Mannerly Mississippi

Mississippians scold their children from toddlerhood forward for anything perceived as rude. Say sir and ma’am. Sit up straight. Don’t speak unless spoken to. Don’t say anything that might hurt somebody’s feelings, or about politics, or about church–unless it’s to claim how much you love your own.

Suppression comes naturally to us. Sometimes I wonder if we can fully articulate what we feel.

Our cult of mannerly behavior also makes it far more difficult to stand up for the truths embraced by a minority. We have a long history of using manners to shun those influenced by outside agitators and woke college professors. Mississippi isn’t a state, it’s a social club. Want to put an end to dissent? Don’t invite the dissenters to the party. Don’t let their bills out of committee and onto the open floor of the legislature.

Would Mississippi be a better place if we worried less about mannerly behavior and more about truth? Or should we continue to embrace manners, lest we find it impossible to get along without them?

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15 Responses to Mannerly Mississippi

  1. Skylar Nichols says:

    Mississippi cannot change unless those who live here are willing to, or even have the ability, speak out about what they believe. I know from experience that it is not easy to talk about your opinions with those older than you if those opinions differ from theirs in any way. There is no room for conversation because any real conversation is considered disrespect. Many Mississippians are just not willing to hear an opinion that they do not like. This goes for a lot of people but I find that Mississippians are particularly obnoxious about it. A problem I have seen here is that many times those who think differently ae written off as weird so anything they say must not be valid. There is no better way to win an argument than to make sure there is no argument at all. But Mississippi needs to have that argument. Mannerly behavior needs to be thrown out the window.

  2. Zuyi Li says:

    I think is really important to be able to speak out our idea. We should be able to speak about our idea without any interference. Suppress the freedom of speech is not an idea for this country. Manners are important, without manners this society would just be like a circus; everyone will just speaking over each other, without any respect towards each other. However, manner should not be an obstacle for anyone that is trying to express their idea. Speaking of this, instead of using manner to suppress people’s ideas, if Mississippians are all about the manner, they should be more respectful about other’s ideas, instead of using manner as an excuse to stop anyone from speak out their idea. In my opinion, Mississippi would be a better palace if all ideas are being expressed. This allows Mississippi being able to have different perspectives which will allow us to see a different side of things. The more input we have from our community, the better our state will become.

  3. Khushi Patel says:

    I believe manners and being able to say what you feel freely are both important. Without manners, people would just do and say what they want which can also be disrespectful to others. This could also cause major fights among people because they feel disrespected. Everyone should respect each other and different opinions as well. Everyone should also be able to say their opinions freely but it should be said in a respectful and calm manner. Not all people will agree on the same thing. There will be disagreements but if people learn to be respectful towards different thoughts, Mississippi would be a better place. I agree with Zuyi about everyone should express their ideas respectfully which will help Mississippi. With different views, we get to see different sides of a situation that we may not see at first. I also agree with Skylar that change cannot happen unless the people are truly willing to change and speak out on their points of view. If Mississippians are not willing to change, then the state as a whole will not be able to change.

  4. Evie Guigley says:

    Manners are what people believe makes a society. Some believe that without them that the world will fall apart. In the previous draft of my comment before my computer decided to erase it, I talked about how Mississippi forces everyone to do things its way. “It’s my way or the high way”. It forces people in a box because every culture does things differently. Due to what is seen as polite or rude, Mississippi does not like new cultures or new ways of doing things. It ties a lot back into tradition, or as Tumblr calls it, “peer pressure from dead people”. Some manners do not have any logical reasoning. A lot people see it as rude to tell the blunt truth. People don’t want to speak up against majority because it seems rude, but it silences the minority. It’s like having your toes stepped on by someone but choosing to ignore because you don’t want to be rude. You suffer. Mississippi will never be perfect, but dear golly, people need to relax. Forcing people to due things based off of old traditions, Mississippi makes it impossible to improve. I would like Mississippi to not force people into obeying its traditions and way of life, but instead, it should respect and listen. People from two different sides can still work together to met an end. Just because something is different doesn’t mean it is weird or bad. You can still hold your ground and speak your ideas without it being rude. People just need to not have their panties in a twist because people disagree with them. That’s one of the main issues of today. People treat their way of life as it is the only way to live life, and that’s why Mississippi has a lot of trouble taking in new ways of life because they were taught that is wrong. People hate being wrong, but they love to be right. Recognizing a problem is the first step in finding a solution. I bet you that Mississippi will never think it has a problem. It’s always someone else’s fault. If Mississippi would sit down and try to see things from another angle, maybe, for once, the state will get better. It will never be perfect. It will always have issues, but it can get better.

