Mercy Me! I've got work to do.

Mercy Me — I've got work to do! making the world a better place – starting with me.

Redneck Religion

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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.

Too simple?

Patience, Y’all – God ain’t through with any of us yet.

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Author: Lara Patangan

Mercy me, I’ve got work to do… is a blog I started on my 40th birthday to chronicle my experiences spending the year doing corporal and spiritual works of mercy. No longer on the cusp of a new decade, I am still here finding that much work remains – in the world, my community, my relationship with God and perhaps most challenging, within myself. Please sign up and join me as we share the work that matters most – being better people. In hopes that when the decades cease to pass the world will still whisper of the graces left in our wake.

19 thoughts on “Redneck Religion

  1. A redneck (as a southern, white, female) is one of the LEAST offensive things I have ever been called! I am more offended to hear professors proclaim that southern students (or southern women) are just not good enough for grad school because they are simply not as smart as those form the north. I have been called many racial slurs by others and yet, it’s okay for them to call me those names in the intended derogatory fashion? I however, could not call myself or my husband a term used in the region often meant with a sense of endearment? Something is seriously wrong with this….

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    • Yes, I thought so too, Meaghan. I also thought how in our region it is used as a term of endearment or with a sense of pride. It is part of the culture of the south and while that culture has racism in its past — it is certainly something southerns today condemn. As always, we are more than our parts, and judging others by stereotypes and labels is unfortunate for all of us. As far as professors thinking women from the south are not as bright — beyond galling! A perfect example of someone who is in the position of opening minds living with their own mind shut to possibility.

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  2. I am a “Redneck Woman” and when someone calls me that, it is the greatest honor to me!!! I think people which do these kinds of things, truly have no life and nothing better to do. I am also from the south, surrounded by “rednecks” and the one thing I can say about us is, “Though others may view us as “dense” at least we have our heads on straight.” Good post and God Bless, SR

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    • Thank you Redneck Woman, and I trust you know that I mean that with respect and kindness! I think we tend to over complicate things and this is a perfect example of someone taking something said out of jest or endearment and turning into something more sinister. Thank you for your kind words and insight.

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  3. It sounds like the lady filing the complaint had an ax to grind and the word “redneck” was her excuse. It is very sad that this culture has become so politically correct that people lose their jobs by simply calling their spouse a non PC name or speaking their mind. Ohh well, what the hell do I know? I’m just a puertorrican redneck LOL

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    • AC — You are so funny 🙂 I hardly think you can qualify for being a redneck and not because you are Puerto Rican! It is odd that things like this have become politically incorrect when society as a whole has become so slang/lax/etc with our language. I think too how you spend so much time with people you work with — more than your spouse or children. It is a shame to be on guard that many hours a day, worried that anything you say may be taken the wrong way.

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  4. I would consider you dense even if you were from rhode island my dear!! LoL its not a southern thing. Its amazing how people can find offense in almost any words these days. Its just too convienent!! But great blog, except for the apology part .i disagree .

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    • Dolan, What’s Rhode Island? Is that where rednecks go to the beach?? 🙂 I get why you disagree with the apology but I think that just as we shouldn’t be so quick to assume the worst of what someone says, we should also be generous with our apologies even if its just a misunderstanding. You are right though we are all looking at our differences more than similarities which I wouldn’t even thing is a bad thing but somehow, we turn it into that.

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  5. Mrs. Guilfoyle was tough….but some of my best memories are from her classroom! I can still remember my first day at Christ the King and being told I had to say “yes ma’am”. It felt so foreign to me since I had spent my life in the Northeast. Also, we always used that word dripping in sarcasm when we were naughty to my mom! Now, being a southerner for more years than I will say, I am proud that my kids (try) to use those terms and realize they are used as a term of respect and not sarcasm. Words have different meanings to different people in different parts of the world. When you so simply, but of course brilliantly wrote about what Jesus did for us and how he forgives us every day for our transgressions, it gives me hope that people will read this and realize how blessed we are to have that forgiveness. Maybe we can start to do the same for one another! Another beautiful post, Lara…..and thank you for the memories 🙂

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    • Susan,

      How funny! I never though about yes ma’am being a regional thing or only as sarcasm. Language is complicated especially when you begin to consider tone, body language, dialect and demographic of the speaker. But we are blessed to have a God who is always willing to forgive us, so why are we so darn hard on one another? It just seems like with a little tolerance it could have been resolved without all the drama. Funny, I never heard the word drama in the Bible! Thank you for your insight ma’am!

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  6. I even got to create my very own Jeff Foxworthy-esque redneck joke the other morning, to the tune of “If you’ve ever fixed a bra with pliars…”

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  7. Great take on this situation! Patience with those who have slighted us. Love it! And I loved your CRHP note to me. Made me cry for the hundredth time that weekend 😉

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  8. Pingback: Tolerating Intolerance. Who’s kidding whom? | J. Keller Ford ~ Author

  9. I agree with AC that there is more to this story. It is these types of incidents which lessen the impact where there is real discrimination and hate. No one will agree with or appreciate how others express themselves. However, there must be a difference between being offended and being truly subjected to something hateful. We all make mistakes in choosing our words. It would be nice to bring back some humanity, humility and common sense to situations such as these.

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    • Well said as always Helen. There is no doubt that racism exists in our community and all types of it too. It isn’t something any of us should take lightly. But there is a HUGE difference between saying something full of hate and bigotry and merely thinking someones comment is crass or in poor taste. While we should all be judicious with out words I don’t want to live my life worrying about everything I verbalize. I think if I did I would start to stutter!!

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