Why the South looks stupid to the rest of America

Keith Bardwell, justice of the peace in Tangipahoa Parish, La., is one of the reasons that people elsewhere in the country think the South is home to nincompoops and Neanderthals.

I cannot tell you how many highly educated people have told me over the years that they hesitated to take jobs in Georgia or South Carolina or Mississippi because of concern over the quality of education. The first question I get from people considering a move here is, “What are the schools like in Georgia?”

And idiots like Bardwell contribute to the myth that we are all wearing plastic bags on our feet and eating red clay. In reading the story about Bardwell denying a marriage license to an interracial couple for concern over any future children they may have, I turned to my co-workers and asked, “Why do all these lunatics have to come from the South?”

“I’m not a racist. I just don’t believe in mixing the races that way,” Bardwell told the Associated Press. “I have piles and piles of black friends. They come to my home, I marry them, they use my bathroom. I treat them just like everyone else.”

I know that some Southerners don’t care about the stereotypes, noting correctly that industries have been flocking here anyway. But it was cheap land and cheap labor that drew many of them.

Now, we want the higher-paying jobs to come here. Richard Anderson, the chief executive of Delta Air Lines, was quoted in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution earlier this year explaining why many of the Northwest Airlines employees relocating to Georgia from Minnesota will look for private schools for their children:

“I think the high school graduation rates and the quality of the graduates that we have coming out of the schools in Georgia need to be a lot higher.”

That’s the impression of the South that we have to counter, and that’s what characters like Bardwell make even harder.

180 comments Add your comment

V for Vendetta

October 16th, 2009
12:07 pm

Sigh.

Although I completely agree with your analysis of the situation, Maureen, I find it interesting that a media maelstrom can erupt over an event such as this . . . but no one thinks twice about denying gays the same freedom to marry.

Individual rights are just that: INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS.

Just as it is unlawful (and asinine) to prevent two people from marrying based on the color of their skin, it is equally absurd to prevent two people from marrying based on their sex. However, as a born and bred southerner, neither rights violation surprises me–even in 2009.

Ernest

October 16th, 2009
12:15 pm

Though many of our colleges/universities are well respected, I know many of my friends in the northeastern corridor have commented that we seem to put more emphasis on athletics over academics. Yes, athletics has provided a means to access higher education for many however many of the perceptions still exists.

Heck, GA brags that it has as many former HS football players on scholarship at Division 1 schools as states like CA, FL, and TX. Maybe we need to begin publishing every students time in the 40 along with their GPA….

TW

October 16th, 2009
12:19 pm

Yeah, this was pretty blatant. I mean, get with the racist program and join the NRA, or the Minutemen, where you can hide your racist beliefs behind socially acceptable terms like ‘gun control opposition’ and ‘illegal immigration.’ Supporting tax cuts for those millionaires who’ve ‘earned it’ (a la flat-tax) is another good way to come in through the back door without us smelling you.

Really, those who’ve perfected closet racist schemes like these must cringe when ignorant clowns like this bring light to the issue.

jim d

October 16th, 2009
12:24 pm

Mo, this one is a perfect example of Jackassery.

Mary Radford

October 16th, 2009
1:01 pm

Au Contraire, Ms. Downey: It was my experience on my travels North of the Mason-Dixon that we, here in the South, were far advanced book-wise and common sense wise —- before the government started tampering with our schools, particularly in the Kennedy years—–get the drift?

from the north

October 16th, 2009
1:12 pm

Just the title of this article alone is funny. On behalf of black people, thanks Maureen, you get it!!

Maureen Downey

October 16th, 2009
1:16 pm

Mary, Not sure of the drift, but I can tell you that the South has never led the country in any education measures, not pre or post Kennedy.
According to Census data: Educational attainment among the population aged 25 and above: The Northeast region has the highest percentage of high-school and college graduates. The Southern United States had the lowest educational attainment at every level.
Maureen

yubing

October 16th, 2009
1:24 pm

Bardwell: “I’m not a racist. I just don’t believe in mixing the races that way.”

Same as: “I am not stupid. I just don’t believe in making sense of how I think and what I say.”

