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Monday, July 10, 2006

An Observation: Dialectical Prejudice

While dialectical prejudice used to be quite prevalent in the United States, I don’t see or hear of it quite so much anymore. I can remember the time when, as a southerner, I used to be faced with this form of narrow-mindedness and was ridiculed by those who practiced it.

I grew up on the coast of Virginia in a resort town, and, in a Navy family. People from all over the country ended up there, and of course as a child you deal with more of this form of mockery than as an adult; that is not say that I didn’t see adults participating in the same childish repartee.

In the Southern United States, some people think that all Northerners are rude as a result of the way they talk (their dialect). Conversely, in the Northern states some think that all
Southerners are ignorant for the same reason. Could it possibly be that it is plain “ole” everyday prejudice? Or, is there more to it?

Experience teaches us to associate certain accents and dialects with certain regions of our country, state, or even town. However accurate and innocuous this type of prediction might be, it can easily become a tool of discrimination. When someone’s place of origin is seemingly evident from the moment he open his mouth, prejudices against that area and its inhabitants may totally eclipse for the listener what the speaker is trying to communicate.

There are many things that can affect how people conceive other people to be. An attachment and loyalty felt within areas of a particular dialect could result in hate and prejudice for outsiders. This could be attributed to the past when groups of people were faced with conflict over insufficient natural resources, and in an environment of deficiency, individuals needed to band together in-groups to compete successfully with other groups for survival. Dialectical groups are bound communities of mutual trust and security; thus, psychologically they feel threatened by outsiders. The less that a dialectical group understands an outsider, the more threatened they feel by them, this promotes fear resulting in prejudice. Dialectical prejudice seems to be more prevalent between Northerners and Southerners; this could be, in part, due to the fact that prejudices of the Civil War era have been handed down form generation to generation.

As a Southerner, should one be distraught by the fact that some Northerners look at the southern states as being the proverbial harbor of ignorance? A good deal of the blame for this attitude could be attributed to entertainers on television, in theater, and movies portraying Southerners as being simpletons simply because the collective dialects of the south differ from those of the north.

One might believe he is impervious to this form of prejudice, and not allow it to affect them in a derogatory way; however, truth be told, deep down, it likely doesn’t set well with most, and some Southerners may take this form of prejudice personal in consequence of their heritage.

What it boils down to is that it is just human nature to ridicule, fear, or hate what we don’t understand. Some people are just so insecure or unhappy, that voicing their prejudices is the only way they can make or, better yet, fool themselves into feeling they are better than someone else. Maybe one day we’ll grow up and start behaving as though we are the superior beings of this planet that we profess to be; or maybe we have, to an extent.

Here is an interesting site:

Image from, “The Civil War Explorer

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  • At Tuesday, 11 July, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Southerners are one of the few groups remaining that are acceptable targets of ridicule. I don't understand it, because having grown up in the backwoods of upstate NY and having lived in Philly (quite possibly the most racially charged cities in America), I spend a lot of time trying to convince Northerners that people are pretty much the same idiots no matter what side of the Mason-Dixon line you're on.

  • At Friday, 14 July, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Having been born and lived most of my life in Chicago and suburban Chicagoland with its' vast numbers of recent immigrants and having worked in construction throughout much of the eastern US, Massachusetts to Mississippi, I have acquired an ear for speech dialects in the US. At the same time, I have observed the attitudes and reactions of others to my accent and of their further reaction to my acceptance of theirs. Most younger people seem to accept almost every speech pattern and accent as a matter of fact. And this, probably results from their immersion in TV and movies. Whereas people my age carry with them the prejudices they grew up with. Let's hope that subsequent generations will be more interested in the "real" person and not be prejudiced as we were by the outer person.

  • At Wednesday, 19 July, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I spent over an hour here. Thanks so much. Very informative and interesting. We drove the mountain route home to MO from DC thru Tennesee mountains. Gorgeous area. I just wish whoever stole my camera the day before from Planet Hollywood got bad karma for his trouble. Thanks again, Donna Miner


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