Southern Culture and Tradition
L. M. Henline
Arizona School of Professional Psychology
        The culture and tradition in the south was established many years ago and many have remained today.  This can be seen in many areas such as diet, music, manners, and religion.  Brief history will be explored, racial problems and taboos that remain in the south.
 Southern Culture and Tradition.

        Southerners were well known to be true gentlemen and still to this day are referred to as gentlemen.  Upper-class southern women were an essential part of the cult of chivalry.  They were placed on pedestals and treated with elaborate valor and outward deference.  Most women of the south were wives and daughters of common farmers.  There was little pampering or chivalry in these womenís lives.  Both the mistress of a plantation and the common mistress worked hard.  They managed a large household and many house slaves, which was a difficult and demanding job.  House slaves were often part of the family and the tension between womenís familial feelings for their servants, (Unger, I., 1992).
        Life in the southern states is a culture different from any other in the United States.  The southern tradition is very much alive.  Southern culture has been the most distinctive regional culture, due to the racial oppression of black Americans and the succeeding rationalizations for that exhaustive racial discrimination, (Feagin, J., 1989).  After the Civil War the slave-plantation the southern whites rebuilt society.  The plan was to keep black southerners in their place.  The New South has been inflicted with a massive display of discriminatory practices, legal and informal, for the purpose of handicapping the blacks, (Feagin, J., 1989).  Loyal southerners still hold a resentment towards the dominance of the North, still clinging to the belief that the southern way of life is superior to other ways in the United States, (Feagin, J., 1989).
        Southern culture is bound by patterns of diet, religion, music and manners, rather than by geography, (Reed, J.S., 1993).  Popular southern foods include; grits, fried frog legs, country gravy, catfish, hushpuppies and cornbread.  Homes that have a formal dining room have china placed in proper sequence waiting for company to stop by.  This room is only used for company or big family gatherings, which is traditional during the holidays.  The family table is much smaller and is in the kitchen or in a separate room near the kitchen.  If there are many children at the gathering, many times they are placed in the other room to eat so the adults can converse without interruptions.  Food is cooked and placed in serving bowls and placed on tables and after the blessing the head of the family, seated at the head of the table begins to take his serving and pass the bowl around.  This continues until everyone has been served.  After the dinner, the lady of the house will clear everyoneís plates from the table and return with desert.  Likewise after the desert is finished, she clears the table again.  Manners at the dinner table are required of all children and guests.  Everyone must be properly dressed for every meal including breakfast.  Company is always served with fine china and polished silverware.  Deserts always follow with coffee.  After the dinner, the women help wash the dishes, put food away and clean the kitchen.  This is where the best interaction takes place between these women.  The men may retire in front of the TV or outside to smoke and discuss their accomplishments or look at mechanics of equipment or vehicles that may not be working properly.  Many times they may just retire to the family room, relax and take a nap while the children play and the women socialize.
        Religion is very strong in the south.  Many public schools continued with prayer in the schools up until 1972.  Southern Baptist and Methodist church organizations have many influences on the south and their laws. Some of the favorite pastimes for the southern people include; fixing things around the house; helping others; eating; developing oneís personality; having a good time with friends and family; taking naps; and sometimes just doing nothing at all.
            Manners are very important and go hand-in-hand with respect.  Children as well as adults answer yes mam / sir and no mam / sir to their elders.  They are taught not to interrupt a conversation.  They are taught to be perfect little adults.  Interracial relationships were and still are a taboo in the south.  Both races tend to turn their back on the couple or will only accept their own and many times not except the children from this type of relationship.  Neighborhoods are still segregated and when you are white, you want to make sure you donít make a wrong turn into the black neighborhood because it can be dangerous with the racial tension still strong in the south.  There is another group of people growing in the south and that is the Cubans.  These people also are segregated into different areas similar to the African Americans.  Tensions are very high between the blacks and whites in the south.
        There are southern traditions during tragedies as well.  When someone is in distress, a meal is prepared and in the event of a death, large amounts of food are made and brought to the family.  It is a pleasant obligation.  The grief stricken family does not need to play host.  This tradition comes from when everyone had large families and didnít want the mother / lady of the house to have to deal with loss of a loved one and the loss of her cupboard at the same time.
        Community binds the southerners together as a people.  Some urban ethnic sections still maintain this feeling of community.  Southerners have worked for generations to maintain this sense of over active lifestyles.  Out of respect and honor, cars pull over to allow the grieving procession to pass.  Everyone dresses in their Sunday best, in somber tones.  This is done to take the emphasis off of the way they dress and keep the attention focused on the family who is going through the loss.  The good things are remembered about the loved one.  The focus is on his release from suffering. This is done to help these families say goodbye and work through the pain, and prepare for the days ahead.  It is a southern thing to do, give support to the grieving family, even if you donít know them.
        Other notable aspects of southern heritage are ghost tales passed down from generation to generation.  Families are close knit and many become enmeshed, full of secrets that are to stay within the family and never discussed with an outsider.  They are a loyal and proud group and many will defend the south until the day they die.
        In conclusion, the south was built with pride and much of that pride still remains, as do many of the traditions and culture.  This affects many aspects of a southerner's life in many ways.  Many racial problems occurred and still occur to this day.

Links:  Southern Web

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This site was update 2/17/2000