On the instant when we come to realize that tragedy is second-hand
November 7, 2015 10:13 PM   Subscribe

A white pseudo-aristocracy maintains genteel airs and graces amid crumbling towns and black rural poverty reminiscent of Haiti. It’s all stirred up with whiskey, denial and fire-breathing religion.

The Delta is arguably the most racist, or racially obsessed, place in America, and yet you see more ease and conviviality between blacks and whites than in the rest of America.
After nearly three years here, it still feels like we’re scratching the surface.

posted by four panels (81 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
 
Solid post.

Comment in the last link mentions Elijah Parish Lovejoy who died on this day 178 years ago.
posted by oceanjesse at 10:40 PM on November 7, 2015


Thank you for posting this. I commuted from LA to rural South Carolina for a year and a half and it's very difficult to articulate the race relations. On one hand, I was invited by black people (I'm white) to family dinners and celebrations. On the other hand, I drove past confederate flags every day. The white people that I worked with called black people "them". And yet, regardless of race, people were still caring and friendly toward each other. I was there for a while and still don't understand.
posted by kamikazegopher at 10:43 PM on November 7, 2015 [8 favorites]


How White Flight Ravaged the Mississippi Delta - "For generations, plantation owners strove to keep black laborers on the farm and competing businesses out of town. Today, the towns faring best are the ones whose white residents stayed to reckon with their own history."
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:46 PM on November 7, 2015 [1 favorite]


I was there for a while and still don't understand.

I would say people from other parts of the country picture Southern racism as backwoods yokel hicks shaking their fist and hollering "GET THEM NIGRAS OFF AW PROPPITY!" while wearing Klan hoods and voting Republican.

But Southerners grow up around black people. My grandparents had all manner of things in their house we regard as racist today, from Al Jolsen posters to blackface banks to all manner of things like that. But they also had a black maid and a number of black acquaintances. You learn to speak in code language and you also learn some tolerance from exposure. You may not LIKE black people or Hispanic people or whatever, but you're also on the jobsite with them or work with them or are around them every day, which polishes away the edges (and of course the emphasis in the South on manners, my mom was squeamish about my sister dating black guys but she also extended every measure of courtesy to them because it would be rude not to).

I was on many blue collar job sites where white guys would go off about how much they hated blacks/Hispanics/whoever and the blacks/Hispanics would just laugh and shake their heads and needle the guy and he'd go "Well of course I don't mean YOU, you're alright, I mean the rest of them!"

Frankly, the racism in the North or in California is a lot more open and palpable and I know many POC who prefer the atmosphere in the South, where people are racist but will come out and say "Yeah I just don't like black people" rather than the coastal "Oh, I'm accepting of ALL PEOPLE because I'm not one of those RACIST SOUTHERNERS, I just don't want, you know, those THUGS AND GANGSTERS from a HIGH CRIME area at my SCHOOL endangering OUR CHILDREN."

Or Californians who think they can't be racist because they vote Democrat but will say things like "Ugh, I just hope I'm not living next to some Mexicans. And it's not racist to say that because they ARE all alike, okay?"
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 10:53 PM on November 7, 2015 [89 favorites]


Three links all by people who moved to Mississippi, none by anyone from there.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:00 PM on November 7, 2015 [12 favorites]


Three links all by people who moved to Mississippi, none by anyone from there.
posted by the man of twists and turns


Maybe there's a litmus to concern and proximity to tragedy qualifies dismay, but we don't immediately have to reach for the measuring stick before we can lessen the distance and connect with someone.

"Versh told me about a man mutilated himself. He went into the woods and did it with a razor, sitting in a ditch… But that’s not it. It’s not not having them. It’s never to have had them then I could say O That That’s Chinese I don’t know Chinese. And father said it’s because you are a virgin: don’t you see? It’s nature is hurting you not Caddy and I said That’s just words and he said So is virginity and I said you don’t know. You can’t know and he said Yes. On the instant when we come to realise that tragedy is second-hand.

"Where the shadow of the bridge fell I could see down for a long way, but not as far as the bottom.

"When you leave a leaf in water a long time after awhile the tissue will be gone and the delicate fibres waving slow as the motion of sleep. They don't touch one another, no matter how knotted up they once were, no matter how close they lay once to the bones." - The Sound and the Fury
posted by four panels at 12:27 AM on November 8, 2015 [6 favorites]


Cathy Thompson, a labor and delivery nurse, had bought an AK-47 for stress relief during menopause. “I don’t know what women in New York do,” she said in a fast-paced drawl. “Probably see a therapist, or get on meds. I got my AK and a T-shirt that said, ‘I’m Out of Estrogen and I Have a Gun.’”

Where do I sign up?
posted by infini at 1:26 AM on November 8, 2015 [17 favorites]


Yeah, I've lived in Tennessee for the past five years or so, after living most of my life in the upper Midwest. I think that racism just plain functions differently in different parts of the country, due to the different circumstances. I'm told by people I work with here that when they visit relatives in Louisiana or the Carolinas they're often surprised and shocked, but when they tell me what shocks them it isn't so much more racism as racism expressed differently than it is here.
posted by AdamCSnider at 2:32 AM on November 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


This gives me the chance to recommend Mississippi Damned, an excellent film that treats many of these same themes. It's still on Netflix.
posted by Pararrayos at 3:08 AM on November 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Bitter Southerner, for those who believe that we can tell our own stories.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:55 AM on November 8, 2015 [38 favorites]


Also, Paul Theroux's latest, Deep South: Four Seasons on Back Roads.
posted by silence down below at 5:08 AM on November 8, 2015


Noting our lack of furniture, Cathy went through her storage areas and produced two beds, a couch, a kitchen table and chairs, two armchairs and two wingback chairs. “Y’all can have this stuff on permanent loan,” she said. “And I noticed y’all just have the one vehicle. That’s going to get inconvenient out here, so I want you to drive our Envoy whenever you need to, and think of it as your second vehicle. I’ll show you where the keys are.”

Another neighbor showed up with a cord of split firewood, a bottle of Glenlivet and an engraved silver ice bucket as housewarming gifts. A third insisted on keeping our grass cut for the rest of the summer.
That is so scary. What do you owe them now?
posted by officer_fred at 5:12 AM on November 8, 2015 [10 favorites]


I'm skeptical. Having recently read The Warmth of Other Suns, about the migration of blacks from The South to The North, I'm not ready to believe that it's all so benign. Of course a white Englishman would be met with warmth and kindness, even from blacks.

