A vivid memory I have was from a week-long course on Civil Engineering I did one summer while in high school. The course took place at North Carolina State University. I was out of my comfort zone because I was born and raised in Scranton, PA and had never been this far south before. There was one other person from up north (Baltimore, MD, but close enough). While I enjoyed the course itself, time spent outside of the classroom was a different story entirely. I had never been around so many proud rednecks (they actually referred to themselves as such) before in my life, and hope not to be in the future. Save for the other “northerner,” as we both were called, nobody would speak to me unless it was to ridicule where I came from. Why would these NC native speak to me like this, you ask? Because I was a Yankee and we won the war. That’s right. The Civil War. When I was first told that, I was blown away.
Being from Scranton, I was used to racism (contrary to what The Office would have you think, Scranton actually has some rather rough areas). Over the years, I had heard racist remarks from the stereotypical (i.e. white – black) to the stupid, where white people call other white people all the racial slurs in the book because of their social status. However, being hated because of where I was from geographically was quite novel to me. These North Carolinians defined themselves not by color, social status, or gender; they only cared about where people were from. Their identity revolved around this concept and they defined others according to it. They wanted a reason to dislike me, so they had to go back centuries to justify it.
I find it sad that in this day and age people still define themselves according to things beyond their control. I’m white. It doesn’t make me better or worse than anyone. I’m also from a northern state and a middle class family. I accept these things. What matters to me is how hard a person is willing to work and how welcoming they are of others. I feel that these are valid judges of a person’s character. I will admit that, like most people, I gravitate toward others that I perceive as being like me. However, I don’t fence out everyone else; I try to be friendly with everyone and hope for the best.