Sweet tea, porches, yes ma’am, and bless your heart. It didn’t matter how goddamn stupid we thought you were, even if you were married to your first cousin, we were raised to smile, be polite, and show nothing but the utmost of respect. If that makes me a “social justice warrior,” so be it.
Seriously, the worst insult we were ever allowed to utter in public was “bless your heart”, and we better not do it with a hint of an attitude, or we’d see the back of Momma’s hand right before we felt the rattling of our fucking teeth. We weren’t allowed to say nasty words like “crap” or “dang”, because they were too close to curse words, and if we even thought about taking the Good Lord’s name in vain, we’d eat a bar of Ivory Soap for dinner.
When it was brought to her attention that the word “retarded” was offensive to some people, my God-fearing, Evangelical, Socially Conservative Mother immediately proclaimed that word was off-limits and would never again be tolerated. Neither she nor Jesus had any room for insults, especially those aimed at the less fortunate. Despite all of her faults, my mother had a heart of gold, she would never intentionally hurt another person, and she would die before she let one of us do it.
This hit me square in the nose last year when Ole Miss decided to take down the state flag from its campus. I started a small war on my Facebook page with the following post:
The students at Ole Miss voted to bring down the Confederate Flag, and the administration agreed. Many people are angry, screaming how wrong it is, signing petitions, raising money (for what?), and claiming the PC Police are winning again. May I offer another point of view?
Our children, the next generation, were raised by us to be better than we are. That’s what we strive for. Our children looked at something they saw as a wrong, an offensive reminder of a history that treated many of their friends’ ancestors as property, and decided to do what was within their power to make it right!
They saw an object, a piece of cloth, that caused hurt and sadness, and they said no more! We will not stand by and allow a stupid remnant to make our brothers and sisters feel like less of what they are. Why are we not bursting with pride? This is Mississippi, the epicenter of the Bible Belt. We pounded into their heads statements like “What would Jesus do?”
Well, I never met Jesus, but I do not think he would have continued wearing, saying, or waving anything that served no purpose but made his fellow citizens feel pain. In fact, Jesus was a social justice warrior, but you won’t hear that from the street corner preachers and televangelists preaching condemnation and discrimination.
Many of you ask…what next? Change the name? Perhaps. Change is small. It started with the mascot, and no, at the time I did not get it. I mourned the rebel man I grew up with. But with this, with THIS, I get it now. We succeeded! We raised a generation of thoughtful, empathetic children, who stand up for what they believe in, who stand up for their classmates, who don’t give a damn what we think about it! And that, my friends, is success.
That is what the next generation is already accomplishing before it is old enough to drink. Who are we to sit back and gripe? I for one will not. I will proudly support the next generation as it continues to break down barriers for everyone. This generation will fight for fathers’ rights, equal pay, respect for disabilities. This is where it starts. Right here. Right now. In Oxford, MS!
Although my mother passed away unexpectedly some years ago, I try to look at where we are today through her eyes. Momma was compassionate, and she genuinely cared about other people. If someone said, “This is offensive to me, because…” I believe Momma would have listened to them with an open mind and an open heart. She would have done her very best to respect her fellow human being, to treat them as she would want to be treated.
Unfortunately there are some people who have taken advantage of this kindness and, at least in my opinion, have pushed it too far. However, I do not believe that in any way negates basic human decency. Twenty years ago, the very attitude that we defined as simple respect has been hijacked and termed “politically correct” by folks who resent the pushback they receive when they spout off at the mouth. And those of us who, like Momma, insist upon a level of basic respect and human decency, get labelled a “Social Justice Warrior” as an insult.
Well, in memory of my mother who taught compassion and empathy for others, I will wear that badge with honor.