I'm a New Yorker and I definitely see every day the effects of the de facto segregation here (I'm volunteer teaching basic web development at a high school that is 100% black).

I understand that racism is still here, just expressed differently.

I'm not from the south and have only spent brief amounts of time there, and on top of that I've lived all my life in cities, so I usually hold back from commenting, it's just that this is making me a little uncomfortable and I'd love to hear from black Mississippians about how they feel.
posted by maggiemaggie at 5:22 AM on November 8, 2015 [13 favorites]


Al I know about the US southern belles and race relations I learnt watching Hart of Dixie.
posted by signal at 5:30 AM on November 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is some spacey journalism. It is mostly boring and then the second to last paragraph goes zing:

In the same town, a man was caught in a police sting operation while having carnal relations with show hogs. We had never even heard of show hogs, so our friend Martha Foose, a Delta-born cookbook writer, had to explain. “We have beauty pageants for our swine,” she said. “And they get those hogs dolled up. They shave their underparts, curl their eyelashes, buff their little trotters, and I guess it’s more than some guys can stand. I call it ‘dating down the food chain.’”


IF IT BLEEDS OR SQUEALS IT LEADS
posted by bukvich at 5:31 AM on November 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


The writer had me until the grey pearl and wooden ticky tacky white people's boughie shit, boring.
posted by clavdivs at 5:41 AM on November 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Three links all by people who moved to Mississippi, none by anyone from there.

People born into that culture do not find it remarkable and wouldn't think it worth writing about.
posted by Bringer Tom at 5:53 AM on November 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


This is why there's no significant history of Southerners, white and black, writing about their own culture. Definitely not some of the classics of American literature in that group, either.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:57 AM on November 8, 2015 [46 favorites]


Racism can take different forms depending on where it's happening and all of them can be bad.
posted by dry white toast at 5:57 AM on November 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


Now in the UK, even our Prime Minister enjoys carnal relations with pigs. A much more egalitarian society.

I remember one afternoon spent in a bar on Cocoa Beach where Obama was being discussed in terms that, even as a sozzled old hack who would believe almost anything of Florida, I found shocking. These were the same people who, just down the road, had sent a rocket to the moon.

America, you weird.
posted by Devonian at 6:00 AM on November 8, 2015 [8 favorites]


I'm not from the south and have only spent brief amounts of time there, and on top of that I've lived all my life in cities, so I usually hold back from commenting, it's just that this is making me a little uncomfortable and I'd love to hear from black Mississippians about how they feel.

Hi, I'm not from Mississippi, but am black and was born in New Orleans and currently live in Savannah, GA. The story rings true and real to me, though I realize I don't fit all of your tic marks about being a believable source. My apologies on that front and I hope that one day you'll be able to meet a real live black Mississippian so you can finally learn THE TRUTH.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:08 AM on November 8, 2015 [48 favorites]


These were the same people who, just down the road, had sent a rocket to the moon.

Those were not the same people.
posted by officer_fred at 6:08 AM on November 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


This is why there's no significant history of Southerners, white and black, writing about their own culture.

Sure there is. For starters, there's the Encyclopedia of the Southern Culture, which is, well - encyclopedic. For a more leisurely read, there's almost anything you can find by John Shelton Reed. I'd argue that any southern writer of fiction would also qualify.
posted by BWA at 6:09 AM on November 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Bitter Southerner, for those who believe that we can tell our own stories.

Why have I never seen that link before? There is some interesting writing in there.

On the other hand, I drove past confederate flags every day.

I am in the northwest and I see confederate flags on vehicles every day, too. They are not as prevalent as when I lived in the south, but they are still so frequent as to be unexceptional.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:09 AM on November 8, 2015


These were the same people who, just down the road, had sent a rocket to the moon.

Those were not the same people.


Hell, many of them weren't even natural Americans (which is fine).
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:10 AM on November 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh I was being sarcastic, BWA, sorry if that was unclear.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:14 AM on November 8, 2015


I am in the northwest and I see confederate flags on vehicles every day, too. They are not as prevalent as when I lived in the south, but they are still so frequent as to be unexceptional.

I've seen the odd Confederate battle-flag in state north of the Mason-Dixon line, but I wonder if it's increasing with the recent flag bans. Seems like the symbol is changing in signal from "Southern pride" to a more generic "you can't tell me what flag I can or can't fly".
posted by theorique at 6:23 AM on November 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


Prepare yourselves for my bizarre and controversial position:

Both insider and outsider stories have value and legitimacy
posted by Pater Aletheias at 6:30 AM on November 8, 2015 [83 favorites]


Here here, Pater Aletheias. As one of many Americans who is not really from anywhere, I was starting to wonder if I should ever write another sentence about anywhere that I've ever lived.
posted by durandal at 6:51 AM on November 8, 2015


I meant no hostility Brandon Blatcher, it's just that most stories I see about the graciousness of the south come from places of white privilege, and I know there are other voices to be heard, so thank you for your comment.
posted by maggiemaggie at 6:56 AM on November 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


I appreciate the pragmatic detente, which Ghostride The Whip describes above, that polite Southern whites take to larger groups of non-whites, including blacks and Hispanics.

Such attitudes are probably more enlightened than outright aggression.

I do not, however, believe it's necessarily more enlightened (or preferable) than a thin-to-thickish veneer of civility over a cowardly/conflicted racist interior that is too afraid to show itself in front of respectable company. (And the accusation of harboring racist sentiment is not remarkable even when proved because, as Charles Lawrence argues, racism is also a part of the unconscious such that even anti-racists harbor them. A good analogy is Oedipal/Elektra (yes, Freud) attachments. Everyone (for certain values of "everyone") has them and in many cases these feelings are socialized and internalized as taboo. So, too, racism.)

As a mixed-race nonwhite US citizen, I feel that the whole "[Some forms of] Southern white racism are more honest than Northern California [where I'm from] and forgivable especially because they treat some blacks as family" is a romanticization of the racist form and a fetishization of Southern manners.

As far as I'm concerned, that kind of racism can go fuck itself right off, too.

I prefer racism to be tempered by education, learning, humility, and self-restraint. I'd much prefer such people to reflect on what they are saying/feeling and bridge the gap between racist ideology (white supremacy) and their lived experience.

