To be completely honest, I was a little nervous when I moved to Oxford in 2014. I didn’t know if life was going to be drastically different here or if I would fit in. The stereotypes about Mississippians were not in my head, I was just nervous. I quickly discovered Mississippi is really no different than Kentucky. Everyone was so nice, and I felt like I was back at home. I felt like I was welcomed into the University of Mississippi with open arms.
My friends never understood my love for the Magnolia State, because to them, Mississippi is a poor state covered in plantations stuck back in time. Their views were not completely wrong. Mississippi did have all of these characteristics, but there was much more to the state.
In high-school, I learned about Emmett Till. He was a teenager who was lynched in Mississippi. After watching that documentary, I made the decision that I would never step foot in the state of Mississippi.
People tend to believe Mississippians, especially Ole Miss and Mississippi State students, only care about football, beer, partying and Jesus. Don’t worry, if that made you laugh a little; me too. Ironically, yes, those aspects can easily be said for any Southern state, but Mississippi is known as one of the most Southern.
I remember hearing about how good sweet tea tasted on a sticky Dixie afternoon. I remember hearing about the gorgeous magnolia trees that could be found all over Mississippi, and how their waxy leaves glistened in the hot windy air. I also remember hearing about how hospitable the people were here. Even people you did not know were always smiling, waving, like a friend.
Mississippi is rich in culture, literature, music, food. We say “bless your heart” and “y’all,” and we always say grace before every meal. I think a lot of people just don’t know much about Mississippi. There are so many things they could market to make it more informative, but you have to dig to find these cool things. I think we have a lot of diamonds in the rough, and there are better ways to make that publicly known.
As I asked friends from other schools in different states who have never stepped over the state line what they though of Mississippi, I received a plethora of responses that did not surprise me, such as “hick, racist, uneducated, wide spaces, conservative, country/rustic, and Southern.”
The summer before I attended Ole Miss, I watched “Mississippi Burning” for the first time, and immediately felt horribly inside. I had a bad outlook on the state I had so willingly wanted to live in for four years. However, the first few weeks of college showed me history is important, but it doesn’t mean history repeats itself. I grew up in a college town, and the University of Mississippi is far more diverse and inclusive than the university I lived a few miles away from in Texas.
Even though I consider Mississippi home, I don’t appreciate Mississippi’s ugly past that is the blame for the perception many have of Mississippi. Mississippi has been unable to have a place in what some call “post racial America.” The university has experienced firsthand how hard it is to leave a racist past behind.
Mississippi is historical. Mississippi is beautiful. Mississippi is hospitable. Mississippi has some of the greenest, winding roads you’ve ever seen. Mississippi has the best football celebrations. Mississippi is constantly put down. Mississippi is a curse and a blessing.
There are so many different faces in Mississippi, you’ll never get the same response. Some said Mississippi is still considered one of the most prejudiced states around, while others feel Mississippi is slowly evolving into something better for all.
Unfortunately, this perpetual grudge is furthered and worsened by statistics. Mississippi has the highest childhood obesity rate in the nation, the second highest adult obesity rate in the nation, the third highest teen pregnancy rate in the nation, receives the largest amount of federal aid and always ranks the highest in polls regarding the “stupidity” of states.
Here’s where my freshman experience was different than most students. I never truly gave the university a chance. Don’t get me wrong. I loved college, but I was never satisfied because of my negative attitude about Mississippi. My one-sided opinion didn’t change because I refused to see anything else.
Creating a blog where potential Ole Miss students can read posts from students who are from all over the country could help increase enrollment at the university. I want to share my experiences of coming from New York and moving to Mississippi to help other students step outside their comfort zone and try something educationally new.
When I say I love Mississippi, I must first start with the food. I feel as if Mississippi is the only state where you can eat neckbones, greens, chitterlings, crawfish and shrimp, all in one day. You can suck on honeysuckles while walking up the road, or maybe you are in the mood to pick some fresh berries. It doesn’t matter; it’s all in the same woods.
This campaign will be a new Netflix series called “My Mississippi Favorite.” Every episode will show the viewer the journey of one actor to his favorite local restaurants throughout Mississippi. Viewers will want to experience the amazing cultural food only found in Mississippi.
Mississippi has something special about it that drew me in. I always heard the stereotypes, saying how dumb the people were, how everyone was obese, and worst of all, how “racist” people in Mississippi can be. Once I moved here, I quickly learned it’s not like it’s portrayed to people who don’t live in Mississippi.
