I am a regular reader, subscriber and supporter of the Mississippi Business Journal. It is a great , needed and welcome publication and I look forward to each edition — including Phil Hardwick’s columns.
Although I appreciate the specifics included in a recent column regarding Mississippi’s perceived strengths and weaknesses of our state from a business perspective, (“What happens when perception is reality,” May 3-9, 1999), I respectfully disagree with Mr. Hardwick’s opening statements: “Mississippians seem to be obsessed with their image. Maybe it’s a Southern thing, this idea of caring so much about what others (i.e.,Yankees) think.”
On the contrary, sir, I perceive it’s exactly the other way around! In my opinion, non-Mississippians/other Americans — especially Northerners — seem to be obsessed with our image. Maybe it’s a NORTHERN thing, this idea of caring so much about what others (i.e., the rest of the world but especially Southerners) think about what THEY (Yankees) think about them! This longtime and well-known phenomenon seems to stem from the massive Northern superiority complex towards the whole world — but especially the American South and especially Mississippi — which I presume leads to such offensive condescending attitudes on their part.
About 10 years ago, while a member of the Hattiesburg City Council, I wrote a letter to the editor in response to a major front page AP story and subsequent local editorial which yet again “revealed “ by scientific survey/polling that many Northerners (i.e. people from Chicago, New York, Boston, etc.) had a negative perception of “Mississippi.”
It seems to me now that the letter’s contents contain ideas whose time has come again. I therefore include its text. I hope y’all appreciate it. Thanks for your reading and your writings.
I read with general disappointment (but not surprise) your recent editorial concerning the results of a recent state tourism study on Mississippi’s “image” in the minds of some other Americans — especially “Northerners”. A feeling of resignation and frustration swept over me as I thought: how long, O Lord? Here again — in the guise of yet another official survey — we must endure more typical Mississippi bashing — not only from without but from within. Not that we should stick our heads in the sand and give up, but what more can we or SHOULD we do to try to “improve” Mississippi’s so called “image” to the rest of the nation — especially the North?
It’s obvious to me (and I think a majority of Mississippians) that we get no help from Hollywood, the networks, most of the print media, or the federal government and their public schools. So what’s the use? Why must we bother? No matter how much we try to “improve” we’ll never please them (it would take them years and generations to develop another national scapegoat as infamous as “Mississippi”). AND BESIDES, WHY SHOULD WE? WHO ARE THEY?
This whole question of whether we should project a friendlier image to other Americans is an affront to all Mississippians of good will (and I’m convinced that’s the great majority), for there could hardly be a more friendly, gracious, hospitable, helpful and loving people than the average Mississippian — black or white, young or old, rich or poor. In this age of mass communication, transportation and education (?), there should be no excuse for the vast majority of Americans not to know that and I sincerely doubt it’s the state of Mississippi’s or her people’s fault if they don’t. It’s admitted far and wide that our gracious living and Southern hospitality is no myth. Why is it real? I believe it is because the majority of our citizens here in the “Bible belt” believe in or at least adhere to the values of that ultimate source of all grace, hospitality and love: New Testament Christianity. Maybe this sure reality just doesn’t comfortably mesh with some people’s images and perceptions of us. What does the Almighty think of us?
His Word says “the last shall be first”. Where does that put Mississippi in His eyes? Who else then, are we supposed to be trying to impress and why? Why is it forever Chicago, Boston, New York, etc., who set the standards and the criteria by which the rest of the world (but especially the South) are judged? WHY IS IT ALWAYS WHAT ‘THEY’ THINK OF ‘US’ AND NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND? Maybe to try to maintain their superiority complex by continually trying to give us and inferiority complex. Or, could it be because “they” have “the money” — and we don’t? What is it (besides being economically poor — and they’ve had a big part in that), that we’re so terribly guilty of that they aren’t? Why all the smug condescension and disapproval? Mississippians possess many priceless things that money will never buy in this world.
R. Scott Farris
The Mississippi Business Journal encourages letters from its readers. Letters may be edited for length and clarity. Mail: Letters to the MBJ, 5120 Galaxie Drive, Jackson, MS 39206-4308, Fax: (601) 364-1006.