The South Has Come a Long Way

I was thinking about what was the most surprising thing to me about the South that has significantly changed over the years.  I immediately thought about the segregation. It is still hard for me to believe that something like that took place in America, and specifically in the Southern states. I always heard about it in my history classes but I never fully understood the real meaning of it and consequences that it brought to America. Furthermore, I think I will never fully understand how could human beings be segregated by their skin color.  I found a video on YouTube about  Segregation during the Jim Crow laws. It is unbelievable to me to how only about 70 years ago something like that existed. African-Americans were not allowed to stay together with whites in public places such as lunch counters, restaurants, theaters, public transportation, schools, restrooms, pools, fountains, waiting rooms, libraries, some communities, etc. After seeing this video, it really made realize even more, why the South felt/feels guilty. It is embarrassing to see something like that happened 7o years ago in the country that lead the world now. America is known for its freedom; moreover, the South for its southern hospitality, honestly, to me it is fake. Many things are eye opening to me after moving to the South from Europe. Sometimes, I just wish I could to talk to these people who were supporting the segregation and ask them, “What the hell is wrong with you? Do you have a heart?” It really does not make sense to me.. How can the South be so religious and let something like that to happen.

I also believe it has caused many serious consequences that the country will deal for a long time. African- Americans will remember it will forever. Even thought things are better, people are still dealing with guilt and embarrassment. Even I am feeling guilty sometimes. I have been in situations were i was told my family probably do not like black people. My family is not even from here but just because I am white, I feel like I am responsible for something like that and felt uncomfortable many times.

On the other hand, even thought it is hard to believe it, I do believe that the South has come a long way. The segregation do not exist in that extreme cases, blacks and whites are equally treated. I must say it is impressive to me that such things happened and America managed to become this “GREAT” country to live in. In my opinion, people still segregate each other sometime unintentionally, but nevertheless, the South is totally different place now in 2013. I also believe that the southern blacks are so religious because of the fact how they were treated. I did not think about it before and learned that while living in the South. I would have become super religious as well  if I was being treated like that. The South is not perfect and is still under the criticism, but things are definitely moving in a better direction!

Great Food, but Too Many Obese People!

America has the most obese people in the world. The South is known for its delicious food but at the same time the negative part about it is that the obesity rate is the highest. Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee are leading the nation’s top 3 in number of most obese people. What are the factors that make such a huge difference between the South and the North and what can people do about it?

I cannot talk about the South or America in general without comparing it to other countries in the world, and mostly to my home country Estonia. Growing up in Estonia, main things I heard about America was that there are a lot of fat people, so many McDonald’s restaurants, and everything is big in there. As a child or a teenager my friends and I were jealous because we did not have no McDonald’s or any other type of fast food restaurant in my home town. We had to go to capital city to get some burgers and fries. For us it was like a special treatment when we ate some burgers. All we ate was homemade and home grown food. I never went out to a restaurant to eat with my family. We all ate together at home.  Even now in 2013, you do not find fast food restaurants in every corner of a street. To be honest, people do not even like that food, plus it is more expensive than healthy food. Now, comparing this situation with my 5 year experience in America and mostly in Memphis, I can tell that the stories about America having a lot of fat people and many fast food place is so true.  Honestly, it is ridiculous!

There are obviously reasons why the South has more obese people. Lower incomes make people buy cheaper food. Fast food is cheap in America and it is accessible 24hours. Isn’t it wonderful? Whenever you get hungry you can get some food at any time of the day and only for 1 dollar? That sounds like great deal..BUT I don’t think that way anymore. I used to think it is awesome to go to grocery store at midnight and get whatever I wanted until I started gaining weight. Then I realized it is not fun at all. There is no grocery store in the whole country that is open 24hrs in Estonia. If you are hungry and have nothing to eat then you better wait until the morning. I believe it is great! Nobody should be eating at midnight anyway. That’s one of the reasons why there are many people who are overweight. Moreover, the portions are so much bigger. People will not leave the restaurant until they are so stuffed that they cannot even breathe anymore. Of course, sometimes, I do it as well. I love to eat, I am an athlete, I love food in general, but it is definitely not a good idea to have big portions of food every day.

Another very important part about why the South has more obese people is the lack of physical activity. People do not exercise enough. You have to have a car to get around. When I first came here, I couldn’t believe that Memphis does not have a well-organized public transportation system. Also, I barely see people walking or riding a bicycle on the streets. I always felt so uncomfortable when I walked somewhere, I felt like people think I am crazy. In Europe people think you are crazy if you drive a car everywhere.

