My inner redneck

Andrea Sisney is a senior journalism major and Editor-in-Chief for The Journal

I have lived in Missouri all my life, from way down in the boot heel to the border of Kansas. I listen to country music on occasion— to Taylor Swift on every occasion— I look forward to our annual canoe trip each summer, and on any given day you might find me wandering around Webster University’s campus in my black boots. I have no problem spending a hot summer day fishing on a lake, and I have a fond memory of my grandmother taking me out to a community garden as a girl, where we picked corn and green beans right of the stalk. You might say I’m a redneck.
Wait… is she allowed to say that?! Yes, I said it. I’ve been called a redneck before, simply for living in the state I was born in. Missouri is almost always portrayed to the rest of the United States, and the world, as a state completely inhabited with NASCAR-loving, camouflage-wearing rednecks. So what?
Personally, I see no reason why a person should be ashamed of the name—“redneck” comes from the fact that many Midwest and Southern dwellers have sunburnt necks from spending all day out—whether in a field of soybeans or a creek with a cooler full of beer.
Rednecks have a better understanding of nature and the outdoors, which often turns them into environmentalists who are continually improving society’s relationship with the Earth—bet you didn’t know that, Webster Students for Environmental Sustainability. Rednecks live a much simpler life, away from all the drama of Lady GaGa’s latest fashion faux-pas and Jennifer Aniston’s new beau. And rednecks are a welcoming bunch of people ready to have a good time at a moment’s notice. Despite what Hollywood portrays in movies like “Winter’s Bone,” rednecks aren’t so bad.
I’d like to take some time to disprove some redneck rumors that simply aren’t true. Not every redneck has a mullet—my entire family is from Missouri, and I can promise you we let the mullet die with the ‘80s. Not every redneck is racist—though I won’t pull the line here that “some of my best friends are black,” I will point out that I have been called an “uh-oh Oreo” by friends and classmates on more than one occasion. The type of beer you drink or your income has no impact on your values; if you’re a racist, you’re racist, whether you live in a trailer or not. Not every redneck is conservative — I know plenty of well-to-do and cultured men and women who vote for Sarah Palin, so clearly there is more to it than wearing a wife-beater. And please, don’t even bring up inbreeding. It’s just tacky.
Redneck has become to be a derogatory term for ignorant men and women in America, who are uneducated and impoverished. Don’t assume that all idiots who come from Missouri or the South are rednecks. Regardless of skin, stupid people are just stupid. Plenty of books have been written in the not-so-distant past, such as “The Redneck Manifesto” by Jim Goad, calling for a re-definition of the term redneck, and urging folks to take pride in their down-home roots. I think we can find a better term to describe racists, abusers and drug addicts.
At Webster, we pride ourselves on having an open and diverse campus that accepts everyone, regardless of color or creed. But I suspect that many true Missourians and rednecks out there feel a little intimidated walking in to class wearing a Brooks and Dunn shirt or worn-out Levi’s with plaid. I say that has to end—sure, we’re in the heart of St. Louis, but embrace who you are and where you came from, even if that means a farm or a town where the nearest WalMart is 20 minutes away.
To all you country-folk out there just waiting for someone to mention barn-swinging or gravel roads late at night, let your redneck freak flag fly — as long as it’s not a Confederate flag.

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