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Jeff Whitten: Appropriating some culture
editor's notes

Imitation used to be considered the sincerest form of flattery, and for that reason and for a good long while I had a hard time understanding all this talk of “cultural appropriation” being a bad thing.

I mean, c’mon, if some doofy looking kid the color of an egg white wants to dress up like Flavor Flav (my cultural references are dated) and talk like Snoop Dogg, what’s the harm in that?

Then I got woke. And now I know.

It happened for me when a lady said “Bless her heart,” and repeated it over the course of a conversation about six times, only it didn’t sound the way it does when a southern woman says it, which is how it should sound.

It sounded instead like former Brave’s second baseman Mark Lemke saying it, or Marge Simpson’s chain smoking sisters, or those scary sounding broads who used to call up QVC to tell the good looking hostesses how wonderful that new Cincinnati Bengals logo combination couch cover/remote holder/ ashtray/beer koozie they’d just bought for four easy payments of $69.99 felt on their salt-pitted posteriors.

Truth is, I can’t even approximate that accent in writing. It sounds like they need to gargle. (Little did I know at the time they were calling in from Rincon and Richmond Hill and Pooler, but that’s another story. This one is about me being woke.) “So that’s cultural appropriation,” my mind said. “Now I get it. Cut it out.”

It’s probably too late to sound the alarm. These days, if you hear a southern accent in a Richmond Hill supermarket it makes you think you took a right turn somewhere and wound up in Pembroke. That’s because two-three decades of mass migration southward to places near the water and big cities has pretty much obliterated our collective drawl, y’all.

Not that they were ever all that collective to begin with. Southern accents vary – my Upstate South Carolina cousins sound a whole lot like the Youtube star Ginger Billy, who hails from just down the road from them, while I’ve heard more than one local politician orate like Foghorn Leghorn when the moon was right.

My own occasional drawl, more the remnant of an Appalachian hillbilly twang, started fading away in sixth grade when I was told I talked pretty by a teacher after I told him I was from South Carolina. He asked after I said, “here,” using a couple syllables. That was in Alaska around the same time the movie Deliverance came out, and if someone from up north told you that you talked pretty you didn’t like it one bit, this also being a time when northerners thought southerners were dumb hicks and people moved from the South looking for a life, not too it.

Since I’m not in real estate and don’t get a nickel for selling homes, I kind of miss those days. It was easier going places.

Onward: There was much ado made a week or so ago about “THE LARGEST CARGO SHIP EVER TO DOCK IN SAVANNAH!!!” I just recall looking at a photo of all the containers stacked on said ship and thinking, “If that thing unloads here I bet every confounded one of those containers is going to end up getting hauled by a semi up Highway 80 into Blitchton to hang a left onto 280, etc. and it’ll probably happen while I’m trying to drive through there, and trucks will be backed up to Pooler. Again.”

The port’s expanding girth is a mixed blessing, truth be told. Unless you like ports.

While it’s created jobs and kept people who create jobs in jobs, it’s a growing pain in the gas pedal for longtime residents who live and commute anywhere near it. Which pretty soon might be all but the wealthiest of us, those who can afford – or think they can –

places in gated neighborhoods away from the sprawl.

Certainly if recent history is any indicator, the outlook ain’t good. We spend millions to widen roads to speed up traffic, then build stuff all over them and end up having to put up traffic lights every 200 feet to slow things back down before somebody else kills himself, and then we’re right back were we were 100,000 people and tens of millions of dollars ago, give or take those who get run over in the process. Only now you throw in 40,000 more trucks a day (give or take) into the mix.

My once rural neighborhood six miles from I-95, where not all that long ago you could count the traffic on one hand on a weekend but since ruined all to heck by overkill residential development, is now bracketed by industrial parks with a third one now set to go just down the road. It’s trumpeted as progress, but it doesn’t seem like it.

Seems more like looking in your rear view mirror and forever seeing an 18-wheeler riding your bumper.

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