Now, take a minute. What do you think when you think of Mississippi?
Most of you are probably thinking of some backward society where people ride horses on unpaved roads and struggle to read. Ironically, this portrayal of Mississippian ignorance is, well, ignorant.
The poster shown above is from a recently-implemented advertising campaign intended to address the backward stereotype that many Americans hold in regards to Mississippi. Reportedly, a 12 year old Connecticut boy was sitting next to a Mississippi businessman on an airplane when the boy began to ask the businessman about his home state. His questions ranged from, "Do you hate black people?" to "Do you still see the KKK on the streets everyday?" This experience led the businessman, the COO of a prominent communications firm, to push for a change and begin the campaign. (If any are interested, here is a link to the firm's website and advertisements: http://mississippibelieveit.com/ads/)
After visiting, I quickly came to know that the general public's contrived image of Mississippi simply wasn't true. The people I met at the hotel, in restaurants, and during wedding events could not have been more congenial or polite. There's an atmosphere of Southern charm and simple living that isn't explicable or fully replicable.
I couldn't imagine living in a state which was widely-regarded as illiterate, racist, or unsophisticated. Worse yet, knowing that everyone falsely believed that I was all of those things and not being able to do anything about it would be frustrating and insulting. Much like other stereotypes, visions of a backward Mississippi crumble rapidly when one actually encounters it. Yes, Mississippi is different than other states. It has a distinctive feel. But it hardly deserves the negativity it receives. The people are people, their problems are problems, and, like the rest of us, they're just trying to live life the best way they know how.