By August 1 the three year experiment of combining Ed and the Deep South will come to an end. I will move back to the flatlands of the Midwest from whence I came. Right off the bat, let us note that I am not leaving because I hate it, but rather out of professional necessity. I no longer have a job here and a school in Illinois was willing to hire me. If it was up to me, I would stay, all kidding and "Ha ha the South blows" jokes aside.

I did not expect to like living here; as many people from Up North do, I moved here with many preconceptions of what life in the South would be like. For the most part, these assumptions proved…remarkably accurate. People assume that the South is barely survivable in the summer (Check. I don't know how anyone lived here before air conditioning. Oh, wait: not many people did, and they were really emphatic about buying other people to do manual labor for them.) It is mild and pleasant during the winter (Check). Many of the rural areas are incredibly depressing (Check). People are really conservative (check) and into the Jesus (check). And then there's the big one that people assume: that everyone is racist. Eh…

My experience has been that race is indeed the 900-pound elephant in the room in the Deep South. People remain very sensitive about the topic, and many people, especially older ones who retain pre-1960 memories, still have a muted sense of "knowing one's place", if you follow me. Overall, however, I have not come away convinced that race is a much bigger issue/problem here than anywhere else. It is probably closer to the forefront of social and political issues here – i.e., more issues end up being "about" race to some extent – but not by as large a margin as one might expect. Hell, there's probably more racial tension in LA, Cincinnati, or Chicago than in Atlanta.

One thing about the race issue did, in my experience, stand out like a sore thumb, though. Living around the Midwest, overt racism – the "I hate this group of people and have actual malice toward them" kind – always seemed to be a lower class phenomenon. The people in Chicago, for example, who are most likely to sit around a bar bitching about Darkies or whatever are knuckleheads from the bottom of our high school classes who regularly get fired from their job delivering pizzas. This has very much not been my experience in the South; the "Bubba" types – lower class, thick drawls, driving red pickup trucks – are not the people from whom I have heard terrible, racist things. Down here the racism seems to be, or at least feels like, a suburban, private school kid phenomenon. That's just my impression. I have no data here. It's merely an observation.

Look, I am not saying that no one who lives in the suburbs and has a lot of money in the North is racist. My point is that I was expecting the South to be populated with racist hillbillies when for the most part the hillbillies are pleasant people (although not free of unpleasant ideas, thanks to their involvement in the more lunatic branches of Protestantism). On the occasions on which I did hear really racist stuff, it was inevitably coming from the mouth of someone who did not fit the Redneck stereotype at all. I heard people say some horrible shit – eugenics appears to have a strong underground following among well-off suburban white kids – and not appear to have the slightest idea that they were saying something racist.

Although this surprised me, it makes sense. Lower class people, black and white, probably have some un-PC ideas about one another but regularly have to interact (going to the same dilapidated public schools, working the same shitty jobs, etc). For the people with money down here, the segregation is complete and the white kids of Marietta are raised on an unbroken diet of Boortz/Beck/Limbaugh, Falwell-type religion, and private laments about how much better things were before…You Know. Before the "social order" was changed by meddling outsiders.

In other words, the people who should know better – the ones with high incomes and access to education, culture, and so on – seem to be more likely to hold and express racist beliefs than the ones who wear the stereotype of being racists. Part of this reflects sample bias; I live in a college town (obviously) and college kids are notoriously parochial, sheltered, insensitive, and at times arrogant. Sometimes younger people say racist things because they are repeating things from people who raised them. Regardless, although it pains parts of my brain to admit it, I do believe that the Redneck Southerner might get more crap than he deserves. Conservative as hell? Religious in the extreme? Culturally unrefined? Sure. But they're hardly roaming the streets complaining about The Negroes or refusing to work next to a black person. The only Southerners I've encountered who appear to have attitudes of that kind are named things like Mason and Ashley and went to $25,000/yr high schools.

And that, in short, is the exact opposite of what I expected based on 30 years of South stereotypes from my Yankee upbringing.

49 thoughts on “SOUTHERN CHARM”

  • Redneckery is a ubiquitous condition–every single state in the Union has them, and in sizable numbers. Where there are trucks, and barbecue pits, and shitty bars, there shall be rednecks, and there are trucks, barbecue pits, and shitty bars *everywhere.* It's a culture, rather than a regional affectation–the New Mexico redneck may not sound exactly like the Montana redneck, nor the Alaskan redneck the Arkansas redneck, but rednecks they all are; just check for the can of Skoal in the front-right pocket of their overalls.

