By Cece Kizer
Growing up in Kansas, I never paid much attention to the perceptions of Mississippi, but once I started thinking about college, I realized the state’s negative reputation.
The first time I visited, everyone was so generous. The state was quiet and laid back, and I knew I wanted to be a part of the state’s unique traditions. Once I made my decision to attend school in Mississippi, people always told me, “That state is so racist.”
I did learn a lot about segregation and the civil rights movement that occurred in the South, but I didn’t feel that attitude throughout Oxford. I haven’t ventured to other parts of the state, so I cannot say much about the rest of Mississippi, but I can say my friends and family from home have those perceptions of the state.
Most people in Kansas have never spent much time in Mississippi, so they do not truly know its atmosphere. A lot of Kansas natives believe people from Mississippi are racists and think the state is full of rednecks.
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.
Most of my family and friends now view Mississippi through the university and think the people are classy and warmhearted. However, most people assume things about the state because no one is educated about the reality of it.
What I have discovered living in Mississippi for two years now is its Southern hospitality. Just about everyone I’ve met wants to help me do my best and have opened up their home to me knowing that I live far from my family.
If I were to create a marketing campaign that revealed something about the state, I would focus on the idea of Southern hospitality one will encounter visiting Mississippi.
Since I have not experienced much outside of the university’s city limits, my campaign would focus a lot on Oxford and its people.
The name of the campaign would be Mississippi: A Home for All. Its purpose would be to prove how the people here welcome strangers with open arms and graciously help those in need.
In order for this campaign to be successful, I would develop a plan for people to become informed. I would execute it by creating a blog where people from Mississippi shine a new light on their home state and visitors discuss their personal trips in different cities.
This would allow strangers to read through guests’ positive encounters and hear from natives about their home. This would also be a source for people of the South to be reassured about where they are from.
Part of this blog would include a small section where people could find the best food in Mississippi. This would hopefully inspire strangers to visit.
I would also include video footage of people and things happening around the state. These videos would include a Saturday at the Grove, interviews of people who have visited or live here, and celebrities who came from Mississippi.
I was always taught not to believe everything you hear, and what I have learned from this is, it’s the same for state perceptions. Many states in this country have certain reputations because of their history, but places are changing, and I think it’s important for people to always keep an open mind.
Until you experience something, you won’t truly know what to believe, and people should visit Mississippi, or at least Oxford, to understand the compassion, friendliness, and generosity Southern folk have to offer.