Post and Courier
August 27, 2014

Miss S.C.'s comments: Embarrassing or teachable moment?

Posted: 09/16/2013 08:14 a.m.
Updated: 09/17/2013 07:28 a.m.


By Andy Paras By Robert Behre

Mount Pleasant's Brooke Mosteller used her moment on the national stage during Sunday night's Miss America pageant to raise awareness of our great state's ... mobile home population.

“From the state where 20 percent of our homes are mobile, because that's how we roll, I'm Brooke Mosteller, Miss South Carolina,” she said.

Although hers was not the only snarky comment made by contestants, her remark caused some head shaking and head scratching in her home state.

The Twitterverse responded with comments ranging from “just weird” to “Nothing wrong with mobile homes” to “Brooke Mosteller, please move to Georgia. Your South Carolina citizenship is revoked.”

Mosteller, who did not make it past the pageant's preliminaries, could not be reached for comment Monday. She is a student at the University of South Carolina School of Law.

For some, her comment was an unwelcome reminder that South Carolina is one of the nation's poorest states. For others, it was a teachable moment.

Mark Dillard, director of the state's Manufactured Housing Institute, alerted his members about how to respond if they hear negative comments.

“Nine out of 10 are placed permanently on the home site. All are built to a stringent national building code,” he said. “Yep, 17 percent of South Carolina families live in manufactured homes. They are getting more home for the dollar and can spend more of their income on food, medical bills, everything else a family needs.”

Others may see Mosteller's remarks as yet another instance of Southerners feeling comfortable enough to poke fun at themselves.

“Jeff Foxworthy and his 'you might be a redneck' jokes”are good examples,” says College of Charleston political science professor Gibbs Knotts. “The word 'redneck,' which has been used to describe political supporters of conservative politicians like James Vardaman and George C. Wallace, has even been embraced and become more positive recently. Charlie Daniels even has a song 'What the world needs now is a few more rednecks.'”

It seems unlikely that Mosteller's remark will draw the kind of lingering media attention that Miss South Carolina Teen USA Lauren Caitlin Upton stirred up in 2007.

For one thing, there's some truth to Mosteller's quip: South Carolina does rank near the top in the nation in terms of the percentage of its population that lives in mobile homes.

For another thing, she was coherent. When Upton was asked why 20 percent of Americans can't locate their own country on a world map, she replied:

“I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because some people out there in our nation don't have maps, and I believe that our education, like such as South Africa and the Iraq, everywhere like, such as, and I believe that they should, our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S. or should help South Africa or help the Iraq and the Asian countries so we will be able to build up our future.”