When I was growing up the term “redneck” was similar to the term hillbilly, cracker, trailer trash and for some, the n-word. A term that dragged the Southern man or woman back into the days of being considered backwards, ignorant, racist, poor and dirty. Because we lived in the unincorporated part of Mobile County, Alabama, I did everything in my power to not be seen as that stereotype and I would have been devastated if I had been considered one.
Today, the term redneck is worn like a badge of honor. They are romanticized by country music as people of the earth, those who have skills that can allow them to survive in the woods when the robots and zombies come to take over the world. Redneck men are those who hunt, drink and take their women in the back of pick-up trucks, loving Jesus, mother and country. Redneck women are seen as strong women who raise a large family of kids, active in their church, stay home and make their men happy. To be a redneck is to be a true American.
The term redneck is an offensive stereotype. Rednecks are seen as people who live in houses that you would not be allowed to keep an animal in, have children out of wedlock and into violent homes, who have, due to prejudice, poverty or laziness, chosen to opt out of society. They are in and out of prison. They are dirty, have no teeth, are morbidly obese, smoke and shop at Walmart They have no job or minimum wage jobs, survive on social welfare, and for the most part are a swimming in the shallow end of the gene pool. They are angry at the government, minorities and God because they feel they are treated worse than those around them. They swear they love the USA , they are ultra right wing and cling to the 2nd Amendment as if it were the word of God, but are the first to want to destroy the government and politicians when they are denied what they believe to be their right. Although they claim to be Christians they rarely darken the door of a Church unless it is to ask for charity. They consider themselves to be better than those who make and live by the laws that govern society. They also assume that the laws of society don’t apply to them if they do not agree with them. That is one hell of a stereotype.
There are people in the Southern part of the country who live in substandard housing, but it is clean. There are families who live on low or minimum wage jobs but they are not drinking up their wages and beating their wives, husbands and kids. They send their kids to school and although they may take a little help from the government they are quick to get off as soon as they are able. They shop at Walmart because it provides a good value for the ever shrinking dollar. There are people who live in the country, off the grid, on the land and although their necks maybe sunburned from hard labor but they are not rednecks. I think their stories are more interesting and truer than those glorified in the country music mythology. Yet, in our media driven culture, it is the people who live out the redneck stereotype are somehow seen as authentic and true to their roots.
I have a problem with those who desire to validate the authenticity and glorify the history of an ugly misrepresentation of Southerners. Is it possible to get people to stop validating the most negative Southern stereotype in music and movies? I hope so, because every time Jeff Foxworthy says “You might be a redneck.” and people laugh, they are not laughing with you , they are laughing at you.