    And why not? I agree that the South gets a disproportionate amount of crap. (Note that I do not say "more than it deserves," for that is not the case. But also, and just as definitely, way more than everybody else, even though everybody else is just as bad.) Seriously–how is there less humanity in the Southerner than there is in, say, the New Jersey goomba? Or, hell, cross the river and take a quick scope around that height of American metropolitan sophistication, New York City–tell me you can't find a higher per capita level of "this-guy's-not-evolved-enough-to-understand-fire-and-why-it's-crucial-to-bury-your-dead" in, say, Queens than you can in Mobile.

    Or hop on over to L.A.–my home, which I love dearly, and about which every shitty thing that was ever said about its people is true. Are plastic, silicone and industrial-strength-cosmetics better, somehow, than hayseed and pigshit? At least the latter are organic and biodegradable.

    Or–fuck it, I'll wade into these waters again–go to Vegas. People-watch for as long as you can. Go to the Mall of America way up in Minnesota (where I actually worked one summer, an experience that still gives me night-terrors) and be there, at dawn, as I have, and watch the Mall-Walkers come out in the saddest re-enactment of DAWN OF THE DEAD you'll ever witness.

    Yet all these people will rip on the South as the worst of the worst. Wrong. No. The South sucks, plenty. But that's nothing particular to do with the place, or its history. That's just the human condition. And where you live is just as bad. And your history is just as awful–you might have to go back a little further, or not as much, but trust me, horrible shit happened where you live, and the people who live there now are worse because of it. That's life on this planet. In short, we are all Southerners. All of us. So when we mock them, we're just monkeys in a cage laughing our asses off at the monkeys in the adjoining cage because look at those stupid fuckers, they're monkeys in a cage!

    Footnote: Once upon a time, I would have said that Wisconsin appeared to be a magical exception to this rule. But then the past couple of years of Scott Walker-dom happened, and fuck it.

  • Neal Deesit says:

    Grammar Nazi here. "From whence" is redundant, because "whence" means "from where." I shall now return to my grammatik-bunker whence I came.

  • This loosely fits in with my own observations that while racism is more visible in the South, the overall quantity (severity? how do you quantify something like this?) seems to be less. Or at least the balance is tilted to the overt, easily identifiable stuff.

    That is, you have more people that will say fucked-up shit in public in the South, but you have less of the quiet, pernicious racism and many (if not most) people paper over and try to ignore the loudmouths, get out of the conversation as quick as possible and then avoid the asshole. And there also seems to be (perhaps surprisingly) less self-segregation in southern than in northern cities, both as far as where people live and where they work and play. The significant exception to this seems to be where people go to church. There's also essentially no cultural difference between rednecks and lower class rural blacks: I no longer assume a beat-up F-150 with a gun rack and Bud cans is going to have a pale owner after seeing too many counterexamples in small towns. It seems likely to me that those guys are probably hanging out with their counterparts, but I don't have enough contact with either side to know for sure.

    I don't know, maybe my experience is not typical. But it would fit with Ed's observation in that of course the upper classes are the ones most likely to be insulated from the effects of their words and from having to interact with those not like them.

  • duquesne_pdx says:

    It's funny. I grew up in Marietta (after my first few years in south Florida). I heard some racist stuff, but looking back on it, it seemed to be more of a "this-is-the-sort-of-thing-that's-expected-to-be-said." My parents drilled it into me that racism was stupid, and you judged folks based on what they did, not what they looked like, so I grew up pretty free from that baggage.
    Many years later, I had the unpleasant experience of having to live in Baton Rouge for 3.5 years for work. It wasn't so much that the overt racism bothered me, but the unspoken assumption that because I was white, I would automatically agree with the racist crap that was coming out of some white (inevitably) male's mouth. I'm talking about people that I barely knew talking about whatever news of the day was occurring, immediately assigning a race based component to it, and presuming that I was right with them.
    I should mention that I worked at a couple of engineering firms, and these were my coworkers.
    It was a scary, scary place.

  • Ed, thanks for laying out the south in a way that I never could. As a grandchild of southerners raised in the wilds of Los Angeles, I could never get a good read on the covert racism that I always assumed.

