State Stereotypes: Arkansas

Next on our list of American states come the borders of Arkansas. A mid-to-Southern location (though it identifies with the South) that many folks call home. It’s rich in loyalty and longevity, and is known for pride that may even border on stubborn-type behavior. Whether they grew up and moved on, or who found peace within its location later in life. No matter your experience with the local, we’re ready to take everything you previously heard about Arkansas and finally set the record straight.

What You Thought You Knew

The state of Arkansas is known as “the Natural State,” and was named after Quapaw Indians’ native language. It encompasses the words for “land of downriver people” and” people of the south wind,” depending on translation or tribe origin. The state was inducted into the United States in 1836, after having been a territory for roughly 17 years. During the Civil War, Arkansas succeeded from the Union and sided with the South. Today, they rank 34th in population and 29th in land size. The capital city of Little Rock, which is also its largest, has a population of roughly 200,000, with Fayetteville at 79,000, being the state’s second-most dense city. Arkansas is best explored with its diverse terrain, hosting both high and lowlands, as well as plenty of Greenland, which is kept up by various bodies of water and rivers.

Arkansas

It’s Said “Arr Kansas”

Actually, they pronounce it Arr-can-saw – far different than a similarly monikered state, Kansas. The pronunciation is likely a play on the Southern draw. Drawing out the sas/saw portion of the name. In root form, however, the word comes from Native American words, which were spelled and pronounced differently. Much like modern variations on languages (from state to state, and more widespread, think the difference between American English and British English), words gain a different emphasis, based on where you’re located. Those who went north kept the traditional ‘S’ sound, while the Southern portion went for the awe version instead.

Arkansas Flag

“There’s Nothing There”

Likely due to its location as being in-between the North and the South (physically, the state wholly identifies with the South), folks often overlook Arkansas for all it has to offer. Instead, assuming it’s essentially a waste of a state that fails to inform the public about its best qualities. However, that’s a sad stereotype that many have been carrying on for years. In fact, the same thing that makes the land blend in is what actually sets it apart. It’s located on both highlands and lowlands, allowing guests to get an incredibly vast sample of what the United States has to offer, all in a single state. There are rivers to visit, mountains to see, trails to walk, and flatlands to view for miles on end. Even valleys that help complete their vast look. It’s a seriously impressive and diverse location!

Bridge Arkansas

“They are a Bunch of Hillbillies”

For whatever reason, Arkansas has earned itself a reputation as a state that’s full of rednecks and hillbillies. Likely due to their plentiful backwoods – some of which are used as rural living – this stereotype is one that does little justice to a thriving area. Though there are likely some Arkansawyans who still identify as “hillbillies,” that’s also a category that can be true of any state. Don’t overlook this diverse population by failing to see how different the area can actually become.

Little Rock Arkansas

Moonshine is Plentiful

During Prohibition, illegal forms of alcohol could be found all throughout the country. Decades later, Arkansas is known for hosting some of the biggest rings, which are still in working order. Though numbers have yet to be ran, it’s likely low on the state’s list of professions. That doesn’t mean moonshine can’t be found, it’s simply not all that the state has to offer. However, if history (or liquor) is your thing, there are some neat tours available for tourists (or excited locals). Even better, they come with samples.

Photo by: Rock Town Distillery
Photo by: Rock Town Distillery

Back Roads Make up the Entire States

Because of the aforementioned terrain, Arkansas also hosts numerous back roads. Where users can get in and out as needed, likely in quicker fashion than by following freeways or interstates. Though they’re certainly not the only method of transportation throughout, it’s also a little bit of what makes Arkansas unique. The roads are quick, local-approved, and provide a solid understanding of what the area has to offer. Especially when listed off of the beaten path.