  5. Chloe Sharp says:

    I have never understood why manners are such a big deal. Yes, you shouldn’t be a jerk to people but my goodness the way that people revere manners in the south is ridiculous! Being unable to speak up because society says it’s “rude” has led to so much oppression in the south that no one is allowed to talk about! I don’t know if Mississippi would be a better place if people would stop caring so much about if society disagrees with them, but it would most certainly be a step in the right direction. Manners hold us back as a society. I’m going to have to disagree with Khushi for a second because I feel like if we didn’t have manners at all, people wouldn’t feel disrespected if someone spoke their mind. Of course, you shouldn’t be a jerk about it but I think it’s important to have discussions about heavy topics that aren’t necessarily calm and respectful because there are some issues that if you debate in a calm, respectful way, that conversation won’t go anywhere. I think that people need to learn to argue with one another without getting offended. People need to talk about their differences in opinion so that they can understand one another and find common ground. If people are only allowed to think the opinions that form inside of their own heads with no ability to learn about other sides, there is no way for opinions to change or for people (or places) to grow.

  6. Courtenay Sebastian says:

    Personally, I think one thing that defines the south, is our manners. When I’ve traveled up north( and by up north I mean Ithaca, new York) to visit some of my mom’s family, they are taken aback by our manners. They almost find it rude how nice we are. I think. Speaking to both realistically, I think we shouldn’t do away with those manners. They kind of make us the way we are, the same way we love sweet tea and turnip greens. If we were to ask any of part of the US to give up their unsweetened tea and jersey accent, they wouldn’t know what to do. It’s kind of what makes them, them.

  7. Hunter Chunn says:

    I have what some would consider a unique view of the South. My parents grew up on the West Coast and my dad is in the Air Force, so I grew up around people from all over the US. While manners were part of my upbringing, my parents put a bigger emphasis on overall politeness and good behavior. Mississippi is much too “polite”. Or, it likes to think it is polite. While I am certainly generalizing here, I have found that manners oftentimes take precedence over the truth. The South has some codes of honor that have already been mentioned (children don’t speak unless spoken too, everyone says “ma’am” and “sir”). While seemingly innocent rituals, these “manners” create a culture that shuns dissent. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been given nasty looks after stating my views on religion, just because I don’t believe in a traditional “God.” A culture that truly valued polite manners would not shun views that differed from its own. Instead, it would embrace the diversity that other beliefs can provide to better the lives of everyone.

  8. Max Dobbs says:

    With regards to Mississippian manners, we should treat individual advice and cultural critique differently. From an individual perspective, manners are a tool. I try to maintain good manners, as it benefits me in social settings (though I struggle with “ma’am” and “sir”). On the other hand, if someone is kind yet uses poor manners, I will not criticize said person because there is nothing morally wrong with poor etiquette.

    At the same time, I believe it clear that Mississippian manners are harmful in a variety of ways. Dr. Easterling illustrates the biggest problem perfectly: “Don’t say anything that might hurt somebody’s feelings, or about politics, or about church–unless it’s to claim how much you love your own.” For the average Mississippian, this seems to work out well. If no one criticizes you, no one can make you feel bad about your ideas. But when gay people are told they are going to burn in hell, or when immigrants listen to a conversation about how they should be deported, where is the civility? It is not merely discussion of politics and religion that is taboo, but debate over them. As long as this continues, the problems of Mississippian culture will remain unchallenged.

  9. Maddie Flowers says:

    I think Mississippi being so headstrong about manners is a good thing. But I think manners should be used to a certain extent. I’ve always been taught to be respectful, say yes ma’am or yes sir- things to that extent. If someone has poor manners, it is not my place to criticize them, nor do I want to. However, I also believe manners are constrictive in a way. Quoting Max, “Don’t say anything that might hurt somebody’s feelings, or about politics, or church–unless it’s to claim how much you love your own.” ” Now this I can understand; however, I feel people deserve to know the truth. Mississippians have no problem condemning the lgbtq+ to hell, so why should I not be able to discuss my views on a certain topic? As I get older, I’ve realized the impact of my voice and how I don’t have to tolerate things from others to be more “respectful.” If something makes you uncomfortable, you should speak up. There comes the point where you can’t be quiet anymore.

  10. Merideth Johnson says:

    If Mississippi did away with manners, and accepted the views of every, Bob, Rick and Larry that came by, it would make Mississippi simply like the other “progressive” states. Now, let me back track and say that there is nothing wrong with progression as a society and diversity, but I feel like Mississippi gets so much hate already for who she is. Sure, we have a bad history with racism and pushing out those that disagree with us, but I do not think that doing away with the values and traditions of Mississippi are holding it back and I do not think it is fair to say that Mississippians as a whole are the problem. The rest of the world thinks we are dumb rednecks just like in the movies, so instead of generalizing Mississippi as having harmful “conservative” values that need to conform to the ideologies of more liberal states, I feel like people should attempt to understand Mississippi more than what they simply see and hear on a screen. The way I see Mississippi(and the rest of the world), it is up to individual people to respect the opinion of others and teach others by example how to act when you disagree with someone. Just because you don’t see eye to eye doesn’t make the other any less deserving of being treated with respect. In fact, I believe that to have a healthy society, you must have differing opinions in order to learn how to argue with others in a way that maintains manners and respect for those who disagree. However, a problem I have seen on the rise is the forcing of one side of the political spectrum down on the other all while preaching “respect for other’s opinions” and “unity.” I see it all over major social media platforms. I see it happen in school (which is very sad to me) and in social settings where a slight, general comment about politics is introduced and everyone laughs and agrees and if you were to imply in any way that you disagree, you immediately get side-eyed and labeled as an outsider amongst many other names. These individuals are being silenced because they have differing views and if they speak up, they are almost immediately met with foolish name-calling and labeling. Now, this is on both sides. Don’t get me wrong. But with the political climate change over the last year, I have noticed this trend take an extreme hold. Because politics is all over social media whether people realize it or not, their mindset towards one party is influenced and the people have become more divided than ever.
    Mississippi gets a bad wrap for its political history and traditions. And yes, we do need to change some things for the betterment of the state. However, implying that we should do away with what makes us unique seems like one step closer into simply conforming with the pressures of those who hate because they do not understand (the root of all discrimination).

