Why Is the American Left So Prejudiced About the South?

Yves here. Having spent time in the South, in general, Northerners carry huge class prejudice against Southerns. The same way a British accent is worth 20 attributed IQ points, a Southern accent is an attributed reduction of about 10 points. The Southerns I know who are not treated that way are people who managed to grow up in areas which didn’t have typical Southern accents (parts of Texas and New Orleans) or are adept enough to be able to shed them. Church-going is held against Southerners, even though my impression is once you get outside the evangelicals, church attendance is less frequent and more social than the media accounts would have you believe.

This is typical of how Southerners are depicted in movies:

So the left (and Northerners generally) too often operate from the halo effect cognitive bias when dealing with people from the South.

By Harry Blain, a Graduate Center Fellow pursuing a PhD in Political Science at the City University of New York. He has previously lived and worked in Sydney, Edinburgh and London. Follow him on Twitter @Hblain. Originally published at openDemocracy

Smugness and complacency are no basis for effective action on poverty, inequality and racism throughout the USA.

“What is wrong with them?” “They’re dumber than I thought!” “This is a new low, even for them.”

Comments like these were made to me by many friends and colleagues in New York during discussions about the 2016 special election in Alabama that narrowly rejected Judge Roy Moore’s candidacy for the Senate.

Sneering about the “Backward South” has become a form of escapism for many Northern liberals. There’s a certain comfort in thinking that the country’s worst problems exist far away rather than a few stops down the subway line—out of our control, an affliction unique to them. The late-night comedy version of the South as a land of ignorance, violence and prejudice is crude at best, serving mainly to make us feel good about ourselves rather than conveying anything of substance about the country.

But activists in the South  have been mobilizing voters and challenging power structures successfully for decades, from flooding Mississippi’s jails with Freedom Riders in the 1960s to helping to drive the surge in (especially black) voter turnout that defeated Moore. Like anywhere else, the South can change. Its institutions are constructed by human beings and are vulnerable to mass collective action. If the left can renew and extend this spirit, it may even win in the South—but not until we dismantle our prejudices about and against it.

The first step in doing so is to understand how the South is different, and where it’s not. The Triple Evils identified by Dr. Martin Luther King—poverty , racism and militarism—are  American, not uniquely Southern, but the South’s roots in slavery and Jim Crow racism color everything in distinctive ways. Mississippi didn’t fully ratify the 13th Amendment to the Constitution outlawing slavery until 2013—news that Jon Stewart justly ridiculed at the time as “only 148 years late.” Alabama didn’t legalize interracial marriage until the year 2000. There’s still a proud statue of the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan just off Interstate 65 near Nashville, Tennessee.

But as Elizabeth, a character from James Baldwin’s novel Go Tell It on the Mountain saw it: “There was not, after all, a great difference between the world of the North and that of the South which she had fled; there was only this difference: the North promised more. And this similarity: what it promised it did not give, and what it gave, at length and grudgingly on one hand, it took back with the other.”

Civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer, the daughter of a share-cropper in the Mississippi Delta, was similarly frank in a speech she gave in New York in 1971. “I used to think that if I could go North and tell people about the plight of the black folk in the state of Mississippi,” she told her audience, “everything would be all right. But traveling around, I found one thing for sure: it’s up-South and down-South, and it’s no different. The man shoot me in the face in Mississippi, and you turn around he’ll shoot you in the back here.”

The truth of these reflections go back as least as far as the Civil War itself, when a mob attacked the “Colored Orphan Asylum” during the New York City draft riots of 1863, punctuating their terror by chanting “burn the niggers’ nest.” Not to mention the many subsequent, unpunished attacks against people of color well north of where ‘the racists’ are supposed to live: Chicago in 1919, Los Angeles in 1992, Staten Island in 2014.

Like racism, the second of Dr. King’s Triple Evils—poverty—is ostensibly more acute in the South. The UN’s Special Rapporteur on Poverty and Human Rights only recently described conditions in rural Alabama as the worst he’d ever seen in the ‘developed’ world. At the beginning of 2018, Jackson, Mississippi endured a “boil water advisory” and a mass public school closure after the city suffered 116 water-main breaks in the space of one chilly week.

But for every Jackson, Mississippi, there is a Flint, Michigan. For every opioid overdose in Kentucky, there’s at least one in Massachusetts. And any effort to address poverty and inequality soon comes up against national resource constraints that are rooted in America’s giant military budget, nearly half of which goes straight into the pockets of defense contractors. Like Dr King’s other two evils, there’s nowhere to hide from militarism.