    Sure, there were the words that shall not be mentioned today but to a guy born in 1916, that was the only word you had ever heard.

    I remember clearly in the 1980's when I was 13 or so, my grandfather said, in public, "We had the nicest nigra couple move in across the street. You should see their pickaninnies, they are just so cute."

    Needless to say, I was mortified and called him out on it. Little did I know, bit this nice little "nigra" family came over for dinner and they got along famously.

    I didn't understand it and when I heard terms like "cotton picker" thrown around during the evening and saw nothing but smiles from the people who should have been offended I had to stop and apologize for the evening.

    What I heard shocked me… Growing up in psuedo color blind Los Angeles, I mistook the words with the feeling. It was explained to me that there was nothing racist about my grandfather. He had invited a neighbor to dinner without regard to race and has welcomed a family to dinner without pretext. The terms used were simply legacies from his youth and it shone through to a formerly southern couple who could tell the he was from the south and didn't know any other way.

    Fast forward to my adopted home town of Seattle where I have NEVER heard the "N' word in twenty years but hear on a daily basis the threat of Indians stealing programmers jobs all while driving a Prius and having a lifetime membership to the Sierra Club.

    J. Dryden, well done as always. We all kind of suck regardless of where we live.

  • As a transplant from the northeast (NY NJ VT) to NOLA, I found the overt racism in the south quite shocking. As Duquesne said if you're white it is assumed. Baton Rouge is worse than NOLA, but it is not as if it's Jasper,TX or Pineville, LA. I certainly came across just as many racists in VT. They were just a bit tighter lipped about it. It is definitely more religious and conservative, so I tend to follow barroom rules most of the time. Ya don't talk religion or politics unless you are good friends with the person. Other than that and the oppressive summer heat I love living here. Everyone is outgoing and friendly. You are allowed to be your own crazy self. I understand this town isn't indicative of the south as a whole, but I also lived in Ponchatoula for awhile and people up there were just as forgiving for whatever eccentricities one may possess. Whatever stereotypes people have of different regions, we all tend to be very similar, just in slightly different ways. A quick question though. When was the last time you heard a yankee talk about the civil war?

  • Ed, I wouldn't say they're any more racist than anywhere else, but they sure seem to talk about race a lot.

    One of my co-workers, from Texas, exhibits this trait. Every time he tells a story, he has to specify the race of the people in the story whether or not it makes the slightest difference if they're white, black or Cambodian.

    I've also heard him use the term "uppity black guy" to describe someone.

  • c u n d gulag says:

    I grew up in NYC, moved upstate when in my early teens, then moved back to NYC after finishing college.
    From there, for jobs in my industry, I lived in Philadelphia, PA, Chapel Hill, NC, Southern Pines, NC, and Feyetteville, NC, before returning to upstate NY.
    Oh, and one of my best friends parents has a house on the Jersey Shore, where I spent some vacation time every summer. I'm not wealthy, never was, and neither were they – her parents and grandparents bought the house right after WWII, when the properties and homes were still pretty cheap.

    And the places where I heard the most openly racist talk wasn't down South.
    The most openly racist talk was in Phillie, the Jersey Shore, and upstate NY. BY FAR!

    Now, it's possible that when I lived in the South for almost 10 years, the other white's knew I was a Yankee, and kept their racist opinions to themselves.
    I don't know.
    I can only go by what I observed.

    And, like Suttree says, my whacky self felt more at home in the South than in any other place outside of NYC.
    Maybe it's because NYer's and Southerners have dealt with whackier relatives and neighbors more often than other places.

  • Can I throw out that The South is not a monolith? The overlay map of class / wealth issues skews things, as does urban vs. rural, and the weird matter of state identity. Delta racism isn't Tidewater racism isn't Ozark racism. At least people are used to getting along with each other, and mostly know how to cope with the various lumps in their gravy. Good manners don't solve the problem, but they help keep the bearings from overheating.

    It's all too much to summarize in a blurt.

    But hey, anecdote time. When I moved to urban Oregon, with its own version of "Minnesota nice," I was pleased to find that casual racism was NOT socially acceptable. As I grew close to the locals, I was horrified to learn how many people privately cherished extremely racist ideals. This made for some awful times when people who felt comfortable opening up to me were informed of my mixed family and bloodline. Oh, the backpedaling! We're really not racist at all! No, really!