You know, more along the lines of enlightened Northeastern liberals and West Coast Bohemians.
posted by mistersquid at 7:03 AM on November 8, 2015 [14 favorites]


oops, too much bi-coastal provincialism…

I also prefer the attitudes of enlightened Southern whites who are troubled by open expressions of racism.
posted by mistersquid at 7:11 AM on November 8, 2015 [6 favorites]


I think that the rural South is not just the South: it's also really important that it's rural. I am as non-rural as they come (and I have fairly deep roots in the urban South), but it seems to me that rural places have their own unique social relations, which are defined by the fact that you really are tied to and dependent on your neighbors in a way that people mostly aren't in urban or suburban places. I think that rural interconnectedness plus extreme hierarchy probably would make for some interesting, complicated social relations, in a really different way than would be present either in the urban South or in other parts of rural America.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:22 AM on November 8, 2015 [6 favorites]


Hi, Mississippi Deltan here. White, though, so, you know. And I'm a writer, so, basically, I am the worst.

The "Dispatches from Pluto" excerpt made me grind my teeth. Sure, move here, write a book, make yourself at home! . . . But, no, it may be a very good book, and important. It's not an intellectual reaction that it provoked, it was a pure Mississippian instinct. I love the place and cannot build a life there because it has no place for me, except as someone's daughter -- and there is that place, because -- well, it is fierce complicated. So far, I have most effectively dealt with the feeling of being from Greenville by writing stories about Innsmouth and the Deep Ones. (Nobody understands how we live! They don't understand how beautiful this place is!)

There is a voluminous Mississippi literary legacy, and particularly a Delta legacy, but its famous exponents are largely white, and I think white people need to step back from appointing themselves as Southern Voices. If folks ask, I'll tell them that the Mississippi writer to watch is Kiese Laymon.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:23 AM on November 8, 2015 [19 favorites]


And as always: it should be noted that there are plenty of progressive, educated people in the Deep South who are natives of the Deep South. Frustration and befuddlement with the weirdo, backward-glancing, riddled-with-contradictions status quo is not just the privilege of outsiders who come for the cheap real estate and stay for the writing material and sense of moral superiority. A not-insignificant percentage of my family lives in the Mississippi Delta. Trust me, when I tell you that they already know exactly how fucked up it is.
posted by thivaia at 7:26 AM on November 8, 2015 [28 favorites]


A long time ago, a black coworker from Mississippi surprised me when he told me he preferred the racism in the south to the racism in the north. He said white people in the South would call him a n*gger to his face. He said that wasn't great, but he knew where he stood with them. In the north, white people would smile in his face and throw his job application in the trash as soon as he left. He said it was impossible in the north to know who the enemy was.
posted by double block and bleed at 7:28 AM on November 8, 2015 [14 favorites]


Incidentally, the Delta doesn't just have a binary racial history. Beginning in the late 19th century, it has played host to large Italian, Jewish, Chinese, and Lebanese communities. The interplay can be fascinating (see Ethel Wright Mohamed). It can also be disappointing, as minority communities lined up against each other in fairly predictable ways. The Lebanese Arabic words for "black people" were locally used as code ("we don't feel safe over there any more, too many abeed").
posted by Countess Elena at 7:38 AM on November 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


Before I put my two cents in here about why the South is so confusing to outsiders--and you are outsiders, even those who move in and live there for decades--I will preface this with the fact that I am white grown preacher's daughter from Georgia who has lived in rural, urban, and suburban parts of Georgia, spread across its different geographies, and who has now spent many years in the Pacific Northwest and New York City. I write this on the cusp on going home for a while, and much has been on my mind.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez once confessed to having patricidal feelings about Faulkner. The literature of much of Latin America has much in common with the literature of the South for good historical reasons--both emerged from a stewpot of failed pseudo-feudalism based around the production of raw goods by slaves whose labors and efforts produced enormous wealth for the land-owning gentry, gentry who later lost most of their wealth and inherent social station in subsequent civil war (or in the case of Latin America, war(s)).

In Democracy in America, Alexis De Tocqueville made some curious observations of the South in America as he encountered it in the early 1800s, (and I will have to generalize here, but I recommend reading that whole book at least once in your life): that the Southern aristocracy was made lazy by their leisure, but more obsessed with high minded thoughts of Roman and Greek philosophy than their industrial counterparts to the North; that the South was in a strange position as regards what he believed to be the eventual collapse of the plantation system, as the slave system was race based and not just class based, and so the freeing of the slaves would not result in generational absorption into the wider strata of society because prejudice against race would continue regardless of freedom; that the North, when abolishing slavery, allowed slave owners to sell their slaves South in order to recoup the expenses of their "property", whereas he suspected that in the South, there would be no such way to move-by-sale the slave population or recoup the investment expense (and as horrifying as it is to speak of slavery in these terms, the horror of the economics of slavery must be looked at full and honestly), and so, he imagined, the South would have to, at some point in its history, reckon with the task of integrating two populations of people--one enslaved, and one the enslavers--the latter of whom did not want to be reconciled.

Add to this that the South is deeply religious--and not of the Puritanical variety of faith, or the institutionally strong Lutheran and Presbyterian traditions of the Midwest--but of the Baptist and Methodist strains, a dash of Catholicism (or mostly Catholic, in the case of Latin America), of faiths that emerged from revivals and circuit riding preachers, of the evangelicalism that emerges when American ideals of independence and self-determination get turned towards the good book, such that people in their homes are reading the Bible and taking it upon themselves to interpret its contents without knowledge of how it came to be.

Take all of these and mix them together with war, with an independently armed populace, with poverty, with a working-class white population who has never known anything but crumbs from the white upper class and fighting against their black and now Mexican immigrant peers for labor. Take all of this and mix together with corruption, with the once-landed-gentry trying with all their might to rebuild some kind of power--

And you will get what you have in the South today.

The error that outsiders always make about the South is that they don't understand Southerners are outwardly meanest to family and nicest to strangers, because nicety is a way to keep people out of your business while still getting what you need from them. What outsiders don't understand is that God, and Jesus, and the Devil are real--that the South operates with a cosmology that has a heaven and a hell and a living God who interferes with daily life and subjects all of us to the unknown whims and motivations of divinity--and because these entities are dueling around and between us, the temporary alliances and betrayals between humans, the unfair caste system in which people are a part, are dealt with in terms of blessings and curses instead of policy and government. What outsiders don't understand is that a person's behavior isn't about what is right and wrong, but what is known by your peers, and what you can get away with when it is just you and God--a God who, by the way, will forgive your believed-in brokenness in all its forms. And what outsiders don't understand is that the word Southerner does not mean white redneck, although there are plenty of those to be found. The black citizens of the South are Southern too, and in many ways more so, as it is their food and music and culture and language that has had the largest influence on what can be called Southern and what attributes are claimed as Southern by the white citizens among them.