In short, the South’s problems are—and always have been—America’s problems. The sooner we accept this fact and shake off our smugness and complacency, the sooner we’ll be able to play a more effective part in forming local, regional and national coalitions for action that turn the spotlight on poverty, inequality and racism throughout the country.

Of course, that doesn’t mean ignoring political realities: the daunting, decades-long dominance of the right in most of the Southern United States. Hard-nosed pollsters looking to deliver victories for the Democratic Party in the 2018 mid-term elections would likely tell us to forget about the really Deep South: too conservative, too close-minded, too ignorant.

But the South has a rich, though frequently overlooked, leftist tradition. You can find some traces of it at Nashville’s impressive Bicentennial Mall, which includes a massive marble plaque celebrating Tennessee’s rivers and lakes. It proudly quotes Section 29 of the state’s first constitution, which declares “That an equal participation of the free navigation of the Mississippi is one of the inherent rights of the citizens of this State; it cannot, therefore, be conceded to any prince, potentate, power, person, or persons whatever.”

This eloquent declaration of a public good is accompanied by the force of the 1977 Tennessee Water Quality Control Act: “The people of Tennessee have a right to unpolluted waters.” The full text of the act refers to “the waters of Tennessee” as a “public trust.”

Unfinished movements from the past have also been revived and built upon. In a recent article for Transformation, Sarah Freeman-Woolpert highlights how Dr. King’s Poor People’s Campaign has been reignited under the leadership of Reverend William J. Barber in North Carolina, and is beginning to build coalitions across class, racial, gender and regional lines.

Project South, headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, carries out its own local organizing while also supporting social movements across the region. Its legal advocacy has exposed abuses in prisons and immigration detention centers, and constantly pressured the Georgia state assembly over anti-Muslim discrimination and surveillance.

The Mayor of Jackson, Mississippi has promised to make his city “the most radical on the planet.” His counterpart in Birmingham, Alabama has similarly ambitious plans. Meanwhile, elections at the state level suggest that more progressive advances may follow Doug Jones’s senate win in Alabama, particularly in the legislatures of Virginia and Georgia.

New Orleans has taken down its monuments to the Confederacy and white supremacy. Mississippi has established a new Civil Rights Museum in the state capitol. Inside, visitors are confronted with the names of the victims of lynching projected onto giant illuminated columns, enlarged mug shots of every activist sent to Parchman Penitentiary for protesting segregated transportation, and detailed electoral maps exposing the cynical redrawing of congressional districts to diminish the strength of the black vote after the passing of the Voting Rights Act in 1964.

Much of this is symbolic, but symbolism matters: it tells us something about how we define ourselves and our aspirations. If a Southern state is building symbols that honor the  continual struggle for civil rights rather than the  ‘Lost Cause’ of the Civil War, then this hints at a small shift in mindset that could grow into something bigger.

From my own experience, I know that the South is more diverse, more contradictory and more complex than is often portrayed. It has a history different from, but wholly entwined with, the rest of the country. It is full of social and political movements that many of us don’t know about. Its story is dynamic, not static, shifting constantly between huge strides forward—emancipation , Reconstruction, civil rights—and  the enduring legacies of its racist past and present.

Liberals and progressives who snigger at the region would benefit from approaching it with the same values they claim to uphold: openness, intellectual humility, and a deep appreciation of diversity. Then, we might stand a better chance of winning people over—and  maybe even learn something new about ourselves.

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  1. Michael Fiorillo

    “Openness, intellectual humility, and a deep appreciation of diversity?”

    From the US Liberal/Left?

    Good luck, dear heart…

          1. Old Jake

            Tried to edit but waited to long…

            You guys still think Americans are somehow different? Good luck.

            There is an implicit assumption, to wit: that Americans are or should be somehow different. The sooner we cure ourselves of that idea, the better we will be at understanding our reality.

            1. JBird

              There is an implicit assumption, to wit: that Americans are or should be somehow different. The sooner we cure ourselves of that idea, the better we will be at understanding our reality.

              Then we have a small little problem. We do indeed. Whatever on one thinks of it, it is a foundational belief, which is one of the reasons we are still a nation. One of the central ideas of America nation itself. We, and our ancestors, often act for our debasement instead, but that dream, fantasy, or hope is still there being used as one of the ingredients in our societal glue.

