Should I be Proud to be a Redneck?
What does it really mean to be a redneck, and why in the world would I claim any association with the label? After all, I graduated (twice) from the University of North Carolina, I'm a "professoinal career woman", and I hardly live in the country.
To be honest, I really didn't think of myself or anyone I knew as a redneck while I was growing up. It was after I left home for college that I first remember my youngest sister referring to her boyfriend at the time as a redneck.
They loved NASCAR, and four wheeling, and he had a confederate flag bandana hanging around the rear view mirror of his pickup truck.
I remember discussions about the significance of the confederate flag with my college friends. Back then, I tended to defend some of my home town buddies who owned and displayed various confederate memorabilia, because I believed they did so from a spirit of "Southernness" that had nothing to do (at least in their minds) with racism.
I grew up in eastern North Carolina, tobacco country. I thought the only way race related to "redneck" was a farmer's tan....or sunburn, to be more exact. I was pretty confused about racial issues in my youth.
I had the hardest time learning the concepts of "minority" and "majority" because I'd heard African Americans referred to as a "minority", but my school had fewer whites than blacks. And I'm not saying I was never exposed to any prejudice attitudes and practices - I certainly was! But I was more exposed, fortunately, to friends and family who didn't believe it should matter what color anyone's skin happened to be.
After I met my second husband, I also became a NASCAR fan, and let's face it, NASCAR fans are PROUD to be rednecks. We dubbed our nupitals a "redneck wedding", complete with blue jeans, a pig pickin', and a keg of beer.
One of my Chapel Hill friends told me afterwards that she was "shocked" I had called it a "redneck wedding". She thought my African American friends would be offended. I really hope they were not, and I'm glad at least some of them came to the wedding!
Because "redneck" does seem to have racial connotations for some folks, and because I certainly do not consider myself racist even though I enjoy writing around redneck themes, I thought I'd better explain a bit more what it means to me to be a redneck.
According to Wikipedia, a "redneck" is stereotypically white and poor. Well, I'm white, and I'm not rich, but I don't actually fit many of the Jeff Foxworthy "ifs".
We don't have cars without tires in our yard. Yes, we have a beer 'frig in the garage, but no sofa on the front porch. My husband has a short hair cut, and I don't own any Daisy Dukes. (I admit I have one tube top, but I don't wear it in public....except in 100 degree heat at the Preddyfest Bluegrass Festival.)
The etymology discussed at Wikipedia might actually give me an authentic claim to "redneck" heritage.
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When "Covenanters" rejected the Church of England and signed documents supporting the Presbyterian Church, many signed in blood, and wore red cloth around their neck to publicly declare their position. They were called rednecks. Since many Presbyterian Scots-Irish and Scottish Americans settled in the South and Appalachia, the term redneck settled there, too.
Another possible source of the term redneck were the West Virginia coal miners who wore red bandannas around their necks to signify they sought unionizing.
I grew up Presbyterian, my family tree on my mother's side can be traced to Scotland, my dad's family is from West Virginia, and my dad used to be very active in the Union. Okay, he worked for a paper mill, not in a coal mine, but you have to admit, those are some pretty cool (and respectable!) coincidences.
And according to Natural News, "In America, the term 'redneck' actually comes from a vitamin B deficiency that causes heightened susceptibility to sunburns." I like the other explanations much better, but I have to admit, I tend to burn easily.
What does being a redneck really mean to me? Simply, I'm a redneck when I let my hair down. Yes, rednecks are typically Southern, but being a redneck doesn't make me racist any more than being Southern does.
Rednecks in my neck of the woods are beer-drinking, NASCAR-watching, pig-cooking, bluegrass foot-stomping, country music singing, and rock-n-roll blaring friends and family getting together and having a good 'ole time!
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