If you are not a racist, why do you make decisions using “race” as a “factor”?
If you are not a racist, why do you believe “race difference” is a “problem”?
If you are not a racist, why do you “not” have faith in “all” human beings?
And,
If you do not obey the law, why should criminals obey the law?

Jiggy

October 16th, 2009
1:27 pm

Well I’m one of those guys who thinks southerners are trash. I positively hate living in GA, and deeply regret my parents coming here in the 80’s. We have the worst schools, the most corrupt police and government, the lowest standards and the largest amount of stupidity per mile. The driving just reeks, my neighbors are stupid and I see exactly what people are saying when they describe folks from the south as arrogant, ignorant fools. The vast 90% of people I deal with here are morons.

From the new stadium, to the rampant unchecked development, right down to the shady, high-power land deals, this state you call GA is no more than a riser for rednecks if one were to merely scratch the surface.

Before you go on a flaming, patriotic tirade, just know there’s plenty of folks I call me and mine who are from here. There’s good things, maybe I didn’t mention them, but then again those folk probably don’t care to be mentioned.

There’s so much just general BS involved in my daily life here that it’s enough to move to SOUTH AMERICA. I have been there and must emphatically assert that it was MUCH much nicer. They might not have big airports, millions of people per square mile, cars in every driveway and fat wallets in every pocket…but one thing they do have down there is decency and human freaking respect. Rednecks, as it stands, are disgusting mongrels by comparison to a BELIZIAN! That’s saying quite a bit considering that they don’t even have a 9th grade there…and I wonder at this.

Where I am from in the Midwest, every Christmas when I go home is like I stepped into another world that only exists in warm family sitcoms. People walking along the street will stop and chat, sometimes even invite you over to see the game. The driving? It’s awesome, you don’t even have to do 60 to get on the highway. The police are completely nonthreatening, even at the city level. Once my cousin threw a party and someone called about the noise, so the cops came out, quieted the music down and blocked off the street for extra parking. Tell me you’ll ever see that here? Oh no, Duluth and Dekalb PD would’ve showed up swinging bats.

Finally, you will never see some ignoramus on the bench AT ALL in the midwest. People like the aforementioned ‘judge of the peace’ don’t last long when they spout off at the lips like Keith Bardwell. The people that live up north would have DARED this guy to say something like that for their spot on the news. He would not have lasted two days.

In conclusion? Hell, I don’t know. I do know all this politico is killing us. The guy didn’t want whites and blacks mixing. I don’t like my steak juices touching my mashed potatoes, but you don’t see me using my authority to enforce my views on other people. The judges and police here do, and that’s probably the biggest point: START BY MINDING YOUR OWN GO**AM BUSINESS!

In the immortal words of ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ last night: YOU CAN’T PRAY THE GAY AWAY!

Common

October 16th, 2009
1:36 pm

To V for Vendetta: Please do not equate gays’ fight for marriage to that of the marriage of a man and woman. Doing so makes an erroneous assumption that 2 people of the same sex were guaranteed by the constitution to do so. This is why the Civil Right’s movement sometimes differs from the gay rights movement; though there are some similarities. Gay rights often involves CREATING new laws/amendments to the constitution while the Civil Rights movement simply attempted to uphold the God given right of men and women as stated by the constitution.

So in conclusion, contrary to what ‘V for Vendetta’ states as an obvious equivalence – the fight for gay marriage being equated to the fight for interracial marriage- they are two VERY different things. That is not to say that gays don’t have a right to marry- I actually believe that though that is not what constitutes true marriage, because we are guided by secular laws, we must permit such civil unions. The constitution already states 1 man and 1 woman (disregarding race) = marriage. The constitution never states that 1 man can marry 2 women (i.e. polygamy- which is not recognized as marriage even though this type of union predates any type of gay union) even if all parties are in love. And if polygamist want to fight for that new right, they should by all means BUT let them not equate that to the inalienable rights already guaranteed by the constitution for 1 man and 1 woman to marry.

Guy

October 16th, 2009
1:43 pm

I don’t care what this JP believes in. If he was a minister with this kind of objection, then its his opinion/loss. But he is an agent of the government whose job is to issue marriage licenses. Let the future parents worry about the kids, not him. We have a government whose trying to be a ‘nanny’ enough.