              Non-Americans often wonder why we Americans basically Worship the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Well, the Declaration is our conscious self creation as a nation and the Constitution is our successful creation of our country. Our country, nation, and society has been created by as well as created them. This is what we are really are and so any changes in them changes us in a very concrete way.

              So by now the reader is wondering just what does this have to do with American society’s often infuriating sense of being special, of our wonderfulness.

              Americans got that from America’s process of self creation. After a declaration, an eight year war against an empire, not one but two national governments, a Civil War, and an massive amount of immigration, the question of why are doing all this keeps being asked? Why are we fighting the most powerful military of the time? (BTW, if our all our history textbooks covers the long fraught persistent fight including the British contempt, why did/do we think we would/will defeat the Vietnamese/Afghans?) Should we govern ourselves? Do we really want to be one country or thirteen plus countries? Is trying the South in really important? Who cares about those people anyways? (latest estimates are 1.5+ million casualties out of 31.5 million) How do we, or even if we want to, assimilate millions of these strange peoples and are the Irish even white? Give women the vote? Why fight those world wars? Why the civil rights movement? The Moon landings? Why do any of that?

              The sense of specialness, the goal of being great, that if we not we can become it? That all the struggle, the conflict, the goals, the United States itself is worth it. If we are not that, than why do we exist?

              Further, our government legitimacy, and its authority,(not military power, that’s different) rest on our faith in ourselves, in our belief in ourselves which is express through the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. People don’t realize this because it is just there. Rather like neoliberal free market capitalism.

              The ideas in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights have been eroded by our social, political and financial Elites, the Deep State, the Security/Police State. Every time a political party shuts down the government, every “constitutional” asset forfeiture, every drone attack, all the illegal, and legal, mass surveillance, the bribes, the bailouts, the attacks on Deplorables/liberals/conservatives/South, every single unchecked unchallenged abrogation of our civil rights because “safety” or some contort bs reasoning erodes our faith in ourselves, in each other, as destined for something greater gives us faith in our nation as defined by its foundational documents.

              So I say again, if we Americans are not special, what are we? All we really have holding us together is our national religion and sense of destiny. We a nation of over three hundred million and multiple states? Why should this ongoing nuthouse project continue and not fall apart?

              Too many people are using flame throwers and dynamite trying to get whatever it is they want and not noticing how unsteady the top floor is or the holes in the foundation.

              Aaaaad I did another mini-paper. Sorry about that. I don’t intend to.

              1. reason

                I have no idea what you are trying to say. I suppose it makes sense to you.

                (I am an Australian living in Europe.)

                I don’t have a view of world based on “identity”. I have a view of the world based on evolution, that includes of course the evolution of ideas, but trying to hold onto the past – and not to worry about the shape of the future seems an odd way to live, like trying to drive looking in the rear vision mirror only.

        1. Sam

          I think Yeats summed it up in the poem “Second Coming:”

          “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
          Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
          The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
          The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
          The best lack all conviction, while the worst
          Are full of passionate intensity.”

          The full Poem: https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/second-coming

      1. Whiskey Bob

        The American political system is about keeping workers divided between rival factions of business interests instead of those workers coming together to collectively demand a better society that serves them better.

        There’s also been an increased desperation in the mainstream media to create divisions between workers more than ever when both the Democrat and Republican bases can come together on common ground of making the system more fair.

        The American center-left (more specifically) liberals are playing by the Democrat party propaganda that some conspiracy won Trump into the White House. Or they’re lambasting the “deplorable” that voted in Trump. Without good leadership from the Left (that’s suppressed by the system), workers turn rightward and so the liberals turn ever more rightward too but maintain some shallow semblance of leftism. The Democrat party’s business ties are trying to make sure the Party stays liberal and business friendly and so the best they could do is make up excuses and antagonize the other.

    1. WheresOurTeddy

      the word of 2016 was “deplorable” and before that it was “BernieBro”. I got called both, including a sexist for not supporting HRC in the general.

      “Openness, intellectual humility, and a deep appreciation of diversity?” Maybe among the old head activists on the ground here in California who have had their feet in the dirt for decades (and are not coincidentally the only baby boomers I respect). Northeasterners? Not so much.