I grew up in the Mississippi Delta, a place many might call an inescapable bubble that provides no room for original thought or self growth. Of course statements like this are only made by people who have no knowledge of the art of simplicity, the kind of simplicity that is accurately celebrated and drenched in the moral values of its Mississippi Delta inhabitants.
It is nearly impossible to sugarcoat the perception of Mississippi among my friends and people who live elsewhere. Mississippi is viewed as a state full of farms and little civilization where the only source of entertainment comes from driving tractors, farming, hunting, fishing and many other stereotypical redneck festivities.
For what it’s worth, this controversial legacy is not exclusive to Mississippi, because Confederate-related memorials are found in 31 states equaling in excess of 1,500 sites. Virginia, particularly, has the greatest number of memorabilia with over 200. But diminishing the nostalgia attached to such commemorations appears challenging for Mississippi.
Today, I walk outside, and I am astonished at the beauty of this place, the kindness of the community, especially the black community. All of these people I have gotten to meet treat me like family, even though they owe me nothing. Each time I sit down for a cup of coffee or stop by their places, I hear stories of legendary musicians, writers, potters, and indie artists from the state. It’s funny, when my friends back home hear me talk about the state, they are unable to look past the stereotypes, some to the point that they refuse to visit.
Since no one from home typically visits Mississippi, they rely on the state’s past to stereotype its people. So because the state is known for being racist, having snobby attitudes, and not producing people of high intelligence, that’s how strangers perceive it.
Mississippi has a lot to work on, but we are not the KKK-filled, obese state that everyone automatically assumes we are. Mississippi’s perception has been tarnished by the actions of a few who continue to make the state as a whole look horrible.
I love the beach, the Southern hospitality, and the small town feel that comes with nearly any city you visit. While I do love certain aspects of living here, I am dying to get out. This is a common occurrence, being raised in Mississippi. If you don’t fit in or agree with everyone around you, they tell you to leave, so naturally that’s what you want to do.
Driving across the country from Southern California, I had serious contemplations regarding the Magnolia State. It’s a racist, stagnant, conservative, poorly educated, underfunded wasteland.
Sometimes a person dressed in dirty coveralls works 40-50 hours a week to barely pay their bills, while others do not have to exert as much time, energy, and effort to make six figures. Appearances can be deceiving. Someone in jeans and an old T-shirt can be more polite and well-mannered than some corporate genius in a suit and tie.
The “racist” comment is usually fueled by someone unaware of the changes the South has made since the Civil War era. Just like several other states, Mississippi’s past seems to not be forgotten. I think this is because those who are educated outside of the state are not taught anything about Mississippi except several important historical events. The strength of the era that divided the races was so effective in Mississippi, there is an automatic link to that part of history. People fail to realize the beauty and change that has been made, instead assuming it is still the same.
I reached out to friends and family from all over the U.S. to collect their thoughts on Mississippi, and the main theme was that Mississippi is impoverished and has a poor educational system. This is what inspired my campaign Magnolia State Strong.
When my oldest brother first asked my parents to tour Oxford for college, my parents were baffled that he even considered attending a college in “the middle of nowhere” Mississippi. Now, I am very thankful that my brother attended toured Ole Miss, because my family and I might not have discovered this wonderful small town.
I can attest that may of these rankings are accurate. I say this because, growing up, I would compare the work I did in school with the work that my cousins in other states did, and their level of work was so much harder than mine.
Being from Louisiana, another state viewed as an unsuccessful place, I can relate to Mississippi residents to a certain extent. The only thing people give Louisiana attention about is the city of New Orleans, but I grew up in a city five hours from New Orleans and have only visited the city a few times in my life.
I was directly influenced by this approach while visiting and applying to UM. My family simply could not understand how a state whose education system was the subject of jokes could possibly be the location of a university that’s out-of-state tuition is upwards of $20,000 annually. My family was even more confused when I told them it was a university I was desperate to attend.
I have experienced the direct effects of Mississippi’s stereotypes through my mother, a kindergarten teacher at Olive Branch Elementary School, who has been trying to secure a teaching job in Tampa, Florida. Although she is overqualified, has high test scores, has worked in special education, and has earned a master’s degree, she has had difficulties getting a teaching job. Florida schools boast higher educational standards than those in Mississippi, and school officials are hesitant to take a Mississippi teacher due to stereotypes.