I believe that the obesity in the South and in America is a huge issue. Healthy food should not cost more than unhealthy one. Moreover, there has to be more physical activities in elementary and high schools. Parents have to pay attention to their children and promote healthy lifestyle in order to live longer. Grocery stores should not be open 24 hrs and there is no need for McDonald’s in every corner of a street. Also, the city of Memphis should definitely fix the sidewalks and promote walking and riding a bicycle more than they do right now!

The South Still a Filthy Place

As we can see on that picture that I attached, the southern states have the highest rates of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs). It caught my eye when I first moved to the South from the North Europe  in 2009. I saw the signs in clinics showing very high percentage of STDs compared to the northern states. At first, I was not very sure why the South is dealing with such problems. Since we got in more deeper discussions about the South in our Sociology of the South class, I learned many aspects that made me realize why the South has such bad reputations. First, I never knew about the yellow fever epidemics and the sickle cell anemia until now. Memphis, and also many other southern states dealt with horrible spares of yellow fever. It killed tremendous amount of people. Furthermore, Memphis was actually very attractive place for the immigrants, for example, from Germany, or Ireland, who after the yellow fever hit the city, fled away to other cities. I believe Memphis could have been a great city if all of  those immigrants would have stayed here. It would have made the city more multicultural; moreover, foreigners would have brought in more money and the high percentages of STDs that the city faces today could have been prevented. The city could have been similar to Atlanta. Unfortunately, it went different way and Memphis had to deal with many negative problems that affect the city until today.

The sickle cell anemia and yellow fever are not the big issues no more, now Memphis and the South deals with the STDs. The numbers are very high among minority groups. The African-Americans have almost 50% higher chlamydia rate than whites do. I believe the main reasons are poor access to the healthcare, and poor educational lessons provided to young people at school or at home. Since the South is more religious, I believe many schools and parents do not talk about sexual life very often. I remember back in Estonia, we had a class where we learned about diseases, prevention of pregnancy, and how to avoid certain issues. The South is more religious; nevertheless, people have to be more educated about the sexual diseases in order to  prevent long-term effects. Also, the people in the South has lower incomes. People do not have the access to health care and will not be able to get cured properly. Another issue is still the high percentage of rural people, and also illegal immigrants who do not believe or are not able to go to regular check-ups.

To sum up, I believe it is sad that Memphis and the South are still looked at as filthy and dirty. The South should fight very hard against those issues to prevent negative images that other states and countries give them. If the outsiders do not see that the South at least gives an good effort to fight against it, a lot of people from other states and countries will not come here and things will never get better then. There are many positive aspects about the South that should be more known to the whole world other than STDs and other diseases that make the South look bad.

“Roll Tide”

Roll Tide commercial. Click on it!

After watching this ESPN commercial about the University of Alabama, I recognized many familiar aspects about the South. As we discussed in class, the South is big on sports, this particular commercial is a good example of it. Schools like the University of Alabama, the University of Georgia, and the Auburn University, spend and make tremendous amount of money because of the their sports teams. Many of the big college sports school are located in a small city and the main reason why they are known for are their football or basketball team. Furthermore, Southerners love to be prideful of their team. They wear special sports gear, and put their college team’s stickers on their cars, they love to tailgate, and talk bad about another team. In general, America is big on sports. I am from Estonia, it is a tiny country in the North Europe, I never experience anything like this before. Such thing as college sports do not exist in Europe. It was very interesting to experience something like that in here. Many schools have their common slogans, for example, Ole Miss uses “HottyTotty,” Bama uses “Roll Tide.” I seems to me like Southerns want to have specific identity that they are known by. They are prideful of their location, college, and sports team. It is similar to their history when Southerners wanted to be different from the North and have their own Southern identity. I, as a outside observer from Europe, have realized that Southerners are much more prideful about the fact that they are from here or live here than people from the North.

Moreover, as we can see on this YouTube clip, Bama fans are from different race, age, and class groups. I think it is great illustration how sports unite people. For example, older white man, and younger black guy walk by each other in one of the Tuscaloosa’s gas stations are greeting each other by saying “Roll Tide.” I guess it is bigger than saying “Hello,” or “Good Bye” in Alabama.  People’s skin color does not matter at all, as long as they are supporting the same team, there do not exist no racial boundaries.

Another very Southern thing that caught my eye was the word “Y’all.” When the white mom drops off her children and says, “Roll Tide Y’all” it is as Southern as it can be. Also, the white man at the end says, ” Y’all did not even know…” The language that people use in the South is different from the North. Word “y’all” is one of those examples that almost every southerner uses. Of course, after being here for 4 years, I use it as well!

To sum up, the YouTube clip illustrates the Southern people and their culture pretty well by just showing a commercial about the University of Alabama. It is an great example to show that people’s skin color, nor their age or occupation do not matter in sports. The fans of the southern college sports teams are like one big happy family who laugh and cry together over winning and losing!