  2. Polar Donkey

    One night in 2009, I and the owner of the restaurant I work at were sitting at the bar, talking about mortgage backed securities and the foreclosure crisis decimating our city of Memphis. Sitting next us was a reporter for the New York Times. He couldn’t believe us hicks in little ole Memphis knew about such “complicated” schemes. The reporter didn’t say it quite that rudely, but that’s how we took after we finished talking to him.
    We have plenty of problems, mostly tied to multi-generational poverty, racism, and inequality. If reconstruction had lasted longer, how much different would have things been.

    1. Polar Donkey

      Also, it wasn’t local Memphis banks cold calling people and issuing subprime liar loans, 90+% targeting black and latino people. This directly influenced the past few rounds of elections. The economic destruction has lead to political destruction. In a majority black city and metro area, black elected officials are back to 1970’s era levels. Thanks to all you big banks based outside the South.

      1. athena

        Hi, Polar Donkey. I “know” you from our erstwhile Memphis blogopshere. I used to read you and a few others religiously. Anyway, you might have noticed this, but Wall Street is bidding up real estate prices in Memphis AGAIN. They went on a buying spree starting around 2013, and are now releasing the (boarded up for years) houses on the market as a very slow trickle at 5 times or more the cost they were bought at. Very obvious artificial affordable housing shortage from what I can tell. They’ve even gotten almost all the salvageable SC land bank houses, too.

        While some people are fine with seeing a home as an investment and as asset which will “naturally” become worth more money over time, most low-income people just want to own their home free of a mortgage as a “free” place to live. (and pay as low of a property tax in SC and city-proper as possible!) The housing bubble first burst in my area of N Memphis around 2006, and it was a wild sight to behold. One day the houses are worth ~$40k, the next month the same house is being sold for ~$10k.

        They cannot sell houses in areas like mine for more than maybe $30k without going subprime again (the area cannot be gentrified, because the houses are kinda ugly), so it’s be interesting to watch how this pans out.

        1. Polar Donkey

          Hi Athena,
          yes the city would board up hundreds of houses. I used to map those. I and some others wondered about this shadow inventory of houses. Banks hid ownership as much as they could to avoid fines and would let houses sit. Some would burn, some be blighted for whatever reason, and some would be pillage by corrupt people in code enforcement. It was crazy and still is.

          1. Polar Donkey

            Local government was maddening to me because you have this foreclosure neutron bomb going off for years in the poorer areas of city. No research, no questioning, until it was at a catastrophic level. Student migration rates of 25% per class per year. Wasted fire, police, code resources. People loosing 2 or 3 generations of wealth creation in a city that can’t afford to any. The most insane thing was the city budget got 49% of it’s tax revenues from property taxes. Only with every 4 year property tax appraisal and the prospect of budget shortfalls and cuts to everything but fire and police did anyone care. Oh and the crap that rolled down from HUD and Obama administration. What a joke.

            1. Polar Donkey

              Obama administration had a “big” HUD program. The Neighborhood Stabilization Program. We had big meetings with the relevant nonprofit industrial complex folks, then pulling together data, trip to knoxville for a conference on HUD regs and compliance, then run it by chamber of commerce to make sure not too commie, finally a dog and pony show by the mayor. 2 years later, less than 100 house got refurbished and some folks got down payment assistance. We were dealing with 4,000 to 6,000 foreclosures a year for several years.

    2. jsn

      I’m a product of court ordered de-segregation of the Austin public school systems. I was bussed starting in 6th grade and the public schools were integrated for the remainder of my time there.

      I moved to New York in 1986 in time for the Crown Heights riots and Bensonhurst racial murders. It was apparent then the “liberal” east coast cities would all have benefitted immensely from a similar effort.

      My experience here sense is that the most glamorously, ivy educated liberals are the least likely to apply any critical reasoning to their own assumptions.

    3. cocomaan

      There’s definitely race problems in the south, but northern liberals seem to perceive the south as being dominated by whites.

      States like Mississippi are more than 35% black yet still go Republican every election and by significant amounts. In my mind, that doesn’t happen without at least some black people voting Republican. Many black communities are highly religious and are swayed by issues like abortion.

      Things are always much more complicated than people make them out to be.

      1. D

        Could be, but i am guessing it’s just as easy it’s not made easy for many to vote, and while it’s not as hard as it used to be, there may be some other road blocks, or even some social push for some to not vote

        1. Anon

          Yes, Poll tax, voter ID, corrupt registrars, gerrymandering are all elements that make voter demographics relatively useless as a predictor of political control.