What outsiders don't understand is that Southerners have been talking about race forever, while much of the rest of the country is just joining the conversation, and that the South knows that it has failed repeatedly to find an answer to institutional and personal racism, and so the white people who care about racism try to amend this failure in their daily life and interactions (and increasingly in government, thank goodness), and those that don't care move on with their niceties while throwing their hands up and saying that's just how the Lord made things to be. Meanwhile those that are actively invested in keeping the races separate become race terrorists, using symbols and violence and death and incarceration to maim and kill and destroy the lives of the South's black citizens while much of the rest of its residents look away. And what outsiders don't understand is that the white South hates being reminded of this apathy and impotence in the face of the terror wrought by its own, because truth be told, the rest of country is looking away from the violence of their own systems as well, all while pointing at the South as though it is the only region with a race problem.

So when people come down, move in, talk about how nice everyone is, and live with their secular humanist worldview all while saying how good the food is, they are really just tourists enjoying the outward fruits of an insular culture so deeply knotted in its tragedies and failures and limping survival that it is inscrutable and confusing to those not born in the tangle. But there is a sense to it--and by sense, I mean reason and not excuse--if you have an ear for myth or can put aside your need for logic to resolve, because in the South the answer is often A and Not A, the answer is a paradox, and that's just the way it is.
posted by whimsicalnymph at 7:38 AM on November 8, 2015 [155 favorites]


thivala "...outsiders who come for the cheap real estate and stay for the writing material and sense of moral superiority."

Speaking as an outsider, I'd come for the cheap real estate, and stay for the music and food. The sense of moral superiority is just lagniappe.
posted by panglos at 7:42 AM on November 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


if folks ask, I'll tell them that the Mississippi writer to watch is Kiese Laymon.

Jesmyn Ward, too.
posted by listen, lady at 8:47 AM on November 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


it is inscrutable and confusing to those not born in the tangle.

Sometimes the only way to see the tangle is to be outside it. Sorry.
posted by listen, lady at 8:48 AM on November 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm black, I'm not from the South but I do go down to visit family who relocated there at least once a year. I have never believed in the outward niceness you see a lot of Southerners display. It always struck me as phony especially with white Southerners. I used to be one of those black people who said they would prefer the good ole Southern typical type of racism over the veiled Northern variant. Now, I think all type of racism and the people who hold those views can go get bent. I was in San Francisco last year with a friend of mine for work. We had the misfortune of striking up a conversation with a lady from Mississippi who lived in DC. Of all the racist shit I have experienced, she pretty much took a top 2 spot even topping out with her asking me if I planned on raping her. I really don't care for the South at all.
posted by RedShrek at 8:52 AM on November 8, 2015 [34 favorites]


I am an outsider who lived in the south for only a few years. What struck me most--like a brick on the head as a northerner--was what I would call protocol. The racism seemed to be protocol and what I would call southern hospitality seemed to be protocol. I remember going to a wedding in NC. The rehearsal dinner was at the bride's family home. The matriarch greeted us in the grand foyer with her large portrait looking over us. Black men served us. Black women were confined to the kitchen. And at the country club the next day (Greensboro), 100% of the workers serving us, cleaning up, etc, were black. It all seemed to be rule based--as opposed to up north where people working such an event would just be a random mix of people who happen to be doing that particular job before they move on in life. But that was back in the 1990's so imagine some things have changed since then?
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 9:01 AM on November 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


double block and bleed: "A long time ago, a black coworker from Mississippi surprised me when he told me he preferred the racism in the south to the racism in the north. He said white people in the South would call him a n*gger to his face. He said that wasn't great, but he knew where he stood with them. In the north, white people would smile in his face and throw his job application in the trash as soon as he left."

I was very surprised, when I moved to North Carolina, how much more head-on people addressed racism and racial issues than we did in Chicago, where we talked around it politely. I typically hang with an anti-racist crowd who's intent on pushing back against these sorts of issues in all their various and regional forms, but it was really educational for me (once I got over my polite Midwestern shock) to learn how to talk about issues of racism directly the way North Carolinians did.

The examples of racism I did see in NC were much, much more overt and much less coded -- which on the one hand is sorta helpful as it clues you in a lot faster to which people you are NOT going to be friends with, but on the other hand was quite shocking and upsetting and it really bothered me to live in a place where people felt like these attitudes were socially acceptable enough that they could just express them. The flip side of that coin was that you didn't have the underground, coded racism you find in Chicago, where people can't even talk about (say) housing segregation's racist dimensions and have to go through all kinds of contortions to explain it away as economics that nobody's really responsible for. On the one hand, at least people knew their racism was socially unacceptable? But on the other hand, it made it a lot harder to address racism as a problem.

Anyway, yeah, I listened, I learned, how anti-racist activist Southerners (white and black) address racism in clear and direct language, but in really productive (rather than solely confrontational) ways. This was a hella powerful tool to bring back with me to the Midwest where it is like a surprise tactic that people are never ready for. I mean my first instinct is still to passive-aggressively pretend I don't know what people mean when they say something coded and to ask them to explain it to me to force them to either back off it or outright state it and in either case to ice-burn them into embarrassed submission, but WHOA TALKING ABOUT IT IN CLEAR, DIRECT, CALM LANGUAGE CAN WORK TOO!
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:07 AM on November 8, 2015 [30 favorites]


These articles and this conversation remind me of post-Civil War slavery memoirs written by former slave owners. It is interesting to see the ways in which ex-slaveholder rhetoric is mirrored in modern-day romanticizations of race relations in the south.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:11 AM on November 8, 2015 [6 favorites]


Eyebrows McGee: "I mean my first instinct is still to passive-aggressively pretend I don't know what people mean when they say something coded and to ask them to explain it to me to force them to either back off it or outright state it and in either case to ice-burn them into embarrassed submission..."

The ice-burn just gets you an acquaintance / coworker / whatever who will never trust you with their honest opinion about anything ever again. Sometimes that's a good thing when dealing with people who have repellant honest opinions, but it does nothing towards changing those attitudes.
posted by double block and bleed at 10:29 AM on November 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


My first reaction is 'I'm sure glad somebody from New York said the South is complicated so now we know it's true.' But that's probably uncharitable.