This guy needs to be investigated. The article on Yahoo said he’s done this 3 or 4 other times.

Jiggy

October 16th, 2009
1:44 pm

Dude correction to the both of you: ALL MARRIAGE IS WRONG, get that straight right now. humans aren’t meant to live that way.

Snellvillian

October 16th, 2009
1:46 pm

It is funny to me how perception is so far from reality.
I have friends who moved to Minnesota for about 6 years. When they came back their child had to go to summer school for 2 summers because she was so far behind in graduation credits. The Mn. HS had academic classing in stuff like sewing that didn’t qualify in GA for an actual diploma.

Maureen Downey

October 16th, 2009
1:56 pm

Snellvillian,
In the name of fair play, I have to point out that Minnesota high school students have the highest average composite score on the ACT among the 27 states in which more than half the college-bound students took the test in 2009. Minnesota has led the nation in average composite ACT sores for five consecutive years.
Georgia’s average composite score on the ACT was 20.6, out of a possible 36, and though that was unchanged from 2008, it bumped Georgia in the national rankings from 41st to 40th.
Maureen

The South

October 16th, 2009
1:58 pm

I have lived in the South and the North. There is no different. There are plenty of dumbasses in the North – plenty! I would suggest that you move if you do not live the South! If you cannot move, then try to make a difference by educating those that are less educated.

Jrm

October 16th, 2009
1:59 pm

Apparently the education is not very good in the midwest when you quote the “immortal words” of Grey’s Anatomy!!!! OMG pick up a book. And if you hate it here so much get the hell out, people like you ruined this state anyway. It amazes me how people complain about how bad Atl is and blame it on the good ole boys when no good ole boys run Atl anymore, see the recent Mayoral email stories but don’t look to the upper right of this page because that just wouldn’t be appropriate on this blog. I agree the guy in La was an idiot but its no reason to lump in the rest of the South with him or think all lunatics are Southerners, that would be discriminatory and stereotypical. People are idiots everywhere and yes our education sucks but that’s because it hasn’t been properly funded and rural, less populated areas always have trouble finding good teachers. It’s a bad cycle and if you’re so smart, step up and try to help instead of whining on the internet.

Jessica

October 16th, 2009
2:00 pm

Schools here (and in the rest of the country) clearly need improvement, but I have to point out that the national media and “transplants” from other regions think it’s funny to stereotype people from the South. If an event in a southern state makes national news, you can be sure that the reporters will interview some toothless idiot standing in front of an old trailer instead of a “normal” person in the area.
We all know that it’s not okay to say derogatory things about people based on age, race, gender, religion or national origin — unless those people are Christians with conservative views and a southern accent. For some reason, bigotry against this one group of people is considered perfectly acceptable even though it is as spiteful as any other form of intolerance.

Terry

October 16th, 2009
2:00 pm

Wow Mo, nothing like tackling tough subject matter. Hats off to you. Individual rights are individual rights just like someone else said, and that should apply to children in schools as well with regard to discipline in the south.

The South

October 16th, 2009
2:03 pm

JRM – very well said. If you do not like the South, then move. If you can not move then help those that are less educated. I grew in the South and move to the North for while and now back in ATL. I can compete with anyone around the nation with my southern education. Make a difference.

RCD

October 16th, 2009
2:07 pm

If you do not like the South, then move. I do not understand it. I grew up in the South, move to the North and did not like the North, so I moved back t Atlanta. There are two options – either move or shut up – Jiggy. Better yet, help those that are less educated.

Lo

October 16th, 2009
2:10 pm

I appreciate how Maureen replies with actual facts.

Jiggy seems a bit angry and ignorant.

Koz

October 16th, 2009
2:12 pm

Jiggy said the South should “START BY MINDING YOUR OWN GO**AM BUSINESS!”

That’s hilarious.

It was the idiots in the North and Midwest that Voted in our current President – who wants the government to be involved in everyone’s business.

