By Elliot Suddoth
Growing up in Mississippi definitely has its advantages and disadvantages. William Faulkner spoke accurately when he said, “To understand the world, you must first understand a place like 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.
In some respects, I agree Mississippi can be a bit of a bubble that hinders self discovery, but only for people who let what others think of them consume their entire life.
I grew up a bright-eyed, long-haired girl that fit in a lot more with the guys and their backyard football games than girls who were too afraid to go outside and leave their dollhouse unattended.
Mississippi allowed me, an undersized female, to hang out with all the guys who devoted their weekends to neighborhood Super Bowls and fishing competitions. I do not think anywhere else I would have been considered part of the guys’ gang.
Mississippi allowed me to grow up in an environment where I did not have to be what everyone wanted me to be, but simply who I was born to be.
I think Mississippi holds the key to hospitality, and I received my key firsthand, as I turned my Yankees hat backwards and hit home runs just like the boys.
Most of my friends are aware of the state’s negative perceptions, but don’t necessarily pay them close attention. If anything, I am more likely to move out of state than any of my friends, but that strictly comes down to my adventurous nature and desire to discover new places, while simultaneously appreciating where I grew up and how it shaped me to become who I am today.
The media’s perception of Mississippi is not something I would consider accurate or inaccurate, but simply misinterpreted. Because of Mississippi’s notorious past of racism, and lack of progressiveness on social issues nationally, Americans assume Mississippi is a judgmental region of pure ignorance that lacks modern influence.
Nationally, Mississippi is viewed as ignorant due to statistics that do not understand the poverty-stricken lives that consume families’ everyday. Mississippi, and its people, are not the problem. The media is the problem.
The media assumes untrue things about our state and misconstrues them into facts widely accepted by the nation that turns into a cult following of the idea that Mississippi is an ignorant state that has no hope of becoming progressively equal to the other 49 states in our country.
Stop the Stereotypes would be the name of my marketing campaign. I have come up with this campaign to stop the national stereotypes that Mississippi is a racist, unproductive state.
This campaign will hit all areas of the media market to urge Americans to stop stereotyping our state, learn about our state’s history and what it means to us.
First, I would hire a social media manager, a public speaker, and an advertiser to uniquely develop ideas to spread the slogan and message about our state. The social media manager would take pictures of diverse Mississippi inhabitants and ask them something positive they do to help our country in their daily lives, followed by a short reflection about what they love most about Mississippi.
The public speaker would be a well-educated Mississippi inhabitant that is passionate about education in our country, and they would inform others that the stereotypes do not necessarily portray Mississippi accurately.
This public speaker would travel everywhere nationwide describing their personal experiences, and would provide an accurate background of the state’s history that most of the country is ignorant to. Most importantly, to grasp the attention of the public, the public speaker will be accompanied by celebrities from Mississippi who talk about how much they love their state, describe their life growing up in Mississippi and how it has made them a better person.
Celebrities like Morgan Freeman, Oprah Winfrey, Eli Manning, Peyton Manning, Archie Manning, Britney Spears and Faith Hill will speak passionately all over the nation.
Once Americans are aware of the successful actors, musicians, and athletes who have come from Mississippi, they are more likely to want to understand the background of the misinterpreted state.
Lastly, advertising will provide billboards on highways that feature a giant stop sign being held by a state celebrity on one side and diverse Mississippians on the other.
The sign will feature a quote from the celebrity and the Mississippian describing something positive about Mississippi. These billboards will be featured on highways nationwide.
To increase local awareness about this issue, in Mississippi at every stop sign, there will be a negative quote or assumption about Mississippi. This is a safe and efficient way to spark the interests of Mississippians who love that state.
This will encourage residents to become part of the Stop the Stereotypes movement, and will aid in launching this nationwide phenomena.
After coming up the ideas for campaign, I sat down with three of my close friends – two from out of state and one from Mississippi. This is what they said.
Brenna Johnson, from Mobile, Alabama, said, “Honestly, that is exactly what Mississippi needs – a national reinterpretation of the state.” She agreed that by including celebrities, the public would become immediately interested and open to the cause.
When I asked Brenna what she loved most about the state, she said, “I love how it feels like home already, and it’s only been one year. I feel like I have found myself here, and I wouldn’t want to be any place else, which is definitely not how I expected to feel.”
Brenna’s dream school was Vanderbilt, but fate took her to Mississippi, and she couldn’t be anymore thankful.
Next, I sat down with my friend Payten Coale from Los Angeles. When I introduced my campaign, she said with a smile, “California would live for this. Celebrities and regular people sharing the same passion. That’s hard to come by.”
She thought my idea was brilliant and agreed that it wasn’t the state that needed rejuvenation, but American media’s perception of the state.
Lastly, I sat down with my best friend Maggie Cross and discussed my campaign idea. Maggie is from Jackson. She said, “Wow, this is pretty legit.” That’s how I knew I had done something right, considering Maggie can make a simple question of what to wear into a fashion show discussion.
Her speechlessness demonstrated just how pleasantly surprised she was with the campaign, and that brought an immediate smile to my face. When I asked Maggie what her favorite thing about Mississippi was she said: “It is my home. It is where things are simple. It is where my family and friends are. Mississippi is where I grew up, and where I want to get married and have kids some day.”
This passionate response, saying Mississippi was her true home and her decision to want raise her kids here is an important idea to take into account. Maggie has lived in Jackson and now attends Ole Miss. She has family in the Delta and on the coast, so her views of Mississippi are well rounded.
After talking to my three friends about my campaign idea, I am very proud of my Stop the Stereotypes campaign and what it means to me as a Mississippi native. After seeking the approval of two out-of-state girls and one in-state girl, I believe I have done a great job getting positive opinions from diverse parties.
This project has most definitely changed my view of my state. Like I mentioned earlier, I have never seen myself as a person who would move back to Mississippi. But it was not until this project, through extensive research and self reflection, that I realize how important Mississippi is to who I am and the person that I aspire to be.
Yes, nationally some view my state as ignorant, fat, and dumb just to name a few. But my campaign Stop the Stereotypes will demolish all prior assumptions about Mississippi and transform our state so that it’s widely accepted and envied.