    They were thinking about me exactly what I was thinking about them: You Just Never Know About Some People.

  • That's OK. A lot of Southerners seem to think everything north of Kentucky is the Bronx.

    I honestly couldn't convince this guy in Mississippi that you can hunt in Pennsylvania. His exact words "How can you hunt up there? It's all one big city!"

  • It will be my 20 year anniversary living in metro Atlanta next month, after moving from my birth place of NJ (plenty of jokes about NJ). I too had some preconceptions.

    Not long after moving here, I attended a U2 concert at the newly opened Georgia Dome. One of the opening acts was Public Enemy. What blew my mind was turning around during PE's performance and seeing nothing but a sea of young white people who knew all of their lyrics and where loving them. That wouldn't have gone down when I was in high school in NJ only 12 years earlier. Ironically, the black kids where into disco and The Brothers Johnson back then.

    Race is an issue here like everywhere else, but what I think is most apparent by far is the right wing mentality that's taken hold.

  • By the way, Ed, good luck on your new endeavor. I doubt you'll find as much kooky stuff to write about in the Midwest as you did down here.

  • When I first started teaching worked with a black woman who was a para from Jackson, Mississippi. She said she had never been called an N until she moved north after college. I currently teach in a city with three high schools and mine just happens to be the one with more black and hispanic kids. One of the other ones is considered the 'country club HS'. When friends of ours decided to send their kids to my school rather than the 'country club', she was shocked at the racist bullshit coming out of her neighbors' mouth. Student taught at beautifully whitewashed Madison, WI high school where the spring before there had been a full-throated race fight with dozens involved. Black kids got expelled, white kids got suspensions. Here in suburban land, the racism is below the surface but not so subtle. Certainly enough to hate a president simply because of his skin color.

    Ed, glad you liked the south, I've never been there except on vacation. Black friends of mine, though, say that the real racism is more pernicious in the north because of its subtly. And they actually point to Madison as being one of the worst offenders, believe it or not.

  • Having grown up and lived in Georgia since the mid-eighties Ed, I can 100% guarantee you that our redneck population is just as racist as the Joneses in their suburbs. It's just that they only speak about it in hushed tones around people they think are 'safe' because, as you said, they actually do have to interact with their fellow citizens of non-white lineage.

    It's not that the suburban kids are more racist, or even more likely to *be* racist, it's just that they feel freer to express that racism.

  • Prejudice and racism are universal human conditions that have as much to do with class/culture as skin color or religious belief. The Haves find it very convenient to use the emotions of the Have-nots against "the Other" to divert attention from the factors that keep the Have-nots down.

    It isn't restricted to the South any more than to cities or countries. Europeans, for example, are dealing with an influx of people from Africa and the Middle East and are demonstrating the same kinds of racism that we have lived with in the US.

    At its base, racism is an emotional feeling, a general reaction to people who are different from you. Reason and intellect are the antidote to the racist poison. Which is why the Haves always appeal to the emotions of groups who feel put upon.

    The Republicans have mastered the art of diversion. Think gay marriage, or abortion, or Muslims…you get the idea. How else could you have the Poster Boy of Plutocracy, His Mittens, not only running but having a chance to be elected?

  • Just popping in to say congrats on the new job, Ed. Moving is my least favorite thing to do on earth, so I wish you well in that pursuit, too.

  • Nomadic Alex says:

    I've also encountered the apparent upsurge in interest and support for eugenics. At my large university in Canada I can remember overhearing a couple talk about how there's an appeal to trying to better the "race" and at the very least not let disabled people reproduce so they have no chance of passing along their maladies. They then went on to AIDS in Africa (Oh isn't that a boon! They'll just infect each other into oblivion!). They were pretty clearly from affluent backgrounds, and I would guess that they were students in our business school.

  • Forced integration is working very slow miracles on the white working class in the south; it's pretty common for folks to hold pants-shittingly racist abstract beliefs while maintaining friendly relationships with many of their black and latino neighbors, co-workers and family members.* At the very least, and this is setting the bar embarrassingly low, most of my white neighbors have at least absorbed the idea that our non-white counterparts have a right to share the same shitty schools, jobs, and neighborhoods. Given a few more decades of forced proximity, things might just be OK.

