Southern Legitimacy Statement: I was born in Vidalia, Georgia, but I now reside in Valdosta, Georgia, moving from onions into the swampy landscape to study Creative Writing at Valdosta State University. Though my accent may not show it, I am a Southern native who enjoys going barefoot and drinking sweet tea.
Sweeter Than a Vidalia Onion
South Georgia—warm welcoming smiles
followed by a sickly-sweet accent. Hey y’all.
I think of my mama—warm buttered biscuits,
a calm voice with a heavy southern drawl.
Once your back is turned, the smile drops,
the signature hospitality is gone, and I remember
the quick change in face from smile to scowl,
something I only did when I was trying to act happy.
I think of all the ladies at the First Baptist Church
with their Good morning, y’all’s and the judgmental
eyes as they look at me, all fluffy hair and glasses,
no sense of style, a tomboy in every sense.
I think about the older men, shaking my hand
as I go to find my place next to my parents in the pew.
Hey, darlin’, how are you? I’d be better if you’d stop
looking down my dress. I think of my mama again—
I think of when she would be sweet to me
while my friends were around, and the minute
they were gone, my underwear was around my knees,
and her bare hand was on my ass—Don’t talk back to me.
I think about the history that Georgia tries to hide—cotton
fields on each side of highway 221 heading north to Vidalia,
how we whitewashed the antebellum to the civil
rights era, creating another white savior narrative.
I think of the onions in my hometown—sweet like the accent,
advertised by rich whites, harvested by hands of color,
creating a narrative of our sweet little town when really
it is filled with hatred under the layers of southern hospitality.
I always thought it was funny—our small town was known
for the sweet onion and the even sweeter people,
but the onions are grown in Lyons, providing further
evidence that, like our people, everything is fake.