“I’m ok with identifying myself as a Southerner, but I wouldn’t say that that’s my identity as a whole.”

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Transcript for Springboard

Southern culture is definitely different from what I’ve encountered at Valpo, mostly because—and this is going to sound, like, so stereotypical, but—just the friendliness of people.  Like, not necessarily here on campus, but just when I go out, if I’ll go to Chicago, or just somewhere in Valpo, the people are—they’re very closed.  They would rather not talk to you, and the replies, like, if you say, ‘Good morning!’  They’re like, kind of give you an awkward look and then say, ‘Morning.  Yeah.  Go away.  Leave me alone.’  Whereas, you know, growing up, it would be more of a, ‘Good morning!  How are you?  What’ve you been up to?  I haven’t seen you in forever even though I just saw you yesterday, so let’s catch up for a minute.  Do you want some tea?’ That is a true trope; most people keep their fridges stocked with some sort of sweet tea, water, something.

I do identify myself as a Southerner mostly just because it fits with like, what people expect.  Like, it’s easy to explain people—to people like, ‘Oh, I’m from Arkansas.  I’m from the South.’  And they’re like, ‘Ok.  I get kind of where you come from.’  It’s more compared to stereotypes, but it’s like, an easy way to enter into a conversation.  I would say that baseline would be mostly standard South, funny accent, sweet tea, weird hillbillies.  Ok, that gives them something to go on, and then from there, like I said, you can kind of build up on that.  Like, ‘No, I’m not a hillbilly, but…’  Like, it’s just a springboard.

Mostly that identity is just an initial one, you know, it’s where I started, so I can’t ignore it, right?  Also, my personal interests would also be a reflection of, you know, who I am as different from my Southern identity because, you know, my interests… Yeah, farming’s cool, I’m ok with that.  I like hunting, fishing, most of the standard Southern tropes.  But at the same time, books made it down to the South, too.  We still read down there.  So, I did learn about a lot of things through reading that kind of, this is interesting, so I’m going to take this and I’m going to explore it further.

I’m ok with identifying myself as a Southerner, but I wouldn’t say that that’s my identity as a whole, because I feel like that’s too restrictive just to say, ‘Southerner, that’s me.’ Because that really encases a person in, like a stereotype box, and then file it away and forget about them.