By Jaimie Brooding
Mississippi is typically known for being ranked 50th in just about everything in the nation, and I do not believe this to be false. I am from California, and I was taught, and have learned, that Mississippi has the lowest ACT score on the mainland, only falling behind Hawaii.
Mississippians are fairly uneducated with a lot of people who don’t graduate high school and even fewer attending college. Even if they’re not in college, they have a complete and total obsession with college football, or any football for that matter.
The Ole Miss Rebels and the State Bulldogs run the state, meaning people go completely out of their way and plan things totally around football season and the various schedules.
My mother also told me not to be alarmed if I cannot understand what someone may be saying because they talk in a completely different language down here, partly due to the educational levels.
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.
Personally, it may be because I live on a college campus, many Mississippians here – while, yes they do talk funny – are understandable, compassionate, sweet souls. They aren’t all hicks and don’t all shoot guns, but do happen to be very church- and family-oriented, which is not a bad thing, it’s just something I’m not completely used to.
When I was coming here, people were genuinely concerned that my liberal beliefs and equal rights beliefs would be turned around by the racist and conservative state, but they are their own people with strong beliefs, just as I am. I posted a picture with a state flag in the background, and my friends were appalled that I would post a picture with the Confederate flag.
However negatively Mississippi may be perceived, there are many beautiful and engaging aspects of the state. While I was asking my other out-of-state friends what they thought of Mississippi, one of my other Californian friends said, “Green, beautiful, and luscious.”
I feel a lot of the time when people think of redneck hicks that don’t take care of themselves, they also think their surrounding areas wouldn’t be taken care of or beautiful. However, Mississippi is full of rolling green hills, luscious trees, and beautiful scenery and landscapes. It’s also rich with culture and music and innovative shifts in society.
To convey all these wonderful unknown aspects of the state, I would create a website that perfectly illustrates all Mississippi offers with a map with pictures and a timeline highlighting important events, people, and places.
The campaign will be called Learn Something from Mississippi, based on the idea that while most people think Mississippians need to learn how to be “normal,” other Americans need to learn what Mississippi actually is, and not just its stereotypes.
The campaign will be executed through the website Learning Mississippi. When you click a picture, it will direct you to more pictures and historical information about why one should visit.
At the bottom, a timeline discusses how Mississippi’s culture and inventions have helped shape others in the country throughout the years.
Since I feel like many people are as ignorant about Mississippi as they believe Mississippi to be as ignorant about the rest of the world, it would be beneficial to create a site that offers an honest lesson about the rich, cultured, historical, beautiful, and unique place.
The message reached across the nation because of the various friends I have at school. Many were shocked that something they had thought of so negatively could be so beautiful and rich. Many were amazed by the blues music and entertainers from the state they weren’t aware of.
It was heartwarming to see people finally start to open up and accept Mississippi for the beloved state I know it to be, even if it does have flaws. Nothing is perfect.
However, I wish I could connect more with teachers in other states to share this because I feel like a lot of the state’s misconceptions originate in history classes, especially with the Civil War and antebellum era, that people still believe to be true today.
Teachers could become more informed about Mississippi. They will no longer only be able to judge it for what they think it may be and can help others become less ignorant towards the truth.
I learned that while state conceptions can be partially true, they hold no relevance to members of the rest of the state. A stereotype may only be from one person, or group, yet it has the ability to skew multiple opinions and affect much of the actual importance of person, places, or things by blocking people from not being enriched by truths.
Never judge a book by its cover, and never judge Mississippi by its stereotype, but instead Learn Something from Mississippi.