  3. Wukchumni

    Being a leftist from the deep south (er, SoCal) I could never spend much time in the other deep south as it is so prejudiced against my ability to withstand humidity, for if I lingered too long in it’s embraces with my delicate constitution, there might just be a pile of clothing on the ground where I once stood, as my body evaporated out into nothingness.

    I’ve always enjoyed hearing accents from the the right corner-bottom pocket though, so pronounced and jingly jangly to my ear.

    1. ambrit

      Oh come on now . You do know that Bakersfield was run by the Klan during the 1920s.
      And, er, well, you do know that you just described yourself as suffering the same infirmity as did the Wicked Witch of the West. All I can say is; watch out for Dorothys. :’}>

      1. Wukchumni

        You don’t even need to go that far, Exeter, a couple towns over and 20 miles away as the crow flies, was a hotbed for the KKK about this time last century. It also holds a most curious distinction in that it had the most millionaires per population base of anywhere in the USA post WW2.

        Why, you might ask?

        When frozen orange juice concentrate was developed and utilized during WW2, farmers with extensive citrus orchards made extensive bank and then some. To this day, citrus trees there probably outnumber human beans 100-1, as it’s a prime area for navels, in particular.

        Re: Dorothy

        I remember one time I was in Humordor and walked a block and lost 9 pounds, yes, I was mellllllllting.

      2. RUKidding

        When I first moved to San Diego 20 years ago, I was astonished (then, not now) by how many John Birch Society signs there were out in East County near El Cajon and La Mesa. Not quite the KKK, but not too different.

        As for the KKK in CA v. elsewhere, I had the opportunity to visit relatives in rural Alabama this past summer. They were always white supremacists (not kidding) and remain so to this day. Saw a ton of confederate flags all around the area where they’re from which is close-ish to Gadsden. Gadsden is where that Mall banned Roy Moore from perving on young girls back in the day.

        My relatives are not stupid, but they’re very racist. I call it as I experienced it.

        1. Michael Fiorillo

          There’s a long history of white supremacy and racism (and, in the early/mid-20th century, anti-Semitism) in Southern California. Check out Mike Davis’ masterpiece, “City of Quartz,” to get some of the low-down on it.

  4. jake

    “Openness, intellectual humility, and a deep appreciation of diversity” are to be recommended for their own sake, but as political strategy, it sounds like more suicidal liberal folly.

    Shocking and irremediable levels of ignorance (at least Hillary liberals can tell you what each party claims to stand for, which is not true of most Americans) and limitless sums of money in the hands of deviant private interests would seem to guarantee that the ongoing devolution will continue, no matter how pure our hearts.

  5. The Insider

    I think you’re on the right track with the picture you posted with the article: Hollywood is, at least to some extent, to blame.

    For a long time, Hollywood shamelessly used ethnic stereotypes as the bad guys in movies – villains were immigrants, blacks, Native Americans, and “heavies” were often Italian or Irish. But at some point, they started getting leaned on to do away with the worst of the stereotypes and caricatures.

    So they turned to the current standards for villains: white people with accents. British for upper class villains, Southerners for lower class villains, with a dose of Russians and Italian mobsters thrown in for variety. You could argue that they are only following public stereotypes, but I think they are leading them as much as anything else.

    1. Harold

      There may be something to this. They also love to have villains with accents listening to classical music, which annoys the hell out of me. Next thing, they’ll show them reading books.

      1. Darius

        On Chapo, they were saying modern country music is made for exurban poseurs with big gun collections. Rural teens listen to hip hop.

        1. ocop

          I think this is partway there–my impression is that it is not a suburban divide but is significantly an economic one. Those rural teens are poor, and there is major cultural convergence at “the bottom” of society as evidenced by rates of marriage, out of wedlock births, and to an extent entertainment preferences.

          Writing completely from memory (dangerous): If go back Dylann Roof and the (racially motivated) Charleston church shooting. He and his brothers part-time shared their home with an equally impoverished black guy who would hang out playing Call of Duty and smoking weed with them. Roof didn’t seem to have any issues with him, but latched onto blacks more generally as a source of his angst.

          My guess: guns are expensive. The ones hoarding (and presumably, affording) them are the increasingly tenuous members of the middle and upper middle class. Everybody “underneath” them is just medicating or lashing out.

    2. Liberal Mole

      Well, in their defense, they did put out romcoms like “Sweet Home Alabama,” which, as a New Yorker, one did not have to see to know which way the heroine would choose. I guess it only proves that to Hollywood, that New York is a greater villain than even the South.