It's definitely true that white Southerners often act polite to black people--and in fact know and like many of the individual black people who they work with or go to church with or who teach their kids--while still holding racist ideas about black people in general. My grandma doesn't have the slightest problem with the individual black and Latino people her grandchildren date and marry, but I've also heard her say, reacting to a story of some egregious misbehavior, "was she white!?" to determine whether the story was truly shocking or merely unfortunate. Such is the duality of the Southern thing.

My maternal great-grandmother isn't Southern, but she's Jamaican and from what I can gather the caste system there was sonewhat similar to the South. That side of my family just comes from the other side of it; demonied landowners rather than tenant farmers. She often expresses a vague nostalgia for everyone "having their place," which I guess is an expression of her lost privilege, being relatively poor having once had money and perceiving herself as having a certain position in society in a society that doesn't recognize that.
posted by bracems at 10:43 AM on November 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


I am white and from the northern United States. A not insignificant amount of this ring true for small post-industrial rural American redneck towns in general. The menopause gun lady would not have been out of place in the town where I grew up.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:46 AM on November 8, 2015 [11 favorites]


Sometimes, in its best facet, politeness is behaving in such a way that ordinary life can go on, moment to moment, all thinking aside. The unsaid is the mountain we all climb, daily. Grace allows us to sweeten and burnish off the momentary rough edges. Then, sometimes it is most polite to scream.

Oh my God the south has the softest, heaviest air. The mournful cries, the jubilant cries of small wilderness fill the spaces in the evenings. I want to go back. I will do so with the knowledge this elephant is in every room, of any description. It is entirely possible to not answer the overwhelming question, while at the same time breaking bread and taking tea with the monster. But, that said, I would work it to see the monster briefly, preferably between meals. A steady diet is lethal. Same with a lot of other monsters.
posted by Oyéah at 11:07 AM on November 8, 2015 [7 favorites]


mistersquid: racism is also a part of the unconscious such that even anti-racists harbor them.

Thanks for that. I consider myself an anti-racist.
posted by sneebler at 11:29 AM on November 8, 2015


Also important in this context is the Southern romanticizing of the English; if these two had an accent, it would definitely increase their appeal. They bring prestige to the area...they have some money, obviously, at least in relation to their new neighbors.
posted by emjaybee at 11:52 AM on November 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


These articles and this conversation remind me of post-Civil War slavery memoirs written by former slave owners. It is interesting to see the ways in which ex-slaveholder rhetoric is mirrored in modern-day romanticizations of race relations in the south.

I read this five times and I still don't know what you're referring to. Please be more specific as to which people in this conversation you are accusing of sounding like ex-slaveholders.
posted by hydropsyche at 11:53 AM on November 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


Somewhere between the singing, happy slaves of Gone With the Wind and the lurking degenerates of Deliverance lies the true South. It's not all gallant men and magnolias, nor is it all rednecks and Bible-thumpers. But the filmic interpretations of its people - racist, impoverished, unsophisticated - always seems to paint it that way.
-Rich Hall's "The Dirty South"posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 12:12 PM on November 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


Please be more specific as to which people in this conversation you are accusing of sounding like ex-slaveholders.

Not the commenter, but a lot of those writings had a discussion of how people in the North were the real racists, Black people were treated nicely and politely in the South, and Black people were better off in the South because they knew where they stood in the hierarchy and it made things so much easier for everyone. There are definitely elements of those arguments in the articles linked and peppered here and there in the discussion.
posted by schroedinger at 12:18 PM on November 8, 2015 [14 favorites]


White Mississippi native here. Superficially, the racial dynamic being described rings true, but it's far more complex. I for one don't mind outsiders writing about my state, critically or otherwise, but I do wince at attempts to flatten and reduce race relations to simple binaries. Likewise I resent any attempts by my fellow white southerners to downplay or dismiss the lasting effects of slavery and post-Reconstruction racial violence. It's an indefensible shame. There's poverty enough to go around without lying to ourselves about what it meant and what it was for and the forms in which it persists through present day.

I still feel our literature--black, white, and other--is the best point of entry for beginning to grok the weird gumbo of beauty and brutality, oppression and selflessness that characterizes the place.
posted by echocollate at 12:40 PM on November 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


Please be more specific as to which people in this conversation you are accusing of sounding like ex-slaveholders.

Not the commenter, but a lot of those writings had a discussion of how people in the North were the real racists, Black people were treated nicely and politely in the South, and Black people were better off in the South because they knew where they stood in the hierarchy and it made things so much easier for everyone. There are definitely elements of those arguments in the articles linked and peppered here and there in the discussion.


That's actually helpful. As a white southerner who spends most of my time with college students who are southerners of every ethnicity with ancestry and cultures from every continent, I would never say any of those things about the south. As a resident of Atlanta who has seen city police abusing black men walking down the street, I would never say any of those things about the south. As someone who protests and marches, who gets things wrong and apologizes, who is working to make the world a better place, I would never say any of those things about the south.

These articles did not resonate particularly with my experience in the urban/suburban south where I live now or the rural south where I grew up and where my relatives still live. That was why my initial reaction was just to link to The Bitter Southerner--real, long-form journalism and essays by southerners about the south. The actual stories of the actual modern south--black, white, Latino, Vietnamese, Laotian, Syrian, Afghan, Caribbean, and Indian--are out there on the internet. But not so much in the New York Times.

But I also laugh at anyone who persists in claiming that the south has a monopoly on racism in the US. Surely the deaths of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, and Freddie Gray at the hands of the police should put that bullshit to rest. Surely Ta-Nehisi Coates' astonishing reparations article whose primary focus was redlining in Chicago should put that bullshit to rest. Surely the amazing This American Life episodes about school segregation (focusing on the St. Louis area and Hartford, CT) should put that bullshit to rest. Far too often, we are treated as this weird other place where racism lives, allowing the rest of the country to ignore its crimes against the humanity of its citizens because at least they aren't us.
posted by hydropsyche at 1:06 PM on November 8, 2015 [23 favorites]


I read this five times and I still don't know what you're referring to. Please be more specific as to which people in this conversation you are accusing of sounding like ex-slaveholders.

I'm sorry that you're not more familiar with post-Civil War slaveholder memoirs. It's worth familiarizing yourself with them if you want to understand some of the more persistent tropes that weave their way through the stories people tell about racial relations in the south.

