But more importantly, the tendency to dismiss Southerners as lazy is surely linked to the persistence of inequality and poverty in the region. As Guillory notes, “We have educational gaps that have not been fully closed. We have achievement gaps between young white people and young black people. We have gaps everywhere in the United States, but some of the Southern rates are a little deeper.”This is a myth that isn't just applied to Southerners, of course. Anyone who isn't financially successful, sooner or later, will find himself branded as "lazy" or "inefficient", or some other derogatory term. It's a comforting myth for folks who don't want to have to explain, let alone deal with, the real reasons that people end up poor or unemployed.
Plus, he notes, we “have some of the highest dropout rates – and so we’re still dealing in many ways with the legacies of our history.” In other words, slavery and then Jim Crow created class distinctions between white and black Southerners that have proven very hard to eradicate. What’s more, the early suppression of the labor movement often meant the disenfranchisement of working-class whites and blacks. Ultimately, the region never fully recovered from its post-Civil War economic collapse.
Five Big Media Stereotypes About the South (And the Real Story Behind Them)
The rest of the article is worth a read, I think, because in many ways, it isn't just about the South. It's about how we form attitudes about particular people, and how they can persist even among the people they are about.