    3. XXYY

      There is also a whole genre of Hollywood movies where northerners and city dwellers are innocently passing through the rural south and end up being kidnapped or otherwise horrifically victimized by southern backwoods hicks, often mutants and freaks. The rural south seems to play the role of of a collective nightmare subconscious for Americans, perhaps as Transylvania woods and gypsies do in Europe.

      Deliverance was the prototypical example, replete with inbred banjo player and violent deviants, though as I recall the protagonists were from a southern city. Most others involve teenage hikers from New York and hapless victims just passing through whose car breaks down. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise moved the setting a bit farther west (Texas is still the South, right?), but kept most of the characters and tropes intact.

      Comedian Bill Burr has a bit where he concedes his own prejudice on the subject, admitting to calling up a southern accent when he needs a dumb-sounding character in his act. (He then moves into a very funny routine where a southern Albert Einstein tries fruitlessly to convince his colleagues of the rightness of his E=mc**2 equation.)

      My point is that it’s very fair to blame the US media for much of the Southern stereotype.

      1. cocomaan

        I actually posted that Bill Burr clip!

        But to add to your movie list, we have something like Wrong Turn, The Hills Have Eyes, and so on.

        To add to the idea of a subconsciousness, you have a movie like MY BLOODY VALENTINE, which was and later became a remake of a horror movie about coal miners.

          1. Edward

            Could be– the weirdos that worship Cthuhlu vary from story to story. I think in some of them they are hillbillies from Appalachia.

      2. Carolinian

        Deliverance the book was written by southerner James Dickey (he appears in the film as the sheriff) and the movie was directed by John Boorman, a Brit. I don’t think Dickey was indulging in regional stereotypes so much as macho male stereotypes. But as someone more known as a poet perhaps he was merely using poetic license.

        Dickey btw was in later life a long time Carolinian and professor at U of SC.

        1. davidgmillsatty

          In 1973 I was in English/Creative Writing grad school at U of Florida in Gainesville, not long after the movie came out. In one of the creative writing classes I took, James Dickey was the visiting professor for a semester. He would come to class pretty well plastered and he loved to wear the jacket that Burt Reynolds wore in the movie. I liked the guy. Don’t remember much else about the class except for one thing. He asked every student in the class why he or she wrote. He was looking for a particular answer. Lots of people gave answers about how literature was important for various reasons. When he got to me, I told him that I wrote because that is what I loved to do. That was the answer he was looking for. Probably why I liked the guy.

      3. The Rev Kev

        There was a small counter-trend with the film “Tucker & Dale vs. Evil”. A bunch of college kids mistake a pair of well-meaning hillbillies for killers and end up killing themselves in a series of total misunderstandings (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4A_C6okTm9c). Turned the whole genre back on itself as was funny as hell.

      4. drumlin woodchuckles

        Deliverance ( the movie) was based on the novel Deliverance ( the novel) by author James Dickey. James Dickey was from the Flatland South and was set primarily in Appalachia, revealing a Southern Flatlander prejudice against Appalachian people. If Dickey was Southern Middle-to-Upper Class derived, then he would be revealing a further class prejudice against clearly lower-class people.


  6. Carolinian

    Sneering about the “Backward South” has become a form of escapism for many Northern liberals.

    No “has become”….it was always that way. Having lived in NYC for awhile I’d say many New Yorkers are probably more familiar with the Champs-Elysee than the great beyond below the Mason-Dixon. They may have spied it out the car window on their way to Miami.

    Still things could be changing. My Cousin Vinnie (shown above) was more of a friendly rib than a hostile blast and the Al Capp caricature seems to be fading except in the hard core identitarian legions of The Resistance. The modern Melting Pot may be the melting of regions. Even my little southern town has a gay rights parade every year.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Sorry, the people I have met in Birmingham take umbrage at My Cousin Vinny. Go watch the movie as if you are a Southerner. It’s easy to say it”s a gentile rib if you aren’t on the receiving end. And those of you in the coastal area of the South can probably distance yourselves from the treatment of the Deep South.

      1. Carolinian

        Well that’s just my take on the movie. It’s a comedy and exaggerates stereotypes for laughs (Vinnie and his wife too).

  7. brightdark

    Martin Luther King Jr. said of Chicago:

    “I’ve been in many demonstrations all across the South, but I can say that I have never seen, even in Mississippi and Alabama, mobs as hostile and as hate-filled as I’m seeing in Chicago.” He said this after he was hit by a thrown brick.