If you want a more specific reference, you might look at page 47 of Them Dark Days by William Dusinberre. There, you will find a characteristic example of the rhetoric I am discussing: Charles Manigault writes in his memoirs that his family and his slaves lived close together, so much so that their children played together, and that this resulted in "mutual family interests, and kind personal feelings." This is a common form of slavery apologia: the assertion that physical closeness and economic dependence (which is framed as mutual instead of exploitative) leads to familial feelings and to the contentment and benefit of all parties involved.

You might be willing to take Mr. Manigault's word for it and imagine that he was a particularly benign slave owner. However, it is worth noting that 90% of the slaves born on his plantation died before they reached 15 years of age, a fate against which Mr. Manigault's alleged "kind personal feelings" gave no protection.

[(Let me digress to say that certainly a 90% childhood death rate is substantially worse than the current infant mortality rate in Mississippi, but the current infant and maternal morality rates in Mississippi are still abysmally bad, and twice as bad for black women and infants as for whites (this racial pattern exists throughout the US).]

Anyway, when people start talking about what racial relations are like in the south and referencing the close physical proximity of black servants and the friendly relations between the races (as though the friendliness is one thing and verbalized racism is somehow completely separable from it), it reminds me of this particular strain of rhetoric. That and the lyrical romanticism about the complexity of racial relationships in the south--it is simply very stylistically reminiscent of a certain strain of white post-Civil War memoir which you might want to become acquainted with if you are interested in this topic.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 1:12 PM on November 8, 2015 [18 favorites]


Wow. Not unfamiliar with those. Familiar with their hateful bullshit rhetoric. Didn't see the relevance to this thread. Don't really have much interest in reading them in any kind of depth. After 2 years of memorializing the 150th anniversary of the Civil War in Atlanta, I'm honestly pretty weary of it, and it's not a part of history I've ever been super interested in. I think at this point we should talk about the entire history of black folks in the new world, especially including Jim Crow and other segregation laws, if we really want to understand how things came to be the way we are.

And for the record, I have absolutely, positively no interest at all in defending any fucking slave holders.

schroedinger helped me understand where you saw similarities in the essays linked in the FPP. I say again, as several of us have said, that those articles are not particularly reflective of the current discussion of race going on in the south right now. There are other, better sources out there, if you want to understand.
posted by hydropsyche at 2:07 PM on November 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


I am not a fan of the "but in the South we're all so friendly" racism apologia, but as a Northerner I am also not a fan of any Northerner who ascribes to the idea that we got over racism in North a long time ago. Pretending like it's better in one place in the USA than somewhere else often smells like an attempt to switch out uncomfortable conversations about our own problems for back-patting.
posted by schroedinger at 2:17 PM on November 8, 2015 [14 favorites]


Besides The Bitter Southerner, another favorite place to read what actual southerners are saying right now about race is The Crunk Feminist Collective.
posted by hydropsyche at 2:28 PM on November 8, 2015 [6 favorites]


I'm a white guy, born and raised in rural Iowa. One benefit I see of the "hidden" racism of the north is that, as a child, literally the only outward expression of racism I can recall is our grandma casually referring to Michael Jackson (my sister had a poster of him on her wall) as a "black devil". And of course my siblings laughed at her out-of-touch oldness, because obviously M.J. was cooler than fuck.

So, racism wasn't modeled for us by family or people we knew. It was not normal. It was embarrassing to everyone I knew, as far as I knew. And I think that served me far better than out-in-the-open, active racism would've.
posted by ArmandoAkimbo at 2:29 PM on November 8, 2015 [7 favorites]


I don't think "we're all so friendly" is always apologia or romanticization. Sometimes it's just descriptive. And sometimes it's damning. I admit I couldn't finish the first article, but I didn't see romanticization of racism in the other two.
posted by Mavri at 2:34 PM on November 8, 2015


There's a house I pass all the time here in the Atlanta 'burbs that has flown a confederate battle flag from a 30′ flagpole in the front yard since I was a teenager, nearly three decades. It was taken down over the summer and has not returned.
posted by ob1quixote at 2:38 PM on November 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


I grew up in rural-suburbanish NC with lots of family in rural Georgia. Racism wasn't modeled for me by family. It was not normal. It was embarassing to everyone I knew, as far as I knew. I was lucky enough to be raised in a family that wasn't openly racist, just like you. Even though I grew up in the south.

However, probably different from your childhood in rural Iowa, I grew up in an area that was about equal parts black and white. I had lots of black friends growing up, and many of them did experience racism on a daily basis, which I heard about from them and which I saw happen to them. That racism was not from my family, but it was from teachers and administrators and coaches and police officers and store clerks. And it sucked and it was awful. That's what I mean that racism was out in the open. That I saw it happen to my friends.
posted by hydropsyche at 2:38 PM on November 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


I have not at all suggested that anyone here is defending slaveholders (?). Nor have I at all said that there's no racism elsewhere in the US, and in fact I took pains to avoid such an unfair implication by talking about health disparities throughout the US.

Really, if anything, people have been bending over backwards in this thread to defend southern racism as relatively benign. Relative to what, I'm not sure (perhaps Northern/Western racism), but I have been assured that southern racism has its pluses. So rest assured that no one here is daring to come close to asserting that the South is uniquely bad in that respect.

Also, I really must reject the suggestion that post-Civil War rhetoric is not worth (my) interest simply because the Civil War is...celebrated in the south? That, in fact, proves its relevance to the present! It's kind of bizarre to state that you're tired of it as though that's an argument for me not reading about it or talking about it.

I come from an area of the country that is often derided as hickish, backwards, full of gun nuts, made fun of on NPR, and similar. So I understand the defensiveness. But the chip on your shoulder about people being stupid about the south needs to not be so large that it keeps people from making reasonable comments about race and racism.

Anyway, with that, I'm pretty much done with this thread--I'm not really willing to spend much more time talking about things I didn't actually say.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 2:46 PM on November 8, 2015 [5 favorites]


I think race is more complicated in the antibellum south than it is most anywhere. Example, my father's people were old money. My mother's family were immigrants from the Middle East, and nobody ever let me forget that my father married her because she got pregnant, not because we were welcome into the family. I am browner than my grandfather was comfortable with. My sister looked whiter, and was showered with things which were not an option for me, like being invited to debutante at the country club.