The media portrays Mississippi as this extremely rural, hot, poor, backwards place that is only beneficial for white families with old money. In almost every movie I have seen about the state, that has been the narrative. Living here three years has shown me that there is more to the state than its negative reputation. Though there are some truths to these stereotypes, it is not by any means the whole story.
My campaign will create a non-profit foundation that will raise money and awareness for the educational system in Mississippi. The foundation will rely on the generosity of people who want to improve Mississippi. It will be called the Made in Mississippi Foundation.
His words are echoed by many others. Though maybe not in the state of Mississippi itself, others feel that if the state made even the smallest changes (changing the state flag and overhauling how it views and handles the long past Civil War), then it’s image in the country would skyrocket. Mississippi could be remembered for its vast wildlife reserves, beautiful scenery, great diversity, and musical culture, but instead, it is linked to days of slavery, discrimination, and disenfranchisement.
While on their trip, my parents met a woman who asked where they were from. They replied, “Mississippi.” When my parents said this, the woman said, “Oh! You mean the state with every color green imaginable?” We had never thought about Mississippi that way — until then. Now, my eyes are constantly open to the different shades of green we have spanned across our beautiful Magnolia State.
During the next school year, sixth grade, my teacher introduced the class to the civil rights movement. In this unit, I saw horrific imagery of the South. The events of the Little Rock Nine, the Birmingham Bombing, and the Ole Miss Riot of 1962 stood out. These images were now my perception of the South, especially Mississippi. I now understood the state as a place of violence and racism.
Mississippi is a place I have called home for 18 plus years. It is a place that has shown me love, and I show it love. It has shaped my beliefs, advanced my understanding of music, and taught me how to enjoy Southern cooking and value relationships and hospitality.
As citizens of Mississippi, it is imperative that we address the flaws of our state, begin the conversation about the state’s positive qualities, and begin to initiate change where change is needed. The American public needs to see a different view of Mississippi. They need to see the Oxford view.
The media portrays Mississippians as redneck hicks who talk funny, shoot guns, and yell “momma” while thanking God or Jesus for everything. The men may be seen wearing overalls with missing teeth, no shirt and many tattoos drinking from a beer can. The women will probably have a baby on their hip, a cigarette in their mouth, and they are depicted as a frazzled mess.
A simple montage of all the things I just mentioned, along with other state accomplishments, would speak volumes about what the state has done for this country. With a nice background melody, the video would open with an interesting fact, and it would list several amazing things before revealing at the end that it is all linked to Mississippi.
Mississippi is a second home for me. It is a place where I have slowly begun making new friends. It’s where I paid my first bills. It’s where my husband and I share our first apartment together. This is a place where I have learned more about myself and grown as an individual.
Even though Mississippi has an abundance of land, there are still cities and suburbs in the state. It is sometimes difficult not having a mall five minutes away and hundreds of food options, but I would not change it for the world. I personally love the fact that there are not huge cities and buildings everywhere you go. It’s refreshing to drive and see beautiful trees and hills for miles.
In contrast to the stereotypes, Mississippi has ranked #1 in generosity per capita. Mississippians give millions in donations to hurricane victims, tornado victims, and victims of other tragedies across the country, and this should be remembered.
If additional time was allocated, I would include more eco-tourism opportunities. State parks, such as the Natchez Trail, Roosevelt State Park, and countless others, offer pristine forests that cannot be matched anywhere else in the nation.
I believe Mississippi struggles the most with racism. Ole Miss was in turmoil when they removed the Confederate flag from campus. People are so proud of war here, they were upset about a flag – offended by people being offended. I wish Mississippi would move on to the larger picture, like global warming or poverty.
Like Alabama, Mississippi sometimes gets a bad rap for its past racial discrimination incidents and its assumed backwards Southern ways. The truth is, Mississippi is a fantastic place to live and visit. It’s full of zest, culture, flavor, diversity and tradition. Mobile is also a great place to live, don’t get me wrong, but Mississippi towns have just as much potential as Mobile. The only difference is someone is giving Mobile the attention it deserves. That’s all Mississippi needs.
First, I will research all new technological advances our state has had through engineering, medical, farming and other fields. Highlighting these through a series of press releases and social media stories will break the barrier of the “hick town, redneck” stereotype. I would also host a campaign that brings all innovators together for a dinner or possibly a convention inviting all Mississippi residents to view the latest achievements.
My perception of Mississippi is that it’s a place that is good for now, but not forever. What I mean by that is that Mississippi is a place I don’t mind being right now, but it is not somewhere I would want to spend the rest of my life. Others may see it as a forever place, but some feel the same as I do.