  11. Gracie Rowland says:

    Mississippi is absolutely a social club, at least from where I’ve stood. Everything is about appearances, connections, and achievements. I’ve seen the inner workings of my town pretty close up, and I’ve also heard about a lot of unethical business decisions (mostly due to nepotism, classism, and racial prejudice). Mississippi is so far from the future it’s like living in Mayberry sometimes. However, I do not believe that all manners contribute to suppression, and I think that some are vital to maintaining respectable social interactions.

    Things like proper dinner propriety, saying please and thank you, yes sir and yes ma’am, smiling and opening the door for strangers, making polite conversation with anyone near you during awkward silence, and more help contribute to a more civilized society. To win at any game you must first learn the rules of the game, and good manners are the rules of this godforsaken society, whether we like it or not.

    I understand the whole idea of revolting from decorum, I really do. And decorum can be forgotten about in many informal interactions! However, as people with the goal of changing the world for the better, we must all first gain influence and trust, and to do that we must play by the rules of the game when trying to win it. So, although manners can be exclusionary if taken to extremes, they are overall good attributions to our social interactions.

  12. Mackenzie Knighten says:

    Growing up in Mississippi, I do believe manners are a big part of our culture and it is a good thing to have when talking to people. However, I also strongly believe manners are a way for people to get themselves out of situation where they feel uncomfortable with the truth. Take a classroom for example. I have seen plenty of instances where a students is trying to display the way they feel or how they feel they are correct about a certain situation but the adult silences the student on account of “disrespect.” Some times the student would not even be showing signs of disrespect, but the adult views any form of expression as disrespect. That is a big problem. Older people need and people who have a “closed mind” need to learn how to accept people portraying how they feel as just that, portraying how they feel and not disrespect. I feel that is a southern problem as well and not just a Mississippi problem. The south is known for being more respectful and having manners, but we are also very behind on how we view the world.

  13. Nina Patel says:

    I believe that manners are essential, but we should be able to say what’s on our minds without the fear of hurting other people’s feelings. Manners are important because if we did not have manners, it does not show the respect that we have been giving for so long. We need to speak our minds because there are too many troubling problems that need to be addressed, and the main concern should not be if we are respectful or not. To some extent, we need to monitor how we say things because people could take it out of context. Older generations need to understand how people say things and automatically think that they are disrespectful. I do, however, believe that we have to embrace our mannerly state other than move away from it. I agree with Gracie that Mississippi is all about social interactions. Manners are a cause of a more civilized society, and we need to keep that going. Good manners make Mississippi who she is. If we did not have good manners, we would get more hate than what we already receive.

  14. Chingun Tsogt-Erdene says:

    When I first moved to Mississippi in 2019, one of the first things that surprised me were the manners people had. It was so different from how people acted when I lived in North Carolina. Narrow minded thoughts were said and I couldn’t believe how different Mississippi was. It felt like they were forced to do this and viewing this way can’t lead to much progress in social life. To be honest I think manners is what makes Mississippi what it is, but the truth needs to come along it. I feel like if the truth was said and many spoke out, we could have different views about the world and maybe have much more peace among ourselves with different perspectives.

  15. Mikayla Jones says:

    I think there should be a balance. Why manners are be important, they are constrictive. We need manners because you don’t need to say anything just blatantly rude to anybody. How is Mississippi so mannerly when Jimmy Lee and Bobby call people slurs on the daily? Being mannerly has conditioned me to suppress my true feelings on certain manners by keeping my thoughts to myself, even when Jimmy Lee and Bobby say their piece to my face. You need to say yes ma’am and no sir and respect your elders. However a lot of elders are stuck in their ways and say things that make people uncomfortable. I know from experience that I have been told to shut up when I am trying to state my opinions to elders. I am known as a very blunt person and sometimes its hard to be respectful to people when they don’t listen. You need to speak your piece but you also have to listen to other people when they speak theirs. If you come across as completely disrespectful when stating your opinion on things, people won’t listen to you anyways. You must find the balance between being mannerly and being truthful for everything to work out smoothly.

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