Mississippi is a far more complicated place than outsiders generally believe. For starters its really five states in one. There’s the Delta, the Gulf Coast, the Golden Triangle, the Hill Country, and the Jackson area. While I’ve written about one of those regions they are each slightly different. That is true of geography, voting patterns, and population. New York is diverse in exactly the same way.
But there is more to the story than that. Just like the whole state, Cleveland is not a homogeneous place either. There are several different social circles around here. The black community, the white community, the DSU community, the Teach for America community all exist in largely separate worlds. Older folks and younger folks also have their own separate spheres.
Yet we all come together too. We do so at festivals, at bars and restaurants like Hey Joe’s, at Young Professionals events, and at gathering places such as Delta Meat Market. The latter is a perfect example. Though only a few months old, the local butcher shop has already become the place to be on a Friday evening. It’s not just young folks either. Everyone comes out. Well not everyone, but all the cool people certainly. We all have a good time and enjoy ourselves.
But beneath the surface I suspect there is a deeper truth. All the politeness, the manners often come from people I only see in public. No one has invited me to a barbecue yet. So perhaps the shiny exterior hides something darker? Most of you are familiar with all the statistics – about poverty, obesity, unemployment, politics – and the perception Mississippi has around the country as well as its history (or at least the most dramatic parts). As I’ve shown on this blog that perception doesn’t completely match the reality.
So which is the real Mississippi? I don’t know. Despite having made friends and lived here for nearly 18 months its hard to tell. To say that Southern hospitality is phony would be deeply unfair and offensive to many people. I personally haven’t seen much indication that people secretly hate me. And I’ve certainly met a lot of interesting people down here. Yet the view from 30,000 feet looks totally different than the view from the ground. And so that begs the question: will the real Mississippi please stand up?