    But the folks who bought their way out of integration often lack that balance. They get all the Son of Ham shit with none of the personalization to take the edge off. And since they're the class that does most of the hiring, vote-suppressing and lawmaking, their racism is a lot more dangerous. Racist hillbillies are limited to being assholes to their neighbors. Racist rich people can really fuck things up for everyone.

    *Fun fact: interracial dating is considered very trashy in much of the South, and does seem to be more common in working class families. When I was in a multi-year interracial gay relationship, the richer, better educated side of my family recoiled, while my trailer-bound relations tossed us beers and tried to introduce us to all their gay friends.

  • When I lived in Atlanta for a year in '98-'99, I came to similar conclusions about race in the South. I worked for a paralegal nonprofit law firm at the time. For a portion of my job I traveled around the state of Georgia to nearly every single state prison. I made a point of eating lunch on these trips in the small town main street cafes to see what life was like. Often I saw dirt poor "rednecks" interacting with blacks without any appearance of racial discrimination. In fact, when I went back to Atlanta after these trips, it always surprised me when middle class blacks were highly critical of the poor and incarcerated blacks. That was the first time, and not the last, where I came across intra-racist inclinations among certain folks with whom I associated. The system in the South, however, is completely biased against blacks though some whites demonstrate an equitable view of blacks with whom they interact. My God, every state prison was like visiting a black concentration camp of young black men.

    These observations demonstrate how conflicted a place like the South is. As long as you know your place in the social structure and remain within it at all times everything is fine. Once you deviate, watch out. It is because of this dynamic why I ultimately dislike the South and the many white Southerners who come to DC to "govern." The South is an intensely passive aggressive culture where social strictures are so severe that many, especially entrenched white elites, possess little ability to expend much creative energy beyond status preservation. This unfortunate and close minded attitude bleeds into DC and affects how the federal government acts much more than many Americans understand or appreciate. The South's entirely negative influence on our federal government is quite unfortunate. It is my hope that someday this imbalance is corrected.

  • "Lower class people, black and white, probably have some un-PC ideas about one another but regularly have to interact (going to the same dilapidated public schools, working the same shitty jobs, etc)"

    Ding! Ding! Ding!

    I grew up in a poor part of the South, surrounded by people who didn't have the social grace to filter all the awful un-PC shit in their heads. But they were all part of the same cultural group, had pretty thick skin, and were generally too powerless to do each other much harm (outside the occasional fistfight).

    The racism you see in places like Marietta is what I call "TakiMag" racism. It dates back to Galton, it's always been seductive to the more sociopathic elements of the right, and it seemed to reemerge with a vengeance circa, oh, January 20, 2009.

    BY FAR the most virulent racism I've ever witnessed was in LA. When anyone in Southern California said, "I'm not racist, but…" I knew I was about to hear some ear-searing shit about Armenians. And the suburban KFI fans didn't even try to deny it. The hostility toward "illegals" would have embarrassed Strom Thurmond.

  • Generally, whenever someone starts a sentence with "I'm not racist, but…" the next thing out of their mouth is likely to be something racist.

  • I work in NYC, but travel to the Atlanta exurbs a lot on business. One time, while waiting for a cab at ATL, a complete stranger, dressed in a suit ,as I was, just told me a racist joke out of nowhere. No introduction, no "hi", no reference to something going on around us. He just saw a white guy, and assumed he'd appreciate hearing what MARTA "really" stood for.

    On the other hand, I once had a security guard tell me that my last name "didn't sound anglo " while he was checking my ID. This guy was very far below me on the corporate totem pole, yet still felt no compunction about sharing this insight.

  • @Dryden

    I was born and raised in WI, and all I can say is… nope, just as bad there too.

    For what it's worth, Milwaukee is (or was only a few years ago) the most segregated city in the country.

  • @Bill:

    I saw a piece in Chunklet Magazine a few years ago with fake city catchphrases. I can't find it online, but I recall Milwaukee's, roughly:

    "There's more to us than beer! Racist skinheads, for example."

  • Well, in some ways what you said in the piece is not that surprising to me. I work in the legal community, and I'm always surprised by how many attorneys totally buy into the wingnut worldview. I woulda thought having a "higher education" would give you a broader, more realistic ( and more liberal) worldview.

    But no: there was the attorney who, in all seriousness, bought into the wingnut B.S. about Saddam Hussein hiding his weapons of mass destruction in Syria. And there was the attorney who told me Fox News was the only news source which "told the truth"…..

