Bashing the South — Part Two


A few weeks ago, I wrote in HUMAN EVENTS that a New York magazine article predicting Senator Barack Obama would not win a single “Confederate” state was only the first of what would be a slew of articles painting The South as the same old racist place people remember from watching the civil rights movement on their televisions in the 1960s.

I was right.

The August 11 issue of Newsweek features “Southern Discomfort – A Journey Through a Troubled Region.” Written by Christopher Dickey, son of James Dickey, the author of Deliverance (which made Yankees afraid to canoe Southern rivers) begins with the thought that the “Confederacy has been a land without closure.” In the same paragraph, Dickey talks about “lethargy-induced climate” as if The South was, and still is, filled with lay-about natives who were only forced to stop swilling likker and get up from the porch by the “Northerners by the millions” who have moved south.

Dickey writes that the region is “troubled by changes” and “there is a sense that a world is ending” because “brown” people are moving into the region “long dominated by black and white.” He found families suspicious of “the young black man from up north.” He quotes Mexican immigrants saying they experience “a lot of prejudice.”

To apparently inoculate himself from seeming to be wholly negative about The South and its tendency to vote Republican, Dickey mentions in passing that Louisiana’s governor is Piyush “Bobby” Jindal, son of Hindu immigrants from India. Still, that does not stop Dickey from dropping in the word “xenophobia” when describing how Southerners think about illegal immigrants.

And, bless his heart (something we say in The South when we don’t want to say something bad about someone we don’t understand), Dickey just had to interview “Wild Man” Dent Myers, the go-to guy for every outside-the-South journalist who wants to prove the region is still racist. Wild Man runs a relic shop in downtown Kennesaw, Ga., where he displays Klan paraphernalia and literature. Wild Man’s hair is shoulder-length, his fingers are covered up with rings, and his hips are covered with semi-automatic pistols. Wild Man is colorful, but hardly typical of the average Southerner. But, boy, he sure knows how to put on a show for the visiting Paris bureau chief of Newsweek. I’ll bet Wild Man could not suppress his giggles before Dickey closed the door of the shop on his way out.

Dickey was a little sloppy in his research on Southern banking. He believes that the founders of Wachovia bank were from Charlotte, N.C. Actually, Wachovia was founded in Winston-Salem, about 90 miles from Charlotte.

What rankles us Southerners is that magazines like Newsweek and journalists like Dickey still treat us as they did when covering the civil rights movement of the 1960s. In Dickey’s reporting on The South, there may not be lynchings, but, if we don’t vote for Obama, we will prove we are still ignorant and racist. Nowhere in Dickey’s article does he write that The South has always been more conservative than the rest of the nation, which makes the region less likely to support the most liberal man now serving in the U.S. Senate. No, according to Dickey, the reason we won’t vote for Obama is The South is “troubled.”

Well, Mr. Dickey, many regions of the nation are or have been “troubled” by race. Take the North, for instance. When Boston tried to integrate its schools in the 1970s, the same people who continually elect Ted Kennedy (something we conservative Southerners, Democrats and Republicans, never have understood) reacted violently to the idea. Many of the buildings at Harvard in Massachusetts and Yale in Connecticut are named for slave owners. Brown University in Rhode Island is named after the most successful slave trading family in the history of the nation. Even New York City has its racist past. Several blocks west of the Big Apple’s city hall is the African Burial Ground where at least 20,000 worked-to-death young slaves lie under the foundations of skyscrapers.

In his article, Dickey kept going back to historical mentions of slavery and lynchings in his current day description of The South. He even attended a reenactment of a 1946 lynching of four black people in Georgia. So, let’s use his analysis to judge racism. If historians are accurate in saying that 3,747 black people were lynched in The South between 1882 and 1968, a benchmark for demonstrating the racist South, would the needless deaths of six times that number of intentionally worked-to-death slaves in colonial Manhattan make modern day New York City six times as racist as the modern day South?

Dickey might argue that New York City in the 1700s should not be compared to 1946 Georgia, but I see no reason why 1946 Georgia should be compared to 2008 Georgia. The violence and discrimination 62 years ago in Georgia may not be as far into the past as 1700s Manhattan, but such racial violence is just as foreign and repugnant to today’s Southerners as if it were in the 1700s.

Here’s a real example. A few years ago the Klan and the Nazis tried to hold a joint rally in a small town in eastern North Carolina. Fewer than a dozen attended. Most of them were from Minnesota. The only people who paid attention to them were newspaper reporters and police officers.

That is the way it is with today’s South.

We’ve long since given up the obvious signs of racial discrimination like separate bathrooms and drinking fountains. If there is subtle discrimination, and I am not sure there is, it is no more prevalent than it is in New England, the Midwest, or the West Coast. But, I am pretty sure I won’t be seeing any articles from Dickey looking into the racism of those regions. I am guessing that in Dickey’s Paris-starred eyes, those regions are perfect.

Copyright © 2008 HUMAN EVENTS.

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