Southern in Southern California

Regional difference was something I expected to be a challenge when I came to California. I love it here at Pomona College, but even the college recognizes its lack of representation of students from the South. In welcoming the Class of 2018, the admission office celebrates “a particularly strong increase in students from the South [+45%].” Of course, the percentage increased most likely from single digits.

PHOTO IN NLR 4-22-06 257
The Arkansas River and the Little Rock Skyline.

College is an opportunity for building personal skills that are valuable in life generally, like how to adjust to new living environments. Highway this, highway that, San What’s-It-Called and San Who-Is-That. I had to take a moment to soak in all that is Southern California. After all, I’m from a state much more obscure, one that no one seems to remember, nor seems able to pronounce correctly: Arkansas.

It is pronounced: /Ar-Can-Saw/. Yes, it is a sovereign state in the United States of America. Yes, we have cars and roads, and we also have cities (*gasp*). Yes, I wear shoes. Yes, I love the country. No, I will not say random words for you in a southern accent.

Being here, students unexposed to the South want some sort of proof of my authenticity.  I feel like I need to qualify my Southern-ness, and once I disclose from where I hail, many tend to be disappointed when they don’t immediately pick up on a drawl in my voice. So sorry — that ability only comes out in emergency situations.

Coming out to California has also made me consider issues and social topics that just were not talked about back in my hometown. I learned what a PGP is (it’s Preferred Gender Pronoun). As a result, I am now much more careful when speaking to someone and using what he-she-hu-zhe (do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti) prefers as a gender pronoun (I love music, therefore the pun). Pomona College does its utmost to raise awareness and seeks to educate its students in how to respect the individuality of others. I’d like to suggest the following additions to the list of Southern individuality…

Here are a few things Southern prospective students should note when coming to California:

  • The dining halls may attempt to make Soul Food occasionally. Don’t judge them too hard, they try their best.
One day…..
  • Sometimes you will hear jokes about rigid conservatives, bad educational systems, and bigotry. People may insert any Southern State in the U.S. for extra effect. Many students think the South is where microaggressions and gender roles breed uninhibited, where there are no vegan meal options.
Do I even need to comment?…. I will, though: BIAS.
  • Don’t feel bad if you start your morning greeting others and they ignore you. Southern Hospitality has varying effects on the West Coast.
It’s hard out here for a “Hello”.

Despite all of this, Pomona College is making great strides to increase its diversity. For students of all colors, students from all across the country, and students from all across the world, Pomona College is truly working to broaden its scope. For this reason, a deliberate effort to maintain diversity in thought on campus, learning about each other and from each other, should parallel this mission. I hope to take a little piece of California with me after I leave Pomona, and I hope that I pass along a piece of Arkansas to travel with everyone I meet as well.