    So I've learned the hard way that a "higher education" doesn't mean you're smart.

  • I grew up in various overseas military bases (military brat) and moved to the USA just in time to start college. I went to a college in the south and I live in the south (and have for more than 20 years). I don't have any particular accent, though, so in the first instant upon meeting people I'm constantly being called "Yankee" and being told how I'm rude and arrogant. Oh, the irony of saying "How do you do" to a new acquaintance and being met with a barrage about how all Yankees are rude and have no manners. Really? I'm not the one calling complete strangers rude for no reason.

  • mel in oregon says:

    racism is alive & well everywhere in this country & it always has been. i don't think blacks, latinos, muslims or native americans ever have gotten a fair shake & they never will. that said now for most white people, especially the young, the biggest issue is class. the occupy 99% movement was a nice catch phrase, but doesn't really tell what is going on very well. it's main truth is the top 1% have seen fantastic economic gains in the last 30 years. but what is never discussed is how much contempt upper middle class people have for working & poor people. they have a country club mentality of "our shit doesn't stink, their's does". also the upper middle class is almost as conservative as the kochs or adelmans. you won't find very many surgeons or corporate lawyers that care about anything politically except keeping their tax shenanigans in place.

  • Ed, congrats on new job. and on growing/learning during the last 3 years. I can't believe it has been that long. wow….

    Now, I have serious question for audience: I am sick and tired of getting racist and worse emails from right wing shitheads. They often have forwarded something that someone sent and it still has the business card or business advertisement of the originator.
    Is there a website or wall of shame place for me to forward these emails? I would like the general public to see them with the business information showing.
    Thanks to all who write here. I truly enjoy it. Thanks for running a great site, Ed.
    Best regards to all.

  • @doug Try, which bills itself as "an interpretive center and archive of right-wing forwards." Don't think they'll include the sender's info, but it's good to collect these things someplace, anyway.

  • Is there a website or wall of shame place for me to forward these emails? I would like the general public to see them with the business information showing.

    A former colleague of mine got a slew of death threats, and threats of violence, after a speech she made on a contentious piece of foreign policy. A non-trivial number of these were sent from work email addresses. Our organisation decided to contact the employers of those people who had sent threats, to alert them to the misuse of their corporate communication systems.

    You can bet your boots that if someone thinks it's okay to forward racist crap to all and sundry, that they're not a great colleague to, or manager of, black co-workers.

  • Damn. Sorry you are leaving. I've always said we need a new Carpetbagger movement to drag the South back into the latter half of 20th century. I'm trying to get people to immigrate, infiltrate, etc. And here you're going in the other direction!

    Oh well. I can't blame you. Good luck in Illinois.

  • @doug:

    Ditto what everyone else said. Also, understand that many (if not most) of these RW forwards are not organic in origin, they are actually carefully crafted part of the conservative message machine. This 2009 piece at Huffington Post traced the origin of a lot of this inflammatory stuff.

    I used to get a lot of anti-Muslim crap from my relatives, also the usual "liberals are going to ban Christmas carols!" craziness from some neighbors. Here's what I do to make it stop: First, I Snopes whatever the thing is. Then I hit "Reply To ALL" — very important. No one wants to look like a moron in front of friends and neighbors. And I just calmly reply that this is an e-mail hoax, you've been suckered by purveyors of poison politics, here's the truth, and please don't send me other partisan misinformation as I find it offensive.

    I guarantee you will not get any more — but replying "TO ALL" is the key.

  • (although not free of unpleasant ideas, thanks to their involvement in the more lunatic branches of Protestantism).

    Yes. This.

    I encountered far more bat-shit-nutso religious folks in NC, than I have encountered overtly racist people.

    You hit the nail on the head with: Lower class people, black and white, probably have some un-PC ideas about one another but regularly have to interact (going to the same dilapidated public schools, working the same shitty jobs, etc).

  • grumpygradstudent says:

    I think there's a strong libertarian streak among rednecks, and also a sort of unquestioning acceptance of the American myths inculcated by what passes for historical and social science education in our k-12 system. So with the libertarian streak comes the basic notion of "as long as you're not bothering me, we won't have a problem." You'll find a lot more acceptance of something like being gay or gender identity stuff than you might expect because of this attitude. It also extends, I think, to race. In terms of daily interactions with other people, most rednecks are gonna be pretty cool and will basically be pretty accepting of people. Now when it comes to racial POLICY, they're going to object like hell to something like affirmative action, but on a day to day level, they're going to basically embrace the idea of equality and privacy.

