I have a rebuke and an observation. Please do not be offended at the former…and enjoy the latter.
I grew up in the MS Delta, about five miles from a small Southern Baptist cemetery where my family line is buried all the way back to 1870. I’ve often called the Delta the very deepest of the Deep South, and I know it very well indeed.
You speak of Southern tolerance. Yes, the South is tolerant indeed, compared to how the South used to be. But compared to most of the rest of the nation, not so much. Yes, there are certain parts of the rest of America that are more intolerant, but those are exceptions to the rules of their respective states, whereas in the Deep South, prejudice is ingrained, baked in, indelibly inked into the social fabric. A northerner might not be able to tell it, but it can’t be hid from those of us who were raised there. You’re from North Carolina, so it probably isn’t quite as bad there, especially since you’re on the coast (which is always more prosperous and tolerant than the less-prosperous inland areas). But for the rest of the South…let’s just say there’s a reason why the Thirteenth Amendment (repealing slavery) wasn’t finally repealed by the Mississippi legislature until 2013 (yes, five years ago).
So much for the admonition. Let me end this on a positive note. I went to the Philippines, and in many ways it’s so much like the Deep South. They use the local equivalent of “sir” and “ma’am” even more than we do. They’ve got more churches per square mile than we do in the Bible Belt. At the local open-air market, I can get locally-grown mustard greens (!), okra, tomatoes, boiled peanuts, cracklins…and even chitlins! Yes, chitlins smells as bad there, too. There’s Johnson grass choking the fields, and lots of mimosa trees (they’re called “ipil” trees there), and I even saw a magnolia tree there once. And the elderly are every bit as deeply respected as they’ve ever been Down South. They even publish a magazine there called “Southern Living”…but the catch is, that refers to the southern part of the megalopolis of Metro Manila (15M people), and so there’s a “Northern Living” magazine for the northern half of Manila.
I hope that the first half didn’t offend you too much, and even more that the second half brought a smile to your face.