Friday, March 27, 2015

Are you a redneck? Are you offended if someone calls you a redneck?

The use of that word by a public official in our small city caused a mini-controversy recently.

First, the background:

Back on Tuesday, Feb. 5, the Missouri University of Science & Technology conducted a panel discussion because a couple of foreign students reported being called names at a grocery store.

As the moderator, S&T faculty member Roberta Morgan put it: "Some local Americans approached them, used racial slurs, inappropriate language, then told the couple they should return home. The students felt insulted, intimidated and didn't know how to respond."

The American way of handling it would have been to say, "Screw you, asshole," and then gone on about business. This couple was not American. In their home country, perhaps, visiting Americans are taken hostage and beheaded, so they were not accustomed to the American tradition of name-calling. It caught them off-guard and hurt their feelings.

Another student claimed he had been threatened with a gun by a motorist. Several other students told stories about how they had been made to feel unwelcome and uncomfortable. None of them reported being taken hostage or beheaded like an American journalist or Japanese aid worker or some other such foreigner in a Muslim country

City Administrator John Butz assured the S&T students that the people who insulted them are not representative of the entire community.

"I appreciate you all being in Rolla and at Missouri S&T," Butz said. "Our cultural diversity is one of the great things about this community. But there are rednecks in Rolla, and they also make up our cultural diversity... I would hope that (these incidents) happen rarely."

Continuing, Butz said the business community and the city government should pay attention if results of a survey conducted during at the forum show these racially insensitive comments and actions are common.

I've not heard any report of any survey findings.

Well, a little, very little, brouhaha broke out after Butz used the word "redneck." Some folks on social media thought it was inappropriate for the city administrator to use the word, especially in a panel discussion about racial and ethnic topics.

Presumably, it would have been more appropriate for him to say "the r-word" as in "the n-word" in reference to another racial slur.

Redneck is on a list of racial slurs, but I think most of us rednecks don't mind being called that unless it is truly used in an insulting fashion. Then we will respond, not with a panel discussion about our hurt feelings, but with words of our own--or more.

I did not get riled up about the city administrator's use of the word. The dictionary defines "redneck" as "a white person who lives in a small town or in the country especially in the southern U.S., who typically has a working-class job, and who is seen by others as being uneducated and having opinions and attitudes that are offensive."

I can't get all riled about that because I fit the definition to a T. I'm lily white and certainly not ashamed of that. I live in a small town and grew up in the country. I was born in the state of Georgia and raised in the Ozarks of Missouri, a state which has a star in the Confederate flag. I have a job, so I am a member of the working class. I talk with a pronounced Ozarks accent, so I am presumed to be uneducated. I've offended a lot of people with my opinions and attitudes over the past decades as a newspaper writer/editor/columnist.

I appreciate that John Butz considers me and my kind as part of the diverse cultural fabric of Rolla.

You can feel free to call me a redneck or a hillbilly or even a cracker, for I was born in Georgia. I prefer that you smile as you say it, but you don't have to. It's America, so feel free to use "the r-word" in an insulting tone.

Just be prepared for what might be unleashed. (Smile. LOL.)