USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘racism’
Folk Beliefs
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Dumb southerners

Main piece: A common stereotype is that people from the Southeast are fat, uneducated, racist rednecks.

Context: The informant (S) is originally from Marietta, Georgia, and their lineage traces back to Germany on both sides of their family. They are a high school student about to graduate and head off to Boston for college. They were raised Christian and consider themselves spiritual, but they do not align themselves with any organized religion. Our conversation took place over FaceTime while S cleaned their room and played Tame Impala in the background. S has heard this stereotype of Southerners their entire life, both from Georgians and non-Georgians alike. Interestingly, S even jokes about this stereotype having some truth to it: “When you go to school in the suburbs of Georgia and see people with confederate flag stickers on their cars, it’s hard not to label those around you as uneducated racists!” In all seriousness, S knows many people (including themself) who actively work hard to not become or buy into this stereotype. They want to prove people wrong and change the overall social climate of Georgia.

Personal thoughts: S and I will both maintain that this stereotype has tidbits of truth to it, but even more so than our personal experiences as Georgians, this conception of Southerners has solid historical basis – a quality that not every stereotype bears. To be obvious… the Civil War, in which the South was fighting to keep slavery alive and well. Some people may vaguely argue that the war was about “states’ rights,” but consider what rights Southern states were fighting to maintain – the right to own slaves. It would be naive to think that those age-old mentalities have simply disappeared, especially when almost every Georgian either knows somebody who owns a Confederate flag or owns one themself. One hundred years after slavery came the tumultuous yet impactful Civil Rights Movement, proving that racism never ended with slavery. Even today, lynchings and hate crimes occur way too often in the Southeast. So, while it is increasingly important for Southerners to educate ourselves on social/political issues, advocate for others and fight back against hate groups that give us a bad name, it is also equally important to recognize that these somewhat hurtful stereotypes derive from truth. Instead of getting defensive about them, we must acknowledge the South’s history of racism and subjugation, and prove with our actions that we are working to remedy that painful history.

Folk Beliefs
general
Stereotypes/Blason Populaire

Stereotype Encounter

Informant SM is a sophomore studying Biomedical Engineering at the University of Southern California. He is 20 years old and originally from India. He is very passionate about philanthropy, specifically helping poorer parts of India and aspires to one day become a doctor.

The informant tells me(AK) about a moment in which he felt like he was racially profiled. This incident took place around 9:00 pm on a weekday night as he was coming back to his apartment complex after studying at the library.

SM: I was walking back to my apartment complex at night, and as me and my friend were entering the gate, this couple came out of the gate and refused to hold the gate open for us. They came out and said they had to close the gate because they were afraid that we actually didn’t live there. So they caused us some mild inconvenience because I had to open the gate myself. It felt like a form of racial profiling because my friend is African American, and I also have a dark complexion.

AK: What do you think caused the couple to act in this way?

SM: They were probably conditioned to respond this way because it was late at night and they felt protective over their children.

AK: How did this incident affect you emotionally, were you angry or upset?

SM: I was a little disappointed because there was no way I could have posed a threat to anyone. I was carrying a backpack, so I was clearly a student. I felt like they were being immature.

AK: Have you ever experienced anything like this before or since?

SM: No, this was the first time.

After hearing this piece, I was really shocked to have heard my informant get racially profiled. My thoughts went directly to the Trump presidency, and I felt anger for how his administration was letting incidents far worse than this one go by without even a statement. But then, I realized that this couple likely held these stereotypes about darker skinned people well before the Trump administration. It is very likely that they grew up surrounded by these stereotypes and were conditioned to feel danger. Either way, it represented a sad reality for me, and it was hard to hear the informant have to go through this.

Digital
Legends
Narrative

Story of racism on plane

The story goes, which my informant learned from a friend sharing the story on facebook, an old white woman got angry that she was seated next to a black man. She kept getting upset, yelling at the flight attendant as the other passengers looked on in horror, no one saying anything. The flight attendant told the woman the only other option was to be seated in first class and then solves the woman’s problem… by moving the black passenger to first class. Everybody on the plane then started cheering, it is said. The story was one many of her friends were posting on facebook just a few months ago, and it had many thousands of likes.

My informant thought it was cool that facebook to quickly spread such a story, and she liked the story because it was inspiring. I think it’s interesting because of how it perverts expectations. It makes you angry and you want to keep reading to see what happens because it has evoked an emotion from you, and then, because you are already in an emotional state, it is able to flip the anger into joy when the unexpected occurs. We are so happy to see justice in the story then we have a greater attachment to the story. In an age of information where there are millions of stories at your fingertips, we seem more interested in those that are different or more complex (i.e. here the story flips expectations). The story may not be true, but because it is heartwarming, people like it anyway and may even want it to be true more.

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