A few weeks ago, a woman was removed from her longtime position as spokesperson in our school system for using the word redneck in front of a subordinate employee. It created quite a hubbub in my town that, to be quite frank, has heaps of rednecks.
The woman who registered the complaint is African American and claimed the term was offensive.
I guess what galls me is the woman throwing around the R-word was talking about her husband!
Isn’t that covered under spousal privilege — where protection is afforded to an individual from being called to testify by the prosecution against her spouse, and you can call your husband names as needed?
I, myself, have never called my husband a redneck, but he is Filipino so this just never occurred to me.
I am guilty of calling him names other than Honey, Sweetie or Baby, though. After 15 years of marriage, some ugly talk occasionally rears its head.
That’s the thing though, the word redneck seems to be one of those words that could be an insult to someone who is not, but to someone who is — well, I reckon they are pretty good with it.
Obviously, I would be remiss to not bring up race, in a story where a complaint of workplace discrimination has been filed. Still, we are talking about a white woman calling a white man (who again, she is married to) a redneck.
Racism is deplorable. It goes against everything Jesus taught us. Love one another as I have loved you, He instructed. There are no caveats for this, especially one as insignificant as skin color.
I have spent my entire life in the south and I have never considered myself a redneck. I also have never considered the term to be offensive to African Americans. Nor, do I think those words have anything to do with one another.
Being from the south though, I know we are sometimes considered a bit dense, so perhaps I am wrong. Even so, people here speak a different dialect than other parts of the country — the use of some words are so common they become acceptable, even if perhaps they are technically incorrect.
For instance, in the 7th grade my English teacher tried in vain to teach me that “y’all” wasn’t a word. I was always a very obedient child who never spoke up, especially to teachers, but hearing this was like hearing that the Pope is not Catholic – heresy. I had to say something.
We went back and forth that day. She desperately tried to explain it to me, but in my heart, in the essence of myself, my mama and my kin, “y’all” was a word. It was you made plural. How else would you say y’all come over? You come over? Yous come over? You, you, you and you come over? No! Y’all come over!
Grammatically I was wrong, and Mrs. Guilfoyle was right. Still, to this day, I use the word and to me it means as it always has.
Likewise, I think for most people redneck isn’t racist. It means you are from the south, have eaten collard greens and cornbread and say y’all, fixin’ and nosirree.
I even looked up the definition of redneck the way Mrs. Guilfoyle would have wanted me to – “one of Southern, rural, or small town origin. This term describes poor white subsistence farmers, sharecroppers, and tenants beginning in the nineteenth century. They had red necks from working in the field long hours.”
So this woman, who apparently did an excellent job for our city, called her husband a name. (This is where the bible verse about picking the splinter out of our neighbor’s eye when we have a plank in our own, seems relevant.) Further, the name she called has nothing to do with purporting racism, and she said that was not how she intended it. “It wasn’t done in malice to my husband nor to the complainant,” she said.
Sigh. How did it get as muddied as the mighty Mississippi? The only answer I know is there is as much intolerance as there is diversity. This is more than a buzz word – it is a timeless reality.
We are different from one another.
It’s wonderful when we can celebrate our differences with It’s a Small World playing in the background. But life isn’t modeled after the Magic Kingdom-and most of us don’t exist in the happiest place on earth.
Still, differences can be celebrated, and where they can’t, we need to practice tolerance. Jesus said, blessed are the peacemakers for they shall inherit the Kingdom of God. He gave us the ultimate example of patience when He carried His cross, a symbol of hatred, injustice, apathy and death. He continues to exemplify that patience as He forgives us from our sins over and over again.
It is a work of mercy to be patient with others when they slight us, and I guess depending on how you interpret the word redneck, you have to decide whether it is the woman removed from her job or the other woman the word offended who is called to be patient.
Jesus tolerated suffering and death — all for a people that no matter their race or creed, were sinners the same. Certainly we can tolerate people using the word redneck when it is not intended to be racist or hurtful.
To me, it seems with a little tolerance, civility and communication, the problem could have been resolved; the woman could have simply apologized for the offense and agreed to not use that word in front of her employee again. The other woman could have accepted the apology.
Patience, Y’all – God ain’t through with any of us yet.