By the same token, when my grandmother passed, she left enormous amounts of money to the grandchildren of the woman (a lovely black lady that I grew up calling Nanna), who had "done for her" since she was a young bride. On her death bed, she told me that the main reason she was leaving so much to those kids, and not to me, was because she said I had been born into advantages that they would never have, and that having money never did anything for my father but to make him an ass, and therefore, it was incumbent upon me to find my place in the world, but that place was not where the rich white trust fund babies congregate. "Those aren't your people," she said. "you should find your own tribe." And I have, and y'all are part of it, but my tribe is glorious in its multi ethnicities and skin colors and orientations and while being wealthy certainly would have made the rough spots in my life a lot easier, the odds are I would have become one of the Babbity little snobs that I try to avoid, so it's all good.

Race is a really complicated thing in the South.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 3:36 PM on November 8, 2015 [10 favorites]


That is so scary. What do you owe them now?

. . . Neighborliness? Smooth social relations? I dunno, I can't tell if you're joking or are legitimately scared of people who offer to cut your grass.
posted by chainsofreedom at 3:41 PM on November 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


Well, 'neighborliness' and 'smooth social relations' are pretty open-ended, unspecific things that might encompass expectations both pleasant and unpleasant. I'd be happier just paying someone to cut my grass. At least I'd know exactly how much I'm on the hook for.
posted by um at 4:28 PM on November 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


I cut my neighbor's lawn for quite a number of years. There were no hooks, other than they knew I had their back, (yard,) and the front too. I have lived in both very neighborly and un neighborly hoods. Racism is an ugly business, there is no social beauty treatment for the condition.
posted by Oyéah at 4:40 PM on November 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think it's less sinister than that. This kind of gift-giving is driven by the same ideals that you get in cultures where wealth is shown off by pressing gifts on each other. And it's also tied to Christian ideals of giving, and in general works as a way to say to yourself "I am a welcoming, Christian, Good Person." It's not like making a deal with the devil that you have to pay back in blood, though of course people will approve of you if you do also offer to help others out at some point. But as a Southerner/Christian you are not supposed to keep a tally of how much someone owes you; you are supposed to be wealthy/nice enough that you don't have to. So you can shower strangers with lawncare and ice buckets and furniture.

But of course, you're more likely to be that way with the right kind of strangers. Or rather, the quality of gifts might vary depending on the stranger.
posted by emjaybee at 4:40 PM on November 8, 2015 [3 favorites]


double block and bleed: "The ice-burn just gets you an acquaintance / coworker / whatever who will never trust you with their honest opinion about anything ever again."

Yeah, but fish don't have a word for water. Until I moved South I was under the impression that I was the most direct, straightforward person in the universe, because the coded language of the Midwest and the face-saving dance of half-stated imperatives and rebukes is entirely clear and obvious to me. Like I don't really MEAN to passive-aggressively ice-burn people, that's just the strongest, most direct, most in-your-face social opprobium I know how to apply. Or knew how to apply, anyway, until I lived in NC for a while, and realized that the Midwest is rather indirect on the scale of these things. But, man, it's my earliest and longest training, when I want to express to someone that their behavior is totally beyond the pale and socially unacceptable, that is MY RUDEST STRATEGY.

internet fraud detective squad, station number 9: "Charles Manigault writes in his memoirs that his family and his slaves lived close together, so much so that their children played together, and that this resulted in "mutual family interests, and kind personal feelings." This is a common form of slavery apologia: the assertion that physical closeness and economic dependence (which is framed as mutual instead of exploitative) leads to familial feelings and to the contentment and benefit of all parties involved. "

An interesting read, along the same sort of lines, was reading about George Washington and slavery. He was, for the time, quite enlightened as a slaveholder. Martha personally attended ill slaves; George generally did not have his slaves whipped, for moral reasons (he did have his free soldiers whipped, regularly); George would not sell slaves who had "married" other slaves that belonged to him (even though their marriages had no legal force) and would not sell away their children; at a certain point, he was losing more on feeding his slaves than he was earning on their slave labor at Mount Vernon because "optimizing" his slave labor force by breaking up families was repugnant to him ... but not repugnant enough to free his slaves, even though he was spending a lot of time with abolitionists in the North and came to admire their views and how Northern farms worked. And he writes all these sulky letters where he is super butthurt (I can use no other word to describe it) that his slaves don't seem to recognize that he was a very kind master and that they didn't work hard for him and he has absolutely no self-awareness that OH HEY MAYBE PEOPLE WHO ARE ENSLAVED REALLY DON'T GIVE A SHIT ABOUT HOW WELL YOUR FUCKING SLAVE PLANTATION IS DOING ECONOMICALLY. George in his will freed his slaves after MARTHA died; Martha, after George died, realized immediately that now all their slaves had excellent motive to murder her and complained about it in letters. But didn't free them. It's this amazing mix of two reasonably decent people who were "reasonably decent" to their slaves by the standards of the time, who are deeply invested in the cause of American freedom, but who just cannot seem to realize that OH HEY OWNING SLAVES ITSELF IS SHITTY AND NOT "DECENT." I really recommend reading about it to get a sense of the conflicting impulses of "good" slaveowners and how fucked up they are. George and Martha definitely had family feelings towards some of their slaves, and some of their slaves clearly did towards them ... but WOW that would have been one super-fucked-up, Lannister-esque sort of family.

schroedinger: "I am not a fan of the "but in the South we're all so friendly" racism apologia, but as a Northerner I am also not a fan of any Northerner who ascribes to the idea that we got over racism in North a long time ago. "

Yeah, one of the things that struck me about the directness of the conversation in the South is that it's easy for Northerners to be like, "But we were the GOOD guys! We won the Civil War! That problem is fixed! Let's not talk about it ..." While in the South everyone (white and black) has to reckon with that history far more directly and do not have the option to ignore it or sweep it under the rug. (I think the North is slowly improving about this and doing a better job addressing these issues, but again -- in Chicago you can barely talk about housing segregation as a racial issue.) I don't want to say racism in the South is "better" than in the North, but I think Northerners can really learn something from the direct honesty that Southerners have in talking about racism. (I think the North -- at least the bits I've lived in -- is probably better at addressing the problems of racism via policy and social exclusion of racists, but we really don't talk about it well.)

