Tuesday, January 24, 2006

My Official Resignation as a Redneck

This one isn't going to make as much sense without reading this post, but essentially i've decided i have to stop referring to myself as a redneck. Basically, i've realized its not worth the risk of offending anyone.

This was brought to my attention a few days ago when i went lazer tagging with my youth group. Actually it was a few members of my youth group and a ton of their friends. One of the guys was Asian, which was really cool because we don't usually get non-whites coming to our youth stuff. Then, during the first game, i had managed to shoot someone on the opposing team and was feeling really good about myself, and hollered out "you don't mess with us rednecks!" I have no idea who i shot and so i don't know who i yelled at. However, one of the guys on my team was standing there, another one of the ones i hadn't met before, and he was like "you know that could really offend some people," to which i replied "even if i'm referring to myself?" His response was something to the effect of "well, i guess it's not so bad then." Then i tried to explain briefly my alternative definition of redneck by saying that in the south, where i'm from, it means someone who drives a tractor. At least for that guy, i think he kind of understood me.

But the next morning i was praying for the kids i'd met, and i remembered that the Asian guy had left after the first game. Suddenly i was terrified at the thought that, potentially, he might have been the guy i shot and hollered at, and he might have thought i was making some kind of racial slur and been hurt and that was why he left. I've asked around and no one seems to know why this guy left. I don't even know his last name so i can't really contact him. There's a good chance that he didn't even hear my comment and that he had to leave for some other reason. But the fact that the possibility exists that i drove this guy away with my thoughtless ranting brought me to my knees. I can't let that happen again.

When i talk about being a redneck to my white friends at church, and they get confused, that's one thing. That's even tolerable. But i never realized until this happened that saying it in public could really be misunderstood. How do i ever hope to have non-whites involved in my youth group and feel welcome there as long as i'm fostering this image of myself as a redneck, which up here means uncivilized racist?

I'm not sure how i'll be able to explain the unique mix of cultures that makes up mine and my husband's lifestyle. I wish there was a way to describe the tractor owning, carhart-wearing, mud- and country-loving aspects of our personality. But the thing i know now is that i can't use "redneck" anymore.


theoquest said...

Maybe 'hick' would do.

Joy said...

Hmmm . . . maybe. It's just not as fun to say! Thanks for the suggestion.