    Our public schools have also been pretty successful in teaching the civil rights movement as a triumph for justice (quite justifiably, obviously). So I think there's pretty widespread acceptance across most demographics that overt, simplistic racism is bad, and that a certain type of racial acceptance is good. In my opinion, civil rights is taught in the form "we used to be racist, but then people protested, and now everyone is equal." That's obviously a naive American myth. It promotes a sort of "colorblindness," which, while falling short of actual racial justice, at least promotes the sort of day-to-day acceptance of others that we're talking about here.

  • Andrew Laurence says:

    Yesterday I had a vendor say something overtly racist about one of my colleagues, whom he had never met or spoken to but incorrectly assumed things about because of his name. And it was on a recorded line!

    I didn't overtly call him out on it because I was too gobsmacked to craft the right response quickly enough, but I did switch to a frostier voice and inform the caller that his assumption was incorrect.

  • Davis X. Machina says:

    So with the libertarian streak comes the basic notion of "as long as you're not bothering me, we won't have a problem." You'll find a lot more acceptance of something like being gay or gender identity stuff than you might expect because of this attitude.

    I have a loved one doing canvassing for Maine's same-sex marriage referendum and while that acceptance may be found elsewhere, it's not widespread in Washington, Aroostook, Somerset, Piscataquis, Knox, Waldo or most of Oxford and Hancock counties…. basically the whole state away from salt water and money.

    Near as I can tell "as long as you're not bothering me, we won't have a problem" applies mostly to firearms, building codes, land use regulation and the marijuana industry.

  • That's obviously a naive American myth.

    You are so not alone with that one. I think most countries fall headlong into the trap of patting themselves on the back for legislating away the most egregious and obvious state-enabled racism, and confusing that state with being 'post-racist'.

    History leads to some very strange decisions being made about race, like France's inability to gather data on ethnicity. Including questions on race in the census, or anywhere else, is proscribed by the constitution. The idea of the state identifying people by race became untenable post-Vichy, but has also long been considered oppositional to the principles of liberté, égalité, and fraternité.

    The Dutch, who are generally ahead of the European curve on legal inclusion and protection of minority and minoritised groups, are collectively keen on formal anti-discrimination and 'tolerance', but individual people interact chiefly within very homogenous groups.

    It's really hard to work out what the attitudes of individuals are, in terms of race, and social attitudes surveys tend to rely on asking people questions about who they want their neighbours, in-laws, and teachers of young children to be. An acknowledged weakness of this approach is that, over time, people get a sense of what the 'right' answer is. Of course, the easiest way to work out if a society is racist (answer: yes) is to look at who has power within it.

  • Ed, I prayed several years ago for you for a teaching job on the Wabash River in Indiana. How close are you on the Illinois side? I have do some calibration work. :-)

    I find your departing views on the South match mine pretty well. The church segregation is less the more holy roller you are.

    Give them Illinois kids the what for!

    All the best


  • I have a close friend whose ministry I've supported for about 10 years. He is Black and from Detroit. He has traveled extensively worldwide and been in the military (Viet Nam vet)

    He likes the South because he feels he knows exactly where he stands w/ people. People that love you show it and live it. People that don't let you know in various ways (often directly) and stay out of your way/leave you alone.


  • i think the younger the person, the less acceptable racism is, at least among the "younger" people i encounter here in New Orleans today. what astounded me was the amount of racism in the black community here. how lighter skinned black vs darker skinned blacks is/was an issue i had never heard of. which makes sense when you want to pass for white, or at least when there was benefits of passing for white. with all the race mixing here in New Orleans, at least from what i have heard, it is hard to tell who is who. being a "Carribean City in the South" has its' pluses.

    this kind of fits the "safe within your own/know your place in society" which seems to be a universally accepted rule down here in New Orleans. i don't think much has changed for those who lived during the Civil Rigts Era, other than appearances or politeness. the horrors of Government intervention would never be accepted or deemed worthy by those who held the power. just read comments in the online newpaper. Republicanism was just a natural response, it seems.