    1. Summer

      Malcolm X:
      “If you’re south of the Canadian border, you’re down South.”

      from “The Ballot or the Bullet” speech

  8. Synapsid

    I think mention should be made of the great Southern novelists. Start with Faulkner. Faulkner’s writings don’t depict Southern societies and people in too favorable a light.

      1. Anon

        Hannibal, MO (Mark Twain’s birthplace) is hardly the Deep South. Although he spent some time as a Mississippi river boat captain, much of his writing is informed by his travels in the West.

        1. RIckM

          Late to the party. I hate it when work interferes with life!

          My favorite Flannery O’Connor quote:

          “Whenever I’m asked why Southern writers particularly have a penchant for writing about freaks, I say it is because we are still able to recognize one.”

          Followed closely by “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you odd.” A version of this one is on a tote bag sold by the Bitter Southerner (search it out).

          Southerner speaking, from Coastal Georgia, not South Georgia. Thanks, Eve! You get used to it. I spent nearly five years at the best medical school in the country, about half way up the coast of the US from my hometown. My accent is more coastal than Southern, but a good ear can place it. Most of the “Yankees” I worked with (true New Englanders all!) thought I kept a Klan hood in my closet. All you can do is shrug it off. However, I did respond once to someone who said something about “how you do it down there.” He was from Boston. I rest my case.

  9. Henry Moon Pie

    Randy Newman captured northern hypocrisy on racial matters in “Rednecks.” I saw him perform it at a club just off Harvard Square in 1974 as the Boston busing crisis was getting underway. The audience laughed uproariously at the satire about “college men from LSU, went in dumb, come out dumb too, hustling ’round Atlanta in their alligator shoes.” It turned dead silent by the end, however.

    (warning: repeated use of the “n” word)


    1. bob

      Boston is still very racist. Boston includes Cambridge.

      Most of the recent dem pols (boomer generation) from the Boston area made their political bones chasing black people through the streets during the “busing crisis”.

      Very ugly, and never acknowledged.

      1. Michael Fiorillo

        Yes, it was not a coincidence that the Red Sox were the last major league baseball team to employ a Black player.

      2. Big River Bandido

        Anyone remember 1989, when Charles Stuart drove to Roxbury, murdered his wife and blamed it on a black man?

        Mayor Ray Flynn set up a dragnet; cops stopped and searched every black male on the streets between the ages of 14 and 50.

        Then Stuart’s story unraveled and he commuted suicide. I don’t ever recall any apology or contrition from Flynn or the Boston Police Department.

      3. Arthur Dent

        The slaves worked on the plantations in the South. However, the slaves got there on British ships from Liverpool and Bristol and American ships from the Northeast cities, including Philadelphia, Boston, and Rhode Island. Commodities like rum from New England were shipped to Africa to pay for the slaves there who were then shipped to Charleston etc. for sale to the Southern plantations. http://slavenorth.com/profits.htm

        In the 1950s and 1960s, a typical difference between the South and the North was that the white Southerners burned the buses of the Freedom Riders while the north segregated the subdivisions by preventing FHA mortgages for blacks in those areas through redlining. Poison in a drink instead of a shotgun blast to the chest. The end result is basically the same, but one is largely an invisible action instead of being carried out on live TV.

  10. Wukchumni

    It was before my time, but was the left less prejudiced against the deep south when they reliably voted for the donkey show?

    1. Edward E

      The few who still yearn to be slave owners are to this day. No wait, they probably love deregulation.
      Back the past, all it took to get them excited about a parade were some Tiki torches and a few hooded robes. An elaborate military extravaganza is a big step up. Mod, clean up on aisle E

    2. Darius

      There were populist uprisings in the South before the the New Deal. It wasn’t all just reactionary all the time. Even George Wallace was a nonracial populist before he decided racism was the ticket to power.

      1. Roger Bigod

        Huey Long. He was from Winn Parish, a patch of piney woods in the middle of North Louisiana with nary an acre that would grow cotton, so a black population of effectively zero. No support for the Confederacy and total contempt for rich people. Huey was a brilliant lawyer wildly popular as governor for taxing the oil companies and building roads ad public hospitals. But he didn’t touch the issue of race. It would have been pure poison.