Jessica

October 16th, 2009
2:14 pm

I’m a little annoyed that my comment keep disappearing, but I’m going to try one more time…
We all know that education in the South — and in the rest of the country — needs to improve. We also know that the South is facing some challenges, as are many other regions.
That said, why is it okay for the media and “transplants” from other regions to stereotype people from the South and make fun of our culture? If there is a national news story in a southern state, you can be sure that the reporters for the national news outlets will interview some toothless guy in front if a trailer instead of a “normal” person in the same area. They WANT to perpetuate that image of the South.
We all know that it’s unacceptable to judge people based on their race, religion, age, nationality, gender or religion, but for some reason bigotry is okay when it’s aimed at white Christians with a southern accent. So what if it’s just as spiteful and malicious as any other form of intolerance? It’s just so darn funny…

gene

October 16th, 2009
2:17 pm

The reasons for not “mixing” the races in the past was concern for the children -OBVIOUS JUST A POLITICALLY CORRECT EXCUSE OF LONG AGO. The irony is that the first A/A president is a product of this type of union. Seems to me that he’s faired better than “kids” his peers that were white and Black.

GAY people. Regardless of your urge or how you acquired it. It is wrong! You are afronting God! God called this an abomination. Water it down if you will. Convince the whole world to agree with you, you and I know that this will never change the mind of our creator. An abomination means an utterly repulsive thing to God. Do not allow yourself to be deceived by your feelings or the strong opinions of others as the bible is very clear, even when its GAY proponents try to twist them. The truth is the Truth!

high school teacher

October 16th, 2009
2:23 pm

How do you take a racist comment by one who happens to be from the South and turn it into an argument about how the South is dumber than the North? Does this mean that Chicago is more peaceful than everywhere else because Obama received the peace prize? Anne Coulter is from New York and has quite a reputation for being uber conservative; does this mean that people in the northeast are much more conservative than people elsewhere?

I am well aware that test scores of the South lag behind other regions. That doesn’t mean people in the South are stupid; it means that generally speaking, they don’t value education as much as people in other regions do. That’s a general lifestyle choice, not a lack of intelligence. Don’t confuse lack of desire with lack of knowledge.

Jiggy, if you hurry, you might be able to book a one-way plane ticket out of this God-forsaken place and avoid the holiday baggage surcharges:)

what's right for kids???

October 16th, 2009
2:24 pm

Oh, Gene. Just another thing for the northerners to point and laugh at. Why such hate? If you are convinced that homosexuals will go to hell, just think it, believe it, cherish it, even; but please be quiet about it. No one cares to hear your rants.

high school teacher

October 16th, 2009
2:25 pm

Forgive me if this appears twice, but it went to the cyberspace abyss…

How do you take a racist comment by one who happens to be from the South and turn it into an argument about how the South is dumber than the North? Does this mean that Chicago is more peaceful than everywhere else because Obama received the peace prize? Anne Coulter is from New York and has quite a reputation for being uber conservative; does this mean that people in the northeast are much more conservative than people elsewhere?

I am well aware that test scores of the South lag behind other regions. That doesn’t mean people in the South are stupid; it means that generally speaking, they don’t value education as much as people in other regions do. That’s a general lifestyle choice, not a lack of intelligence. Don’t confuse lack of desire with lack of knowledge.

Jiggy, if you hurry, you might be able to book a one-way plane ticket out of this God-forsaken place and avoid the holiday baggage surcharges:)

jim d

October 16th, 2009
2:29 pm

Common,

LOL, LOL,LOL,LOL,LOL,LOL,LOL,LOL,LOL,LOL,LOL,LOL,LOL,LOL,LOL,LOL,LOL,,

The US Constitution —- Marraige issue??? I musta missed that one about 1 man, 1 woman marraige thing. Where exactly is that in that document. :)

gene

October 16th, 2009
2:33 pm

It does not matter who hates or likes that. I don’t want to see anyone go. We are not just spinning around here for 70 or so years. THis all means something and it more than just getting one’s jollys and doing what makes them feel good. You may want to live that way. But just because Heaven and hell seem Millions of mile away from the reality to now know makes them no less real. I will continue to warn about the “cancerous sin ” of homosexuality. Perhaps God knows a little better than we do, the dangers of this sins that ensnares and entraps its victims and is so very hard to break it grip. The men of Sodom and Gomorrah were not concerned about tending their cattle and farming their land. When this sin took over their lives they went around in a gang looking for “fresh” victims to defile. You say we are no where near that and perhaps you are right, but I refuse to call what God calls wrong for his reasons, right. Who am I and who are you if you silence the voice of reason that causes someone entrapped in this sin to seek help. Hopw cruel and selfish can you be, regardless of what you believe.

