COLORBEARER OF ATHENS, GEORGIA LOCALLY OWNED SINCE 1987
September 20, 2017

Fight Ignorance With Knowledge

Hey, Bonita…

I was recently at a social event, and I encountered a person who had just moved to Athens from a major city in the Northeast. They hadn't been living here for long, and I could tell, because they were making some pretty ignorant statements. Just ridiculous assumptions about people's religious beliefs, people's awareness of certain resources within the city, and really incredible assumptions about specific institutions that provide types of mental health care. I was incredibly offended, and don't want to ever be around this person again; they obviously think that everyone who lives in Georgia is a stupid idiot bumpkin.

I don't want any advice on how to deal with this person in the future, since I intend to avoid their stupid ass completely, but can you give any sort of advice on how I might deal with someone so ignorant in the moment? I really wish I'd spoken up more and challenged this person on their stupid ideas and their assumptions, which honestly were offensive to me. I imagine that I'll run into this person again, and it will be hella awkward, and maybe I should just let them know that their viewpoints were stupid and offensive.

The worst part of it is that I am originally from the South, but I moved to Athens from a big Northeastern city as well, and I think it was the best choice of my life. I had plenty of friends up North who made similarly ignorant statements regarding their perception of opportunity, personal safety and religious freedom down here. I know that right now Donald Trump is screwing up everything, but stupid people—especially folks who happen to think of themselves as being radical or feminist or out of the norm—perpetuating such dumb ideas really grinds my gears.

Wow, you really ARE annoyed, aren't you? Not that you shouldn't be. Stereotypes shape our attitudes and opinions, and we take them to heart way more than anyone would care to admit. This person clearly believed that the ignorant statements they were making were true if they were comfortable enough to rattle them off in front of born-and-bred Southerners. And this doesn't sound like some Yank tourist trying to get a rise out of the locals. I bet this person hasn't taken the time to really explore the South and get to know its uniqueness—and maybe they don't want to.

You said they haven't lived here for long, but that's no reason to insult people to their faces. I don't know what would make someone think it was OK to make assumptions about someone's intelligence or religion, but this bozo needs a lesson in etiquette. New to town or not, you just don't do that. They're probably cursed with verbal diarrhea on the regular, so don't take it too personally. You could also chalk it all up to nerves, especially if they're so new to town that this was maybe their first or second social gathering. People say all kinds of things when anxiety takes over, and they could very well be kicking themselves right now over making such comments to real live Southerners.

So, how should you deal with that kind of commentary in the future? By doing exactly what you regretted not doing in the first place: speaking up. If you heard someone talking garbage about another group to which you belong—people of color, women, LGBT+, et al—you wouldn't just let them beat their gums with impunity, would you? Read that trick. School that trick. Take that trick to college, give that trick some knowledge. And let them know that they're being rude, too, in case it's not obvious. But it probably is. Blatantly insulting cultures to their faces isn't a thing that is often done accidentally.

Need advice? Email advice@flagpole.com, use our anonymous form, or find Bonita on Twitter.

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