Date: Mon, 27 Oct 1997 21:01:45 -0500

From: "Jeutonne P. Brewer" jpbrewer[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]HAMLET.UNCG.EDU

Subject: red neck

I disagree, completely and vehemently, with "free speech be damned."

To take away free speech, even in such socially sensitive topics as

"nigger" and "redneck," is but the first step in denying other

rights. And free speech is a constitutional right. Like Bethany

I fear that we are close to another McCarthy period (although

perhaps not as close as a few years ago).

Everytime I listen to my taped interview with John Henry Faulk, I

am reminded of how important it is to protect everyone's right to

free speech. When he recorded ex-slave interviews and black church

services as a graduate student, he learned about his own prejudice.

When he tried to convince others to change their minds, he became

known as a "trouble maker" because his radical idea that blacks

should have the same rights as whites. This was radical stuff in

Texas in the 1930s and 1940s. These "radical" ideas were the

reason that the FBI opened a file about him. In the 1950s he

was one of the blacklisted entertainers because of his "communistic"


As to the terms "nigger" and "redneck," I agree with the recent

comment that they are not analogous. Both terms are part of our

linguistic and cultural history. Both terms can be and are used

with positive meanings *within* by members of particular cultural

groups. Both terms can be and are used negatively, even as slurs,

by speakers who are not part of the groups that use the terms in

a positive way. I suspect that "redneck" can be and is used with

positive meaning by farmers in rural Ohio. It certainly is used

that way in many areas of the South.

I think we have an obligation to teach our students that what is

appropriate differs by region and by social/cultural group. These

terms are neither absolutely right nor absolutely wrong. Depends

on the situation.

I grew up in an Oklahoma family with a redneck background, starting

as sharecroppers before moving into a railroad status and finally

the middle class. Although I didn't always appreciate the fact when

I was growing up, my family maintained its ties to and pride in its

redneck background.


Jeutonne P. Brewer, Associate Professor

Department of English

University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Greensboro, NC 27412

email: jpbrewer[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]