By Scott Goldsmith
24 May 2002
An interesting article recently appeared on the internet site NewsMax.com. The article stemmed from a presentation made to the 98th annual meeting of the Association of American Geographers. The presentation took place in Los Angeles and was titled "Why Elitists Dump on the South." Penn State University geographer David R Jansson made the presentation.
Jansson lived and worked in several northern university towns. He discovered one common trait among his Yankee friends and colleagues. They loved putting down the South. He reported, "Those who wouldn’t dream of mocking other groups were comfortable making jokes about white Southerners." Northern intellectuals describe the South as "violent, racist, poor, intolerant, xenophobic and dim-witted."
Jansson gave his reasoning for Northern contempt for the South.
Representing the South as backward means "the United States can claim to stand for the exalted principles of the Enlightenment unblemished." In short, they build themselves up by tearing us down.
Jansson looked at the writings of Southern historian C. Vann Woodward (1908-1999) and noted how Woodward viewed and understood the South.
Southern people find their distinctiveness in their collective experience as a people. Southerners as a whole tasted "poverty in the face of American abundance." Until Vietnam, the United States had never lost a war, but the South had. The South had been laid prostrate, defeated and militarily occupied for 20 years. Body parts of Southern women and children were seen in the dirt streets of Atlanta. Cultural and ethnic genocide were very much understood and experienced first hand in the South. Myths of the American "illusion of national innocence" were not shared by Southerners.
A few days after reading Jansson’s statements that "the United States projects its dark side onto the South," an article appeared on the front page of the May 5th Greenville News: "Slave policies shed light on the state’s dark past."
Jansson is right. The newspapers, media, government and even churches love to talk about the "dark past" of the South. When was the last time you heard about the "dark past" of Massachusetts? Did you know that a black female slave named Maria was burned alive at the stake in Roxbury, Massachusetts? She had been accused of burning down her master’s house. Another black female slave named Phyllis was burned alive in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She stood accused of poisoning her master with arsenic.
Remember, though, that only the South’s past is evil and "dark." Herein lies extreme danger for Southern children and adults.
Winston Churchill said that "a people which cease to embrace its heritage and tradition, loses its identity." If we cannot embrace our Southern heritage and traditions because they are evil and "dark," then we will lose our identity.
How bad is that? Just ask someone with Alzheimer’s.
Scott Goldsmith of Greenville, South Carolina, Board Member of the SCLoS, is the author of The Southern Messenger. You may contact Scott at JSGold1958@cs.com. Scott will welcome your feedback. Scott’s thoughts also appear in the Greenville, South Carolina, Times Examiner.
Originally posted on The Southern Messenger: