Ode to the South

Harvard should embrace the quirky charms of its Southern students

With all the accents floating around Harvard Yard, why is a “y’all” still accompanied by a head turn and a snicker? Almost twenty percent of the Class of 2014 hails from the South, yet students seem genuinely shocked to meet someone from under the Mason-Dixon line. The haze of stereotypes that surround southerners, ranging from the supposed lack of education in the South to the fact that all Southerners are a little bit racist, is highly offensive. The South has a lot to offer, and Harvard students could do with some Southern charm.

Although I wasn’t born in the South, Charleston, South Carolina has been my home for nearly seventeen years. For most of those seventeen years, I couldn’t wait to get out. At times, the political climate was oppressive, and the sense of tradition was overwhelming. However, once I prepared myself to move to the Northeast, I realized that everything I had found infuriating was actually quirkily endearing.

Let’s talk Southern hospitality. Tourists snake through the Yard, snapping pictures on every single path between the Science Center and Widener steps. Most Harvard students stick to the official policy: Keep your head down and look busy. Would it kill us to offer to take a picture? Would it cause us physical pain to smile as we fall victim to yet another candid shot of a “typical Harvard student?” Just because the weather is frigid doesn’t mean we should be. Aside from hospitality, people in the South give a lot of importance to respect. It makes sense that students and professors should work together as colleagues; however, tacking on a “sir” to the end of an answer isn’t too difficult. There’s something pleasant about that Southern politeness which gives respect without implying deference.

Let’s talk Southern class. The essence of the South lies in the dress code and social mannerisms. Be honest—is the clubbing scene fulfilling? Skirts which leave nothing to the imagination, with music that spells out the acts that are performed on the dance floor, have overstayed their welcome. Polo shirts, slacks, dresses, and cardigans are now such a novelty on a Saturday night. Wouldn’t it be nice to enjoy a touch of class over dinner and a bout of swing dancing? Every girl wants to be swept off her feet—literally.

Finally, let’s talk Southern food. Everybody loves barbeque and would love sweet tea if it were available. Sweet tea adds an infinite amount of deliciousness to any meal. How about grits, a more fatty and buttered-up version of oatmeal? Sign me up for the perfect breakfast food. The most noticeably lacking aspect of Southern cuisine in New England remains the absence of Chick-Fil-A. Any town, especially Cambridge, would benefit from those flaky biscuits and that delectably fried chicken.

The charms of the South could knock sense into any naysayers to the ways of Dixieland. Hopefully, next time a Southerner attempts to bring a piece of home with them, whether it’s in the accent, the food, or the general demeanor, the Harvard community will embrace them with open arms. The South has their stuff figured out. As the line from Sweet Home Alabama goes, “Just ‘cause I talk slow don’t mean I’m stupid.”

Preetha Hebbar ’14, a Crimson editorial comper, lives in Wigglesworth Hall.

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