The One

October 16th, 2009
2:34 pm

Well I’m from the north (minnesota actually) and let me say that I love the ATL and I don’t think it’s necessarily a “south thing” I think it’s a Louisiana thing. Those folks are backwards there. The black people are racist, the white people are racist. Its hot and humid and just plain sucks there. I went to school next door (Texas) so I’ve been there plenty of times. Hell in 2003 during Mardi Gras there was a CLAN float during the family parade…..are you frickin kidding me!?!?! in 2003! This century! So I think it’s not really a “south” looking stupid but the Louisiana people looking stupid….and yes they are (please don’t hit me)

what's right for kids???

October 16th, 2009
2:35 pm

Maureen, can we ban Gene’s comments? I, in particular, find them offensive.

Thankful

October 16th, 2009
2:36 pm

Wow- Can’t go into detail but today I want to thank V for Vendetta- loved the comments. I taught in the North for 5 years- huge difference. Education is valued so much more and football is much less of a priority. And Gene- your close-minded and ignorant response towards gay people is exactly the type of comments that hinder forward progress in the South.

Maureen Downey

October 16th, 2009
2:40 pm

What’s right for kids, Can we start by asking Gene to forgo the preaching about gays?
Gene, Please return to the more general topic.
We try to be tolerant here – that has been the consensus in the past from posters, that we allow people leeway in their comments.
But I think the comments have traveled too far astray.
Maureen

gene

October 16th, 2009
2:42 pm

Maureen,

You really need to think about this. Don’t just listen to a society that is growing more and more bankrupt with each passing day. Maureen I love people, but in confronting this issue with all of its vocal opponents, I have to go to the source of authority (the Bible) which at times speaks quite directly. I am not here to condemn anyone, but the activity I will call out just as any other sin the bible mentions, it’s just that I don’t see a offensive aggressive group defending in this way any other sin clearly spelled out in the bible.

Evil Eye

October 16th, 2009
2:42 pm

Can anyone find an actual picture of this Justice of the Peace?

Are we sure he’s white?

Maureen Downey

October 16th, 2009
2:45 pm

Gene, This is a blog about education. The readers don’t come here for religious or spiritual guidance. I trust they can find that on their own, if they want it. They are all smart people who can read the Bible if they choose.
There are religion blogs and I think your comments are fitting for one of them.
Here, please talk about education-related issues.
Maureen

gene

October 16th, 2009
2:49 pm

Maureen,

I respect that and I will honor you request. I am A/A and I detest when the issue of racism is hijacked by the other agenda. A few from the opposing point of view did that earlier and no one, including yourself, utter a corrective response, so I did.

Nicole

October 16th, 2009
2:50 pm

Unbelievable. The man is entitled to his opinion, however ignorant it may be. However, he needs to keep it in his private life. If he can’t do a very simple job (justice of the peace is not rocket science) and follow clear law, then he needs to resign. If someone is a vegetarian, don’t work at a butcher shop. Same thing with this.

The rest of us don’t care to hear him waxing poetic on interracial children. He needs to do his job and zip his lips. Only in Louisiana would this even be tolerated for a minute. He should have been fired or resigned immediately. His personal interests clearly conflict with doing his job properly. In the real world, that’s when they let you go or you step down out of principle. You certainly don’t break the law.

NY Native

October 16th, 2009
3:06 pm

The Delta executive’s comments about schools down here stereotype the metro region in the exact same way that many on this forum are criticizing.I like to think that most people have a more nuanced interpretation of the South than stereotypes would suggest. While it’s true that Georgia schools overall lag the nation in academic achievement, when I first moved to Atlanta a few years ago from Long Island, I was surprised how much of the metro area has high performing schools. Based on test scores, college admissions records, national press, we have entire regions in the metro area like East Cobb, North Fulton or Peachtree City that have strong public school systems comparable to those up north.

