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Nashville Scene Redneck, Redneck, Redneck, Redneck

Yeah, that's right, we said it again

By Walter Jowers

APRIL 26, 1999:  A couple of weeks ago, this column dealt with the Jowers family vacation in deepest coastal Alabama. The headline was, "Redneck Eden." We took a little heat for that. A few folks told us we shouldn't use the word redneck, because it's a disparaging term, and it's just not cool to disparage anybody these days.

Well, I say: All y'all must settle down a spell. I grew up in a South Carolina cotton mill town. My mother worked in a cotton mill, and was an actual linthead. In between knife and gun fights, my father and brother made moonshine. My brother's hobby was cruising honky-tonks and beating up anybody who had a "Born To Raise Hell" tattoo. By birthright, I can use the word redneck whenever I feel it. I'm going to do it right now: Redneck, redneck, redneck.

Pardon me for saying so, but if reading the word redneck messes up your day, you need to toughen up some. Like a redneck.

I feel sure that there is not one redneck alive who'd get his feelings hurt if you called him a redneck, right to his face. In fact, I think most rednecks would be proud that you noticed 'em. As far as I can tell, there are just two groups of people who object to the term redneck:

1. People who are about one generation removed from redneckdom, and don't want anybody to know about it. Here's a test: If one of your golfing buddies teased you about driving a pickup truck, would you get all red in the face and yell, "Are you callin' me a redneck?" If you answered yes, then you probably belong to this group, and, yep, you probably are a redneck.

2. People who pretend they don't want to hurt any rednecks' feelings, but are actually trying to protect their own overamped sensibilities. These folks can't bear to hear a word that reminds them that half-educated, Pabst Blue Ribbon-drinking, badass white Southern boys are walking the earth and doing their misdeeds. Sorry tenderhearts. We could all stop saying redneck tomorrow, but the redneck population would remain constant, just like flies and mosquitoes.

Although I don't have any problem with the word redneck, I do have a problem with non-Southerners using the word as a weapon to beat on Southerners. Take L.A. songwriter Randy Newman, for instance. Here's a sample lyric from his song, "Rednecks":

We talk real funny down here.

We drink too much and laugh too loud.

We're too dumb to make it in no

Northern town...

We got no-necked oilmen from Texas

Good ol' boys from Tennessee,

College men from L.S.U.

Went in dumb, come out dumb too.

Hustlin' 'round Atlanta in their

alligator shoes. Gettin' drunk every

weekend at their barbecues...

The tag line of each verse is too loaded to repeat, even here. But it says straight up that rednecks are racists.

I've spent a lot of time around rednecks. I have walked the shag carpet of their trailer homes. I have played rock 'n' roll in their taverns. In my younger days, I might even have rubbed up against one or two of their women. I never noticed rednecks being any more racist than anybody else, including non-Southerners, white and non-white alike. As proof, I offer this factoid: In all of the U.S.A., there's just one road named in honor of rednecks. It's Redneck Avenue, in Moonachie, New Jersey, just across the river from New York City.

I say we have little to fear from rednecks. Okay, a lot of 'em drive drunk, and ought to be locked up for that. And they're incorrigible litterers. And they make a lot of racket with their motorboats. But other than that, what real harm to they do? They are not highly effective people. They are not going to take over the world, or even Dickson County.

My biggest problem with rednecks is the way they yell at Little League games. Thow it! Thow it ovair! My players get confused. Instead of thowing it ovair, they might thow it ratcheer.

Some of us are just looking too hard for things that offend us. Take, for instance, the goofy statue of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest next to I-65. Sure, it's ugly, but it's not hurting anybody. Who thinks people are going to see that thing and want to join the Klan? More likely, people will see it and wonder what happened to the rest of the miniature golf course.

Who thinks little Confederate flags on vanity license plates will spark a movement to re-secede from the union and reinstate slavery? More likely, anti-Confederate-flag forces will insist on having their own vanity plates. I'd be all in favor of that. It might rake in more tax money than a state lottery.

Now, before I close, let me offer my sincere apologies to any natural-born practicing rednecks who were offended by my previous column. You peckerwoods. Goobers. Slopeheads. Monobrows. I'm sorry, OK?


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