We Might Be Rednecks, Natalie Grigson Might Be a Dumbass

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I tell you what. That thar Natalie Grigson dont know what in tarnation shes talkin bout
  • I tell you what. That thar Natalie Grigson don't know what in tarnation she talkin' 'bout
Here's really all you need to know about Natalie Grigson's list of the 10 Most Redneck Cities in America over at the Movoto Blog ("The Lighter Side of Real Estate") — she put Atlanta at No. 1.

Yes, Atlanta Atlanta. The one in Georgia. Yes, I know, who doesn't think of "rednecks" when they think of the home of Emory University and CNN and a $304 billion dollar economy and Outkast and fantastic gay bars and unusual strip clubs? I know the first thing that pops into my head when I hear about a majority African-American city is "Gee, I bet a lot of rednecks live there." I know the list is supposed to be funny, but the biggest laugh has got to be the unintended humor of declaring Atlanta the top redneck spot in the country.

There are other laughs — like Nashville being fourth on the list. I mean, I get it. Our being the new "It City" is annoying. But there's something kind of ugly and pathetic about deciding to knock us down a peg or two by pulling out that old, "Oh, they're all hick bigots down there" slander. Not that Grigson is owning up to calling us hick bigots. No, she's just calling us "rednecks" in jest: "Now, I don’t use this term negatively at all. In fact, thanks to Jeff Foxworthy with his hundreds of 'you might be a redneck' jokes, the term has been adopted fondly, proudly, by these tobaccie-spittin’ folk."

Apparently Grigson is unfamiliar with the idea that it's OK for people within an insult's target group to use that insult with each other, but it's not cool for people outside that group to decide they can use a slur because they don't mean it in a bad way. Though Grigson does mean it in a bad way — we might not be bigots in her book, but we are stupid, dress poorly, and like to keep our lawnmowers in good repair. (This criterion was a little bit strange to me. Do people in non-redneck cities not mow their lawns? Or do they just throw their lawn mowers out when they stop working? If wanting a working lawn mower makes you a redneck then who among us is not a redneck?)

But I noticed some other issues with Grigson's rankings. Yes, we have a speedway upon which NASCAR events have been held. But they haven't been in some time. Yes, we do have four country music stations, but two are WSMs. And is our tendency to dress tourists up in cowboy boots and hats for easy identification really being held against us?

The thing that bugs me is that redneck doesn't just mean "rural, working class white person from the South." It has a long, ugly history you can't just pretend isn't there when you use it as an insult. It does mean someone stupid and bigoted and, yes, rural, working class, white, and usually Southern. It's a term used by the "right" kind of white people to have someone to project all their sins upon. We're not the racists. It's those rednecks. We're not the violent assholes. It's those rednecks. Etc.

That's how the word is always used, to mark a clear delineation between, say, a woman who is from some hip place like Austin and went to college and now calls herself an "adventurer" and those hilarious dumbasses who aren't quite as cool as her. Though she spots the rednecks around her when she's shopping at Walmart with them, so I don't think the distinction is as clear as she likes to pretend.

Anyway, Nashville, we have been insulted, but by an idiot. So, I think we'll live.

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