Mississippi, Believe It!

Posted on Feb 14 2013 - 7:00am by Lacey Russell

“Where are you staying in the United States?”
Every time I answer this question, people give me a dropped jaw. Especially when they see my Asian face.
When I was buying a souvenir at Universal Studios’ gift shop in Los Angeles, the cashier saw my Mississippi driver’s license. He was so excited and said that it was one of the few state driver’s licenses he hadn’t seen.

When I did an internship in Washington, D.C., last summer a friend asked me, “What are you doing in the South in Mississippi as a Chinese person? Mississippi has a university?”
After those situations, I began to think about what’s wrong with Mississippi and why I got these reactions after I said I was living here.
I got some answers from last week’s Overby Center speech given by Rick Looser, who is an advocate for the Mississippi.

Believe It! campaign. He talked about what inspired him to launch this successful campaign. He traveled a lot. He has had some similar experiences when people have asked him where he was from.
More importantly, he gave me more reasons to love Mississippi.

This state has a lot of incredible people and things.
I thought of my personal experience. Aug. 15, 2011 was the day I arrived in this foreign land. From the Memphis airport to Oxford that night, most of what I saw were trees and darkness. All I heard was a foreign language. I didn’t know where I could get food. I didn’t bring my phone and computer with me.

I had never thrown myself into such a situation.

A place without public transportation, without shopping malls, without restaurants I could walk to, without … all the things I just took for granted.
This was not the United States I had in mind. I lived in cities when I was in China.

The life here was more than I could imagine. I suffered the first semester.

Fortunately, people here were all very nice. They helped me a lot. My professors helped me gradually learn about Mississippi, the history, the music and the people.

People in the South taught me to smile and say hello to everyone. I began to enjoy the life here and fall in love with Mississippi.
People always find it easy to have some bias or prejudice about things they are not familiar with, and they have allowed these biases and prejudices to build stereotypes about Mississippi and the South.
However, how can you judge something without ever experiencing it?
There is no doubt that Mississippi is a poor state and has suffered from racial conflicts for a long time.

Nevertheless, everyone and everything has a past. We have the world’s largest auto plant built from scratch in central Mississippi.

We have one of the world’s most prestigious dance events, the USA International Ballet Competition every four years in Jackson.

We were home to the first-ever heart transplant, the first-ever lung transplant and the first-ever kidney autotransplant.

All were performed by Dr. James Hardy, a surgeon at Mississippi’s University of Mississippi Medical Center.
Mississippi is not that corner to be forgotten. It is a place that should be kept in mind forever.
Although I am not originally from Mississippi … Mississippi, I believe it.

Wanfei Wu is a second-year graduate integrated marketing communications student from Yunnan Province, China. Follow her on Twitter @WanfeiWu.