I've been called out
A blogger named Alasandra took exception to a comment I made over at Daily Kos a couple of days ago about Mississippi being a social backwater. One thing she didn't do, apparently, was actually read the context in which I wrote those words, even though they're readily available. What follows is my reply to her.
You know, if you're going to bash someone, it's good form to get your facts straight and not mischaracterize what they say. For starters I made it very clear in that exchange that I am not a Yankee. I was born in Texas, lived in Louisiana until I was 30, lived in Arkansas until I was 34, and currently live in Florida. In all, I've spent two of my 38 years living in the south, most of it in the deep south.
Secondly, none of the stuff you mentioned precludes Mississippi from being a social backwater. I keep up with it because my teenaged daughter lives in Waveland currently.
You have Haley Barbour as governor--a Republican who gladly accepted an endorsement from the racist CCC during his first run at the job. You have Trent Lott, who is a big fan of Strom Thurmond, as one of your Senators. You have a racist state flag, and when the state put it up for a vote a few years back, the vote fell largely along racial lines, with white people telling the black citizens "get over it."
You have some of the most restrictive anti-abortion laws in the state, and if memory serves, one clinic that does them statewide, and they only do them a few days a month.
Gay bashing is a state sport. (My ex is an open lesbian, so I get to hear these stories as well.)
So, in the major social issues of the day, Mississippi is decidedly a backwater, and all of the pretty things you pointed to in your post don't change the fact that if you're not straight, white, and male, you're pretty much at a disadvantage living there.
I'd like to add a couple of things. Saying Mississippi as a state is backwards socially is not an insult to any individual citizen of that state. It's a description of the situation, and in this case, an insult to the people in that state who perpetuate the situation. If I have to listen to people crack on Florida's issues with voting, then Mississippi gets to hear it about their racism, sexism, and homophobia.
One last thing. The majority of what Alasandra points to in her defense of Mississippi has nothing to do with social issues and everything to do with culture--music and literature dominates her list, and being a fan of both the blues and southern literature (my first online persona came from a Faulkner novel's title), I certainly appreciate the huge cultural contribution the south continues to make. Hell, I was published in the Southern Review's southern writers issue. The ironic thing is that many of those great cultural contributions evolved the way they did because of Mississippi's (and the South's) socially backward attitudes toward race, gender and sexuality.
So Alasandra, if you'd like to make this a conversation, I'll be glad to have one, but it needs to be a conversation, not one person accusing another without cause.