Before reading, note that I am not generalizing all Southerners. I have met and have had business relationships with tons of people in the South. But there is a difference felt and that’s what I am touching on today.
When traveling for my business in the 90s-2000s I had the opportunity to visit a lot of cities meeting many different people. I remember which cities I enjoyed and which I would never wanted to go back. It’s weird to look back on this now, but I knew anywhere I went in the South, there was going to be some hint of racism in the air.
Tennessee, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Florida were some of those states that honestly I dreaded traveling to for work. I remember training my salespeople about how there is a different air about the way people talk and think “down there”. Sure there are accents and cultural differences, but there were also conversations that seemed to border the racism lines. Almost like they were checking to see if you would know what exactly they were talking about. At times it felt like a test figuring out who was real and who was “Southern”. Once you figured out someone was “real” your guard would finally drop in relief. But there were those that still believed the South would rise again, and were very present. It was always about heritage and history to them..but you knew it was more and they did too. I am proud to say that I never fell into those traps for the reasons of making a sale or a new customer relationship.
When my company sold to a North Carolina Fortune 500 I was under contract for a while. At that time I had actually moved to California a couple of years before the sale and when I showed up at their NC offices I was a bit of a standout. Before I use to live in the Midwest and Southerners thought I “knew” their political thoughts. But once I said California, you could almost see the standoffish looks. We would joke about it because it was so obvious!
The South is still fighting a war that they lost a long time ago. They cannot and will not accept that they lost. I am serious, they still raise the confederate flag with pride and think that somehow life will continue with their ignorant views. The best way I use to describe doing business in the South was like going to a party as an outsider. They would be very nice to you, almost too nice…think “Southern Charm”. Basically, you knew you were not part of their group. Outsiders are outsiders and they will keep you at arm’s length unless they know you are one of them.
I hope that a younger and smarter generation, even though raised in that Southern culture will not give in to the hate and racism we have seen in the past and present. Hopefully, they will open their eyes to see that the World is all humans by humans.