Deep Prejudice About the Deep South

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I am tired of apologising. I apologised for being Muslim, post-9/11 and more recently for my Pakistani origins. Now, I apologise for being a southerner too. When an environmental catastrophe erupted in my backyard, I looked to the media to tell our stories and instead, found quotes from experts ruminating on energy policy. Where are the restaurant owners in the French Quarter who still haven’t caught their breath after Katrina swallowed their lives? What about the fishermen? While recently rubbing elbows with fellow liberals from the east and west coasts, I felt that their disdain for the lives of the south was palpable. This led to my quest: to understand why mouths drip with condescension for the south, and particularly its people.

Is it Dubya? Born in Connecticut, he was a member of Yale’s elite Skull & Bones Society. Ah, Sarah Palin? Born in Idaho, raised in Alaska. They claim Texas is imploding with rightwing conservatives: Texas has had 48 governors; six were Republicans. The former Texas governor Ann Richards once delivered the keynote address at the 1988 Democratic convention, where she famously said: "He [Bush] was born with a silver foot in his mouth."

It must be southern racism then. During my medical school interview, I was asked if I would wear a burqa and told I belonged in hell. This humiliation occurred in Chicago, not the deep south. During my Manhattan interview, I was unwelcome because I had done medical work in Gaza. Bigotry traverses the Mason-Dixon line, you see.

Perhaps then this loathing stems from our monochromatic populace, lacking diversity. Except that as a physician in Houston, home to the largest medical centre in the world, I have treated patients from Somalia, Ecuador and Egypt, among others. Our Vietnamese population blesses us with phenomenal pho and necessitates a translator 24 hours a day. Of the 82 majority-black counties in the US, all but one are in the south.

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