    and the South was, from what i gather, always a society that focused on "respect" for our places in society. one thing i am sure of is the effect of integration of schools and neighbors, via the Civil Rights Act, on society here in New Orleans. our neighborhoods are more segregated than ever since the Civil Rights Act. quite an irony.

    i have always sensed the rest of the country was just like the South as far as being the same when it comes to racism. though i was surprised to see that Northerners can be just as racist as Southerners. gentility must be a Southern aspect in how we treat strangers and the "other" in our daily lives.

    also the differences in types of Southerners is in large part of what part of the country you are from, land types, hills, piedmont and coastal zones, i.e. appalachia, flat lands,. the type of environment as well as the part of Europe these whites came from and the parts they settled in. i never knew some Southerners were anti slavery, the mountain, hill countries, untill i took courses in college about the Civil War. that really fascinated me. growing up in the 60's South where George Wallace seemed to command just about every white voter after Kennedy and LBJ gave the "store away" with teh Civil Rights Acts, well that bode ill in my opinion. and the resulting Republican White Male Party, in particular.

    i remember one bumper sticker from the Lyndon Johnson presidency that i have never forgotten/hatred of Government. so the idea that whites would ever vote for Governments/local, State or Federal is no surprise at all.

    i see the same sentiment expressed today in the letters to the editor in our soon to be defunct Times Picayune newspaper, with it going electronic.

    a lot has changed and then again, not a lot has changed. lol. as i heard long long ago. the South shall rise again. and indeed they were right.

    still amazes me that people can live in snow and ice and freezing temperatures and that people die from heat stroke during the "summers" up North. prejudices die hard. lol

  • Interesting take Ed. I've actually never lived for any amount of time outside of Massachusetts (am 48 and teach HS history). Like many here and you yourself stated, racism sadly exists (although not as overtly or as much overall) pretty much everywhere in the US (and beyond). I always make it a point when doing my "civil rights movement" unit to include showing the "Eyes on the Prize" episode that goes into the "busing controversy" in Boston in the 1970's. In doing so, it shows kids that racism didn't (or doesn't) exist only below the Mason-Dixon Line.

    Good luck and congrats on your new gig!!!!

  • I've only been to the South on vacation and wasn't there long enough to get a sense of racism, but did notice that just about everyone down there is polite. The church density was also about fifty times what I'm used to, but I grew up in Portland, OR which has one of the lowest church going populations around.

    I think there are two kinds of racism – the overt kind which is easy to spot and the kind we associate with Bubba, his barefoot children, his still and his barely-running truck plastered with NASCAR stickers and Confederate flags – and the covert kind which only comes out when they feel safe enough to share with you. As mentioned above, I grew up in Portland, OR which is easily the most racist city I've lived in out of Portland, Northfield, MN, Ithaca, NY, Sunnyvale, CA and now Albany, NY. It's the kind of racism that thrives when there aren't a lot of non-whites around. Oregon is lily-white and Portland is quite segregated. Black folk used to live in North Portland, but the urban growth boundary has encouraged enough gentrification that non-whites have moved out to Parkrose, Vancouver, WA (the 'Couv) and Gresham.

    I guess it's easier being racist when you don't interact much with minorities.

    I've found Albany to be fairly racist as well with most black people confined to one neighborhood, Arbor Hill.

    If I have to choose, I prefer overt racists because then you know what you're getting. It's a shock working with highly educated engineers who suddenly bust out a long-winded diatribe against dot-heads and chinks stealing all the good jobs.

  • A Racist Southerner says:

    Hmmmm, let's see, integration has destroyed public education in the urban US, and by virtue of the troubles there the whole system is being privatized. But that's a small price to pay for political correctness, nes't pas?

    Then, many urban areas themselves have been utterly destroyed, Detroit being the salient example, but there are countless others. Again, so what, who needs urban areas anyhow.

    The immigration policies have deliberately been designed to flood the US with third world immigrants, who are by and large unaccomplished, uneducated, and if there former countries are any indication, incapable of creating and sustaining a modern state. So, that's encouraging for the US, right?

    One hundred years ago anyone who suggested that the races were in all regards 'equal' would have been deemed by all an sundry as a complete lunatic because the evidence clearly indicates otherwise. Now however that statement is 'racist' and grounds for … fill in the blanks.

    I just chanced on the blog. What pure idiocy it is.

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