The term redneck is defined as a working-class white person who is perceived as crass and unsophisticated, usually politically reactionary and from a rural area. Redneck is generally used as a derogatory term. Its usage is similar in meaning to “cracker,” “hillbilly,” and “white trash.” On the other hand, some people are self-proclaimed rednecks and see the term as an expression of pride. Other people see the term as just referring to country people or those from rural areas.
According to Stephen Cresswell, a history professor at West Virginia Wesleyan College, redneck started as a derogatory term of expressing prejudice against lower-class whites who worked on farms. The actual word likely comes from either the red necks that workers would develop from long hours in the sun or from the red bandanas they wore around their necks to protect them from the sun. Soon the farmworkers started using the term themselves and even formed political groups to elect more farmers to office. They shared a mutual pride with other farmworkers because they worked with their hands and didn’t have a desk job.
During the early 20th century, the term “redneck” was sometimes used to refer to American coal miner union workers who wore red bandanas as a symbol of solidarity. In West Virginia, “redneck” is something people are proud of as it represents the solidarity and defiance of the coal miners who fought in the West Virginia Mine Wars.
Over time, the term took on a negative meaning, especially for Black Americans. This is likely because of the history of violence perpetrated on Blacks by a class of whites seen as rednecks. This causes people to view “redneck” as almost synonymous with “racist.” In general, when people think of “redneck country,” they think of the rural, southeastern United States. But states in other regions of the U.S. can also be considered “redneck.”
Ranking the states in terms of how “redneck” they are can be difficult, but website mandatory.com published their rankings of the most redneck states in the U.S. based on two metrics: the number of mobile homes per 100 housing units and the number of Walmarts per 1,000,000 people. They added these two numbers together to get a “redneck score” for each state.
Based on this information, the most redneck states in the United States are: Arkansas (37.2), Mississippi (35.1), New Mexico (33.1), Alabama (32.97), South Carolina (32.1), West Virginia (31.8), Wyoming (31.6), Kentucky (28.5), Louisiana (26.7), and Oklahoma (25.9). Unsurprisingly, the majority of these states are located in the Southeast, with a few located a little more out west. According to Mandatory’s ranking, the least redneck states in the U.S. are New Jersey (1.1), Massachusetts (1.4), Hawaii (1.6), Rhode Island (1.929), and Connecticut (1.94). Most of these states are located in the Northeast.