Arkansas back roads

State Stereotypes: Alabama

We’ve all been the victim of a stereotype. At some point or another, someone assumed something about us, based on general facts or appearance, and their conclusions were way off. It’s an event that regularly takes place, no matter where you live. More common, however, are stereotypes on a broad-based spectrum. Like assuming everyone from Boston loves beans, or that everyone in Southern California surfs. Without having been there, or hosting any interaction with a certain place or the people who live there, you know what the public tells you. Whatever the media has posted online, that’s your understanding. And nothing else. But just like you might realize from stereotypes in your own dwelling, most are exaggerated or untrue. Which is exactly why we’re putting together this rumor-busting series. Where we talk about each American state and pair what others assume about its location vs. what’s actually taking place. In alphabetical order, for your organizational convenience. First up, Alabama.

5. What “IS” Alabama?

The state was admitted to the Union in December of 1819, making it the 22nd United State. Today its population is 23rd in the nation, and 30th in landmass. Its largest city is Birmingham, with more than 1.1 million residents, and the capitol, Montgomery, trails in as its fourth-most populated city/metropolitan area. A state located within the deep South of the United States, Alabama has had its controversies over the years. Including those of allegiance and race, and more recently, football. However, it’s also known for a rich history, including both American culture as a whole, as well as civil rights movements and the civil war. Most notably, the state is known for growing passionate citizens who strongly boast about their homeland, and especially their region, as well as religion. Recognizable names include: Hank Aaron, Nat King Cole, Coretta Scott King, Harper Lee, Willie Mays, Rosa Parks, and Hank Williams – all of whom are famous Alabamians.

Birmingham

4. “They’re All About Football”

The University of Alabama is celebrated for its abilities on the gridiron. They’ve won numerous national championships (15, with four unclaimed), and offer one of the most coveted programs in the entire country. For what is arguably the country’s favorite sport. Athletes want to play for them, and students want to attend “‘bama” to cheer on their winning home team. Plus they’ve got some serious pride – when they win, it’s great, and when they lose … stay out of the way. This is one stereotype that is based on plenty of facts. The South takes pride in a lot of things, and football is one of them. It’s a good quality to stand strong, and for Alabama, football is no different. Known as the Crimson Tide (after their school color of crimson red), the stadium seats nearly 102,000 fans – a stat that is larger than some pro teams by tens of thousands. While you may not be ready to join the tide in full force, when traveling through Alabama, take an up-close look into football. Maybe even join in with the purchase of a t-shirt or watching a game at a local bar, because let’s face it, tickets are nearly impossible to lock down for locals, let alone guests!

Photo by: By Joel יוֹאֵל via Wikimedia Commons
Photo by: By Joel יוֹאֵל via Wikimedia Commons

3. Go for the Food

Down South it’s all about home cooking, and that’s a mantra that’s worth traveling for. Fried chicken, collard greens, catfish, homemade pies, cornbread – all are considered state favorites. Which, of course, should be washed down with a glass of sweet tea. Any good trip comes with plenty of tasty food, and Alabama is home to some of the most celebrated soul food restaurants around. A stereotype, sure, but also one that’s definitely worth exploring. Test out different stops and get a wide range of the same foods at multiple eateries, or take in the full range of Southern dishes. It’s one rumor we wouldn’t mind being true everywhere we travel. Don’t miss out by overlooking this often-mentioned Alabama trait!

Alabama Food

2. “It’s Racist”

With history that’s rich with social change – from wars to movements – it can be noted that Alabama has a conflicted past that’s rooted within slavery and a lack of equal rights. Every location has its closeted skeletons, this one just happens to be very public. Today all races live within the state’s borders, and there are large populations of African Americans all throughout the state. There are now several museums and monuments dedicated to these not-so-pleasant events. Many travel to embark on historic tours and gain important education when in Alabama. It’s certainly a way to take a negative stereotype and use it toward everyone’s advantage.

Alabama

1. Southern Hospitality

In your head, going to Alabama might mean getting called honey and sugar, and being brought more sides than you have time to eat. Or having others offer to take care of you, hold doors open, and act as though it’s trendy to be polite. All of which, for the majority of your encounters, will be true. There are exceptions to every rule, of course, but for the most part, Alabamians take pride in their ability to take care of others. To be respectful and to ensure guest want to come back, not just for the attractions, but for the people. It’s a step that might sounds seemingly small, but actually brings repeat travelers, and gets their own citizens to realize there’s no place like home.

Alabama Sweet Tea