The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

It may seem incongruous, but NASCAR is making strides to shake off it's Southern/country roots and gain a more national character. The latest example: Rejecting a sponsorship bid by Website because the governing body considers "redneck" to be an offensive term.

Yeah, I know. To the uninitiated, the idea of NASCAR disavowing rednecks is akin to the Republican Party kicking out all the old, rich white guys. Despite the growth of the sport over the last ten years, it's assumed the bread-and-butter fanbase is still in the yee-haw district (I don't know how true that is; I know the NASCAR fan demographic has become more diverse, but if I had to guess, I'd say the traditional fan is still predominant, although I could very well be wrong on that).

The underlying issue this brings up is, what exactly is a redneck?
"Who's kidding who?" said [ owner Tom] Connelly, the company's owner. "People who like (racing, hunting, fishing) would consider themselves rednecks. People consider me a redneck because I live in Massachusetts and listen to country music in my pickup truck."...

Don Arnold, team owner of Cope's car, is carefully trying to avoid conflict with NASCAR and said he understands the decision.

"I know you have to be politically correct," he said. "The meaning of the word "redneck' has really changed. You used to be able to say it as a joke just in fun, but if one person thinks you're being serious, you can't say it anymore."
I appreciate that it's not assumed that "Southerner" and "redneck" to be synonymous in this context. I grew up 50 miles north of Manhattan, and I saw redneckish folks aplenty. Geography has nothing to do with it, despite the desires of most non-Southerners.

I had always figured that if "redneck" was ever considered gravely offensive, it was becoming a reclaimed term. I remember this lady that worked in the warehouse of a company I was with, a real Florida Cracker. She drove an old, beat-up pickup truck that had a bumpersticker that read, "Definition of a redneck? A Southern gentleman." Not sure how widespread that sentiment is...