Monday, July 16, 2012

"Why Do You People . . . ."

I've noticed that someone from outside of the South is apt to sally into a criticism of the South with an opening like "Why are/do you people [fill in space] or Why aren't/don't you people [fill in space], like:

Why do you people seem to be so obsessed with football?
Why do you people eat grits/crawfish/alligators/yams?
What do you people see in barbecue?
Why don't you people show more energy at work?
Why do you people say 'you all'?
Why do you people elect such silly people to state offices?
Why do you people put old sofas on porches to sit on even though they are really indoor furniture items?
Why aren't you people in [insert state or city] as efficient as we are in L.A.?

Anyway, you get the drift.  There's this mania for sameness, the fixed smile, the mown lawn, the obsession with speed and productivity.

In Louisiana, we have a staying that we work to live; we don't live to work.

And sometimes the answer to those questions is:

Because it's fun.
Because they taste good.
Because they amuse us.
Because we don't want to be.
Because I want to do it!

and a number of other plausible answers.

Actually, the incident that started me getting on edge happened while I was a preteen.  I overheard this officious woman with a Northern accent ask my mother disapprovingly, "Why do you people let your daughter dress like that?" 

Mom simply responded, "Because it makes her happy."  Imagine that: Mom thought that my happiness or joy was a sufficient justification for me to wear play clothes! 

There's a surprising little scene in The King and I.  The King of Siam was attempting in the play (and in real life) to discourage British imperialism by proving to imperial Britishers that they were already civilized, thank you kindly.  He had the ladies of his court dress like Englishwomen, and eat English-type food.  They were not convinced.

The scene, which tended to play on the stereotypes of Asian women being silly and cute, had the Siamese ladies sing:

"To prove that we're civilized,
They dress us like barbarians!"

In all, the tables were slightly turned.

That, in a nutshell, is the basis for the issue: the grandiose assumption some people have that they have the only correct answers, and everyone else is de facto wrong.

Hawaii is sufficiently different and remote as an American state so that the visitor expects that things will be different, and it's okay.  After all, it's part of the charm of that island paradise.  And it's far enough away and different enough to qualify as "exotic" [having hula dancers and ukulele music helps.]  But why not allow the same grace for Texas or New York or Rhode Island or Louisiana?  Do we have to take up hula dancing also?


Big Sky Heidi said...

Hawaiian Hello Kitty is so cute!

Some people wonder that, since I came from Tennessee, that I know how to wear shoes!

Bilbo said...

Each of the various regions of the US of A has its own quirks and oddities; I'm sure that Southerners wonder why we Pennsylvanians, Michiganders, etc, do the things we do and eat the things we eat. It's all part of the charm, and of our national desire to confuse tourists.

Anemone said...

We on the left coast get it for such things as the surfer lifestyle, cultish groups, and even how the teens speak.

Grody to the max!

Mike said...

Move to Missouri. We're half North half South. You can change sides by moving a few blocks.

Elvis Wearing a Bra on His Head said...

Come live in Alabama. Good times in the Rocket City.

Banana Oil said...

The Olive Garden review in ND went viral -- they were astonished that the writer took the non-accepted view of liking it.