I guess my big point would be, it's salutary for everyone to live somewhere other than their home region for a while, while NOT in college (campuses are too insulating) ... regardless of whether racism is "worse" in the South, I learned an awful lot about racism, how to talk about it, and how to see it while living down there, and came back to my homeland with new eyes for the kinds of racism that Illinoisans prefer not to see. It was EASY for me to see what North Carolinians didn't see, because I didn't grow up there. But it took living in other places for me to see some of what my home is blind to -- Fish don't have a word for water.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:50 PM on November 8, 2015 [6 favorites]


This is way up in the thread, but... as a writer from Memphis, whose family is from Greenville, MS, this comment jumped out at me:

People born into that culture do not find it remarkable and wouldn't think it worth writing about.

That comment can go fuck itself. Made me so mad I don't even have an intelligent retort, and this is MeFi, where the intelligent retort is sort of the whole point.
posted by epilnivek at 8:39 PM on November 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


Traces of the Trade is a great film about the history of northern slavers.
posted by Oyéah at 9:38 PM on November 8, 2015


epilnivek, the writer of that comment clarified it was supposed to be sarcastic.

The best example I've encountered of how bizarre race gets in the South comes from a guy I know whose parents immigrated from India to settle in the Carolinas. He is definitively brown-skinned. And yet he's a vehement defender of the Confederate flag, Southern "culture", and the idea that the real racism is in the North. He deeply identifies with Southern tradition and romanticizes the Civil War.

He's been called all sorts of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim slurs (though he's neither), so he's well aware of the existence of racism. And yet he sees these things as separate from the issues Black people face, and is 100% sure that Black people are simply seeing things that no longer exist. Once during an argument I pointed out he would not have been drinking at the "Whites Only" fountains 50 years ago, and I might as well have slapped him from the look on his face. It's a weird intersection of the "Southern Pride" groupthink with a wholesale absorption of the "model minority" myth.
posted by schroedinger at 9:41 PM on November 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah, one of the things that struck me about the directness of the conversation in the South is that it's easy for Northerners to be like, "But we were the GOOD guys! We won the Civil War! That problem is fixed! Let's not talk about it ..." While in the South everyone (white and black) has to reckon with that history far more directly and do not have the option to ignore it or sweep it under the rug.

This is exactly what I mean. We grow up steeped in it down South, so things that are big victories for Northerners and those from parts elsewhere aren't unimportant, but do reflect a cartoonish idea of racism that ignores the log in their own eye in favor of the mote in ours. I know many that celebrated the activist taking down the Confederate flag in South Carolina with a "Yay, we did it Leftist Twitter, we showed those ignorant yokels who won the Civil War", but that removed a visible symbol. It didn't even begin to address the many lingering structural racial issues both down South and in the North, but by then leftist activism's (in a broad sense) eye had moved elsewhere. It's a good start, but you can't take out 300+ years of racism by taking down a flag.

And, frankly, I've been to parts of Washington/Oregon/California where they fly more Confederate flags than they do in South Carolina.

People move down South expecting they're moving into, I dunno, Mississippi Burning, where they can boldly confront the Klansmen careening around in a pickup truck. And that still does happen, of course, but they're surprised when they move into a class-focused society of manners that's more like a Jane Austen novel than a Civil Rights Era movie. You probably wouldn't drop a racial slur in company you didn't know very well, as that would be gauche, but you might send your kids to religious school and refuse to pay property taxes to the majority minority school district you live in. You might not wear a hood and burn a cross, but you might take your house off the market when "the wrong sort of folks" start looking to move into the neighborhood.

So yes, there's racism in the South, but it's a lot more codified and hidden behind all manner of behavior and dog whistles and manners than the Klannery we're so often accused of. And it's a reflection of the systematic racism everywhere. Like I said, I know many Californians who will openly say they don't want to live next to Mexicans because they pack a ton of people into apartments and make a lot of noise or whatever, but of course, they can't be racist because they live in a blue state. Or look at any thread on racism in Seattle, which will soon be swarmed by people swearing we don't have a racial problem up here (lord, we do) because it's not Alabama. Or Portland, which while granola-crunchy, is also in the middle of a hugely-racist state intended as a white utopia.

The racism down south is endemic, but it's also a lot more sophisticated than people think.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 10:25 PM on November 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


Does this complex, sophisticated Southern racism actually, you know, end up being less awful than Northern or Western racism? Are the cops in the South less dangerous? Are voting rights more secure? Is the justice system fairer? Are incomes more equal? If not, what does it matter what form the racism takes? It all needs to be nuked from orbit.
posted by great_radio at 11:26 PM on November 8, 2015


"Does this complex, sophisticated Southern racism actually, you know, end up being less awful than Northern or Western racism? "

I don't think anybody in this thread is arguing that, but if you want to nuke it from orbit you're going to have to know its contours in different parts of the country and the unique way it presents in the many and various cultures of the United States. To many of us this is interesting.

If careful study of your targets is boring to you, I'm sure they are hiring for the actual drone warfare program.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:08 AM on November 9, 2015 [8 favorites]


It may not be deliberate, but once you're talking about the log of racism in the Northerners eye vs the mote in the South it sure sounds like the Southern kind of racism is being described as less awful.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 2:19 AM on November 9, 2015


Most of the conundrum isn't difficult to disentangle.

Anglos in the south, as a group, are more racist than in the north, or at least hold higher average levels of racial resentment (most of a point higher on a nine point scale holding age and sex constant). But the difference isn't that southern anglos tend to be racist and northern anglos don't. It's that northern anglos tend to be really racist while southern anglos tend to be even more racist.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:35 AM on November 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


The Land The Internet Forgot
Gallardo doesn’t talk much about race or history, but that’s the broader context for his work in a state whose population has the largest percentage of African-Americans (38 percent) of any in the union. The most Gallardo will say on the subject is that he sees the Internet as a natural way to level out some of the persistent inequalities—between black and white, urban and rural—that threaten to turn parts of Mississippi into places of exile, left further and further behind the rest of the country.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 4:58 PM on November 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


(I think the North is slowly improving about this and doing a better job addressing these issues, but again -- in Chicago you can barely talk about housing segregation as a racial issue.)

With respect, people in Chicago talk about this kind of thing all the time, or at least people in Hyde Park and the surrounding neighborhoods talk about it all the time. Maybe white people or whiter neighborhoods don't discuss it. Here, though, race is a major and frequent topic of discussion. And it's talked about as though racism is an obvious problem. People aren't relitigating it at though we have to prove racism exists.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 2:55 PM on November 10, 2015


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