realize that the comfort of belonging to something familiar is even sweeter. Joel and I can reminisce about coastal landmarks, local music, and TV commercials of our youth. We catch crabs together and throw fish fries. Be both love Barq’s root beer and po-boys. We understand southern mannerisms and expressions without needing to translate. I’ve never had so deep of a foundational connection with anyone else in my life. He’s perfect for me, and I’ve realized Mississippi is too!
What I’ve Learned About Mississippians
Like my husband — the people here have what I call “Mississippi Magic.” We are fighters, believers, tell-it-like-it-is-ers. We aren’t ashamed to stand up for something that isn’t popular or care about something that isn’t mainstream. Our men hunt and cry. Our women do too! We have lots of overweight people, but we have skinny organic-eating, recycling-crazy, tree-hugging hippies as well. We aren’t always the most politically correct, but like anyone else, we have our reasons. We talk to strangers and enjoy impromptu gatherings. We have good manners, delicious food, and tight-nit families. Oh, and did you know that we have the longest manmade beach in the world?
“Being Mississippi Proud is about appreciation. If you can’t see the gifts all around you, you’ll be hard pressed to spot them anywhere.”
I’ve learned every person on this planet has a genius within them, but sometimes our judgements are narrow-minded and keep us from to see it. That overweight lady with no teeth at Walmart is an unusually gifted painter (creativity). The little boy from the poor side of town eats his vegetables and says thank you with a smile (humility). That redneck neighbor may cuss and drink all day, but he’s the first one at your house when you need help (loyalty & friendship). These are qualities lacking in our modern American culture today.
Proud to be from Mississippi
I’ve learned that the least educated have something to teach; the poorest among us have something to give. And the reason it took me 34 years to feel proud of my home state of Mississippi was because I was looking at her from the same judgmental perspective that most Americans have. The health, education, racism, and economic issues clouded my vision. I couldn’t see her strengths because I was focused on her weaknesses. I couldn’t see her beauty and feel her warmth because I was convinced it wasn’t there. But I was wrong.
Mississippi isn’t better or worst than any other place. She’s got a lot of work to do, but for me, Mississippi is home. And there’s no better feeling than having roots and a place to belong. I am Proud to be from Mississippi.
Are you Proud to be from Mississippi?
If so, tell us about it. If not, why not? Whatever you wish to share, please share it here and start a great conversation about Mississippi.