Thirteen years ago this month, I was in New York City finishing journalism graduate school and wrapping up an internship at an alternative news weekly when I made a decision that some of my classmates and colleagues found shocking.

I was moving to the South.

More specifically, to North Carolina. I had fallen in love with a man from Raleigh, and through my visits with him and his friends I had also grown attached to the place and its people. I wanted to follow him there so we could begin building our life together below the Mason-Dixon line.

Given the reactions I got from some people, you'd think I had announced I was relocating to Outer Mongolia.

"You're moving where?" they asked, incredulous. "You're leaving the media capital of the world for what?"

The irony was, these were folks who liked to think of themselves as broad-minded and prejudice-free. But their world view was shaped by a U.S. media culture that tends to see the Northeast as the center of the civilized world and the South as a bastion of backwardness.

That's one of many reasons why supporting the work of the Institute for Southern Studies is so critical. By offering a vision of the South as a place of progressive ideas and movements, the Institute smashes the region's unjust reputation as a conservative monolith -- a stereotype that, unfortunately, carries on in works like Whistling Past Dixie, Tom Schaller's controversial new book urging vote-seeking Democrats to abandon the region.

So this holiday season, strike a blow against anti-Southern prejudice: Support the work of the Institute with a tax-deductible donation.