Sick. Tired. Fed-up.
I can't take it any more. No longer will I stand by while the South and everything about it is bashed, blamed and villainized. I've seen it in history books, I've heard it in speeches and I've read it in newspapers. To some, the South is the cause of most of the nation's problems and not until we (the South) change can the country move forward.
For years, I have been dumfounded. What are we doing wrong? Is there something I'm missing? I didn't realize racism and bigotry were unique to those states below the Mason-Dixon line. I guess racial profiling in Los Angeles is just a myth, something invented by a Southern writer to divert some negative attention.Then, it hit me, I had an epiphany. What the nation needs isn't for the South to change, what the nation needs is a history lesson. So, sit down and pull out your pad and pencil. Here we go into what the history books don't say:
We'll start with the most infamous hate group in American history, the Ku Klux Klan. Must've originated in Alabama or Mississippi, right? Wrong. Actually, there were two klans, the largest of which was based in Indiana, with membership reaching upwards of five million Americans. Well, certainly you can't avoid Southern Jim Crow laws, can you? Well, as a matter of fact, did you know that Jim Crow began in the North, as a way to adjust to the presence of emancipated slaves? I refer you to a book by C. Vann Woodward, The Strange Career of Jim Crow, in which a black newspaper columnist from the North travels, by train, from Boston to South Carolina. Following his journey, he writes, "I think the whites of the South are really less afraid to [have] contact with colored people than the whites of the North."
What about all the great Northern leaders that helped emancipate the slaves, like Abraham Lincoln? Lincoln, my friend, was a segregationist. I refer you back to Woodward's book, which quotes Lincoln in 1858 as saying, "I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races." In contrast, I give you the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching, housed in Atlanta, Ga. I give you Martin Luther King Jr., born in Fulton County, Ga. I give you Frederick Douglass, who arguably did more to advance the position of blacks Americans than any other single human being, born: Maryland.
Now, the point I am trying to impress upon you is not the guilt of the North and its people as monolithic. What you and everyone else should understand is that segregation, Jim Crow, the KKK, and all the brutality that accompanied them are not just Southern history, they are American history. For several hundred years, slavery existed throughout the states. It is a black eye to every American. Just as the inhumane treatment of Native Americans is not blamed on the Midwest (does anyone actually hate Kansas?) and the mistreatment of Mexican Americans is not seen as Western history. As a nation, we must take the blame for these atrocities, so let's not leave the South out to dry on slavery.
The unfortunate truth in this whole matter is that when the history books were being written in the early 1900s, they were being written by Northerners who saw the South as weak and poor, which we were. We were virtually defenseless to the blame that found its way so easily into our laps. We spent the better part of the late 20th century trying to dig ourselves out of Jim Crow and poverty to try to boost a devastated economy. We had neither the time nor the energy to fight this battle of moral guilt. Now we fight.
Do not try to make the South out to be dirty and beyond redemption.Instead, recognize that what we read about is American history, not just Southern history, and should be treated as such.
So go and show the nation your new found knowledge, because if we can join together as a nation, black Americas, white Americans, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, and all other Americans, if we can join across cultural, racial and ethnic lines, then half the battle is already won.
There is grace in being a Southerner. There has to be to stay calm under attack.
Tommy Haskins is a Trinity freshman.
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