By Jack Danaher
Mississippi is different than the rest of the states. It is the poorest and most obese state in the country, and was once part of a controversial time.
Since being here, I see a state that is full of people who always have a great attitude, even if things aren’t going as planned. Everybody down here is so nice and polite.
Tradition is important to a lot of Mississippians. The people here are have pride in how far they have come. There was slavery here, segregation, African Americans weren’t allowed at the same college as white students.
In 1962, James Meredith broke the color barrier at Ole Miss, and that really isn’t that long ago. Since then, the school now has a student body in which 15 percent of the students are African American. The growth truly is a miracle.
They have begun getting rid of the Confederate flag in many places here. After Ole Miss took down the state flag in the Lyceum Circle in 2015, it marked the first time that not one college in the state of Mississippi flied the flag.
In the past, the state has even tried to vote to change the flag, but Mississippians did not want to change tradition.
Though Mississippi is starting rid itself of these Confederate symbols, people who live elsewhere still see Mississippi as a Confederate and racist haven. They get this idea because the media shows Mississippi as a place that is still full of white supremacists.
The stories about removing symbols that dwell on the haunted past of the state are never on the front page or breaking news, only when something bad happens, and it is a shame. I have never had any experience with racism here.
When I asked others their perceptions about Mississippi, they said the Southern hospitality here is awesome. It is extremely welcoming, and it has been surprisingly easy to fit in here.
My idea for a marketing campaign would be to travel around the United States by bus and hold presentations about how Mississippi is improving race relations, and how they are trying to move away from their Old South appearance.
Since marketing campaigns are all about spreading the word, I would even have my bus covered with all of the Old South symbols on it x’d out. The marketing campaign will be called Miss Represented.
The name comes from how a lot of people misrepresent Mississippi by linking it to its harmful past. The purpose is to show people what Mississippi is all about and how they have made great strides towards making everybody feel welcomed in the state.
I would also get involved with social media. Nowadays organizations hold podcasts and answer questions from people who call in or post online.
I would create a website so people can look into it more and see what the campaign is about and what we are striving for. On the website, I would also have a section where the viewer can post a question, and it would be kind of like a blog. Other people can comment on the questions.
Since I am running the operation, I would try everything to get us in the news. This is an organization that could benefit from almost any type of publicity, because all I am trying to do is make a name for the campaign and spread awareness about how Mississippi is not what everyone thinks it is.
I pitched the idea to friends and family. The feedback I had received was mixed, but everybody liked the name. My parents both said it was a great idea, but that I would need to look into how Mississippi is trying to improve race relations. I would also need to back it up with news and examples of the state doing this.
My friends who were from Mississippi loved the idea for the campaign. They felt that the rest of the country looks down on Mississippi and the rest of the deep South because of its past, but they want to spread word that Mississippi is as welcoming as any other state.
My friends from out of state, on the other hand, still feel Mississippi owns these Confederate symbols and has not made much of an effort to get rid of them. One even said that my “campaign would be just one great big lie.”
If I actually carried out this marketing campaign, I think it would definitely get my message across because I would have reached out to adults and teenagers.
What I learned about state perceptions from this project is that every state has some sort of stereotype, whether it’s Mississippi is racist, people from New York are rude, or even Texas has cowboys there. Those perceptions all have to do with how media has reported it.
Every state also has some sort of good. Mississippi is known for its great food, music and hospitality. I definitely want to take a bigger survey about whether people think Mississippi is misunderstood or if its reputation is accurate.