An Open Letter to those Ashamed of their Southern Accent

March 17, 2023

The South. A part of the United States that has been scrutinized, looked down upon, and typecasted. As a kid who has grown up in a rural area of South Carolina, I know all of the ways my homeland has been stereotyped. In fact, there have even been times when I’ve been made to feel as if I should be ashamed of the way I talk or where I come from. I spent the first 5 years of my academic career at Dacusville Elementary, a school with less than 500 students. The area was, for lack of a better word, “rural.” Yet, growing up, I never saw the people around me as lesser. The people around me were not “hibillies” or “hicks,” they were some of the nicest people I’ve ever known. So you can imagine my surprise when I began to venture outside the South on occasion and began to see how much of the rest of the United States saw my home. It was saddening to see how looked down upon we are as a region as if our history and past make us not as worthy. 

My grandparents, residents of South Carolina themselves, both have extremely strong Southern accents. However, as with some of my closest friends in rural South Carolina, my grandparents are some of the sweetest people you will ever meet. My grandmother’s accent and where she comes from have nothing to do with how loving, kind, and supportive she is. Her accent does not represent racial connotations, ignorance, or any “way of thinking.” It is to be endeared and cherished because it makes our part of the country different from the rest. We are not cookie cutters in any sense of the word, and no amount of judgment should allow for our culture to be disregarded.

 I am not proud of everything the South has done in its past. but our history is no reason to induce a feeling of self-hatred. An accent should not prevent a person from seeing the true character. The hypocrisy is palpable in a nation that is so focused on providing a perfect environment that it is unable to see the foundational judgment against those beneath the Mason-Dixon. For those so focused on “diversity,” it is quite insincere to not allow those with a “redneck” accent to be held on the same level as any other human being. It is straight-up wrong for a part of the country to be thought of as lesser than others because of its religious or economic status. Yes, the South was home to the horrific practice of slavery. But slavery is not and never will be what defines our region holistically. Yes, not everyone wears a ballcap, boots, and jeans.  This may be true, but that does not mean it is not something we can be proud of. It is our traditions, our accents, and our people that make us who we are. 

When Southerners are made to feel as if they are less than the rest of our nation, it forces a turn to the confederate flag. We must not allow for the punishment of the South for its sins of the past to destroy the aspects that allow it to be such a beautiful place. Those who judge based on the past tend to be ignorant of what is happening in the present. Our heritage does not have to be based on the sins of the past but based on the South’s emphasis on enjoying the simple things in life and its many good qualities. It is unfair to judge one region of the country based on its past without considering the truth that every part of this great nation has sinned. Some of the United States’ leading universities, such as Harvard, were built on the backs of slave labor. Northern cities, like Boston, have been known for their racist qualities and horrific treatment of immigrant groups. Referencing these qualities of the North is not a personal attack but rather proof that no part of the country is without sin. Therefore, it is quite unethical for the South and its accents to be held accountable for a practice that the entirety of our great nation participated in. 

Ultimately, my argument is that no one should have to feel ashamed of where they come from. I am incredibly proud to be a Dacusvillian, a Southerner, but most of all an American. My accent and others like it help contribute to why the United States of America is special. Our variation of people within this great land is what makes us great, not how we should all conform to a singular culture or accent. 

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