By: Abbey Edmonson
Growing up in Mississippi is a complicated endeavor to explain. On one hand, I absolutely loved it. I loved feeling connected to nature and going through life at a slower, relaxed pace. I’ve lived in a big city for a short period of time before, and it was just so different from the laid-back persona of the south. The big city life was amazing in its own way, but there are positive and negative aspects for living both in both rural and city areas.
From my experience, almost everyone in Mississippi is ridiculously friendly and polite, and everybody knows everybody. However, with all of this connectedness, news travels VERY fast. With this in mind, people tend to be overly nice and polite because they are constantly afraid of rubbing someone the wrong way and having negative words spread about them. The culture of politeness is fueled by this ever-present awareness of what others think of you. A lot of the friendliness is carried out as a shield against being judged by society. Yes, this should not be the reason for being polite to people, and it is a reality that many people ignore. However, I will say that there are several legitimately kind people in this state. Everyone has grown up learning to be polite to everyone whether you like the person or not.
I truly didn’t realize just how connected this state was until coming to college. Camp friends who live on the coast are friends with my honors college friends that I met during orientation week. My sorority sister and best friend went to the same high school as my cousins and danced on the same dance team. I even randomly met the son of my dad’s fraternity “big brother” one time in the Union. My mom likes to joke that you can find a connection with someone in Mississippi by asking them ten questions or less. Mississippi is an interconnected network of small towns, and it’s really easy to make new friends via connections with mutual friends.
Sadly, there is also a darker side to the state. Mississippi is often brushed aside as a racist, rural, redneck state with people who are close-minded and ignorant. And yes, there undoubtedly are people in this state that fit that description. That is most definitely a real issue, whether everyone notices it or not. However, based on my experience, there are also many kind, open-minded, and empathetic people in this state. I promise there are people in Mississippi who have nothing but good intentions, but those people are being overshadowed by the careless actions of other people who are spreading messages of hate. I love Mississippi, but Mississippi needs to learn to love herself. Mississippi isn’t completely hopeless, she’s just struggling. Hopefully, we will find a way to break free of this struggle in the near future.