Granted, we do have many areas where school performance is quite appalling but the point is that the region is capable of attracting high paying jobs and those people have ample opportunity to find an area that caters to their educational expectations. Just as I would hope that most people can see that the crazy person in La is not representative of most of the South, I hope that people can see that not all schools in the metro area are terrible.

Beth Sager

October 16th, 2009
3:06 pm

The scary thing is that this can happen anywhere in the US. I am quite familiar with Hammond and Tangipahoa Parish. I attended four years of college there and graduated from Southeastern Louisiana University. Now I live in Tennessee and spend the winters in Arizona. I could see this happening in both of those states. This couple is in their 30s, quite old enough to decide whether to marry and whether to have children.

high school teacher

October 16th, 2009
3:18 pm

Maureen, forgive me for being “ornery” today, but your discussion of a judge with racial overtones is no more relevant to education than Gene’s comments.

Philip S

October 16th, 2009
3:18 pm

You folks down South will continue to be regarded as stupid WHEN YOU KEEP ELECTING BONEHEAD IDIOTS like Bardell.
It isn’t like anybody else makes you do it.
And you have such a looooooooooooong history of it.
Do something about it or live with it.
It’s your choice.

Philip S

October 16th, 2009
3:21 pm

Elect Gene (above me).
Perfect candidate to keep up your fine racist traditions.
Er, I mean heritage!

Lee

October 16th, 2009
3:46 pm

“Why the South looks stupid to the rest of America”

Really?

So Maureen, you want to use your position at this failing newspaper to spout off about the South. At the rate the AJC is losing subscribers, we won’t have to put up with caustic pen much longer…

Hell, I applaud Bardwell for taking his stance. He is merely stating what a whole helluva lot of people believe. They do not believe in race mixing nor do they want their grandchildren to be some heinz 57 variety.

…and I see nothing wrong with those who believe that way.

transplanted

October 16th, 2009
4:00 pm

I am not born in the south, but I do like living here. However, the “perception” that the southerners are “dumber” may not be really a perception – just look at some of the comments in this blog, not just today’s discussion. People like Common, Gene, catwoman, etc. are exhibit A for that perception.

On the other hand, although racism may be much more explicit in the south, racism in the north (and elsewhere) is just as strong. You actually see a lot more interracial couples in the south than anywhere else. People outside of the north may not say it like this stupid judge, but they certainly practice it.

George

October 16th, 2009
4:11 pm

You want good schools. Try the Republic of Singapore. If you dont know where it is located try finding it on the map. The bottom of the barrell 20% of students in Singapore do as well in math as the top 30% in the state of Louisiana. Does not inspire much confidence. If you dont believe me, try researching an international test called TIMMS.

none

October 16th, 2009
4:19 pm

To Jiggy and any other transplants, etc. If you dont like it here, then leave.

Straight shooter

October 16th, 2009
4:22 pm

HSTeacher, I think this topic is vey relevant to education: Why does the South have so many weirdo stories – wasn’t the recent Bigfoot hoax a product of a Georgian?
All this feeds into the view that we’re backwards and our schools stink. And that, my friend, scares away jobs.

V for Vendetta

October 16th, 2009
4:34 pm

Common,

I’m familiar with the Constitution. The way I see it, the Founding Fathers were trying to PROTECT individual rights. Not allowing gays to marry clearly violates individual rights. Even if it were in the Constitution, it should be changed because it’s immoral.

gene,

Come out of the closet, dear. You’ll be much happier.

Lee,

He can think however he wants, yes, but based on the authority of his position, he is not at liberty to discriminate against people who wish to get married. He is more than welcome to take a position at his local Confederate historical society and reennact Civil War battles if he wants to fight for his (dumbass, ignorant, blatantly racist) “beliefs.”

I do agree with what others have said about other regions of the US. Though I am a southerner born and bred, I have traveled all over the country. Stupid is everywhere. However, stupid down here–in my opinion–seems to be based more on bigotry. Elsewhere, stupid seems to be just, well, stupid. I’m just saying . . . .

Constitution

October 16th, 2009
4:40 pm

Common…..read the constitution. There’s no mention of marriage. And not a single use of the word “woman.” “Woman” isn’t even used in the text of the 19th Amendment. What document are you reading?