Through a Southern Lense

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About this time last year was the first time I saw what it was to be an outsider from the South. I know I haven’t always been the one to follow norms, but it’s not as if I’m like one of those boys that are dropped off by their polygamist families without anything or without the knowledge of what a television is or who Oprah is. I like to think of myself as someone who is capable and understanding of new things, but in this instance, I wasn’t given the memo.

That morning I dressed as I always did for fall: jeans, pink suede pumas, a light green long sleeve shirt and a purple fleece jacket. Nothing prepared me for the moment I entered the subway car that morning. As I stepped on to the A train, I shuffled over to the vacant space at the end of the car and braced myself for the jolt of movement that happens when the subway starts up. Normally, I don’t take a large gander around, but on this particular day I did. What I saw in front of me was a sea of black coats, black jackets, black shoes, black hats, and the occasional black pants (but it was mostly dark wash jeans). I looked down at myself, and all I could see was the neon sign pasted to my chest that said, “I’m not from here.” The fact that I had lots of color in my wardrobe and that my jeans were light was apparently something you don’t really do around here.

I didn’t understand what was happening around me. I love to wear color for so many reasons, but the most important reason is because I think color can show off your style and personality. It seems my opinion was not shared with the North. I had to wonder why was there so much black. Was the whole city depressed? Did I miss out on a national tragedy that I was supposed to mourn? Does it represent the color of their hearts? Or was there a more practical reason like black retains more heat?

By the end of the day I had forgotten the incident since I was struggling to understand why I had decided to put myself through the hell that was graduate school. Three months passed and it was now into winter, or in Shreveport terms “the end of the world” since it was now snowing in the city. At this point, I was juggling an internship, four classes, and a part time job. Sometimes I would go from one to the other in the same day.

Only then did I realize the reason everyone wore black; it went with everything and the color was there for all of the people that wear many hats a day. This one color covered up whatever part of the day you had to dress for, the layers of clothing one wears and peels off throughout the day and it simplified the process of trying to make ends meet. One black coat goes with whatever is happening in your life. Not always is a yellow coat or mint green jacket appropriate at certain times. This revelation made sense of why I never see black scarves, because that’s the accessory of color that makes you an individual.

I now own a black coat. One might call me a sell out, claiming I didn’t stand my ground by sticking by my traditional southern color scheme, and calling me a turncoat. But I want to argue this, no matter what color my coat is, my heart glows with the colors of my personality. Isn’t that enough? You’re right, it’s probably not. New York won that round.

-Mackenzie Roberts

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