      2. nihil obstet

        There have been many populist efforts in the South. There was a multi-racial fusion government in Wilmington, N.C., until it was overthrown in the only coup d’etat in the U.S. The Loray mill strike of 1929 in Gastonia drew international attention and support comparable to the Sacco/Vanzetti case. Note that the federal government refused to support the populists in either case, as in general across the South. And note also, that both incidents have been deep-sixed in American history books. Racism was important in maintaining the cheap labor and Southern white supremacist politicians had federal support.

  11. JamesG

    South Carolina was the most radical member of the Confederacy.

    South Carolina’s elected Senator Tim Scott is Black.

    That this is not widely known is the work of the MSM.

    1. Mike Furlan

      Tim Scott isn’t like all the others, he believes in Conservative values. Values that allow you to “think your way out of poverty””


      This is Sen. Scotts way of saying “if you don’t have a job and are not rich, blame yourself.” Remember Herman Cain? And then there is Allen West, “Allen West: “The Black Community Was Stronger” And Had “Better Education Opportunities” During Segregation.”

      Might as well say that Vidkun Quisling proves that Norwegians loved the German occupation and that the Germans were humanitarians.

  12. Matthew G. Saroff

    There are always jokes about regions within a country.

    Bavaria is the subject “Hick” jokes in Germany, in the London, it’s (IIRC) Yorkshire, in the rest of the UK, it’s London, etc.

    1. JamesG

      Virginia has West Virginia jokes.

      The only one I ever heard: How do you know the toothbrush was invented in West Virginia?

      If it was invented anywhere else it would be a “teethbrush”.


      1. WobblyTelomeres

        Don’t you have a tooth to floss???

        Seriously, though, Northerners can no longer speak disparagingly of the South, Cadet Bone Spurs being from New York City and all.

      2. foghorn longhorn

        Thought that was a Texas/Oklahoma joke all these years ala
        You know why Texas doesn’t fall in the gulf?
        Because Oklahoma sucks

        1. Fred1

          Sometime back in the late 70s or early 80s, Ned Chilton, the owner and editor of the Charleston Gazette, described West Virginia as being a part of the Third World.

    2. John D.

      In one of the Wallace & Gromit cartoons, we briefly see Yorkshire depicted as an East Germany style hellhole, surrounded by a wall with searchlights and barbed wire on the top!

      1. Annotherone

        “From Hull, Hell and Halifax Good Lord deliver us” – Thieves’ Litany (17th century) when Hull (my birth place) and Halifax dealt stringently with criminals:

        Halifax was one of the few towns with a gibbet (for hanging criminals), and Hull Gaol (ye olde worlde spelling of jail) was one of the most feared in the north of England.

        Of course, any full-blood Yorkshire person knows that, in truth, Yorkshire is “God’s Own Country” – never mind what those wimpy southerners have to say about it. ;)

  13. russell1200

    The other item that is a bit murky is the African Americans are culturally a fairly conservative group. The majority of them voted to PASS an amendment to the North Carolina State Constitution banning same sex marriage.

    I suspect that this cultural conservatism is one of the reasons, beyond simple economic opportunity, that a lot of the black middle class has moved backed to the South: Atlanta and Raleigh in particular come to mind. When the racism is toned down to a “reasonable” level, they have an affinity with the other parts of Southern culture.

    1. Arizona Slim

      Exactly. I live in a Tucson neighborhood that used to be one of the few places where black people could own property. And, believe you me, my now-elderly black neighbors are law and order hard@sses in ways that I never have been.

      They also know the Bible a lot better than I ever have. And they live by it too.

  14. Lord Koos

    I’ve noticed that while it is extremely un-PC to mock or stereotype various ethnic groups and racial minorites, the poor white southerner seems to be the exception. In most liberal circles, no one raises an eyebrow when poor white people are referred to as rednecks, hillbillies, or trailer trash etc.

    1. RUKidding

      In my groups of friends and family members, there’s been more sensitivity about these types of stereotypes. Only anecdotal evidence, however. Can speak for all.

  15. TarheelDem

    The interesting thing about enough Southerners is they are quite willing to play up their stereotypes to give themselves a saleable identity. Mark Twain was not exactly a Southerner but was from a slave state. Faulkner was a Southerner and sought to explore the Southern demons; so actually did Harper Lee when you look at both of her Atticus Finch novels. Andy Griffith put one spin on his stereotype and the Dukes of Hazzard put another spin on theirs.

    But the sad truth for most great expectations of outsiders visiting the major cities of the South is that they are and have been for some time just like the major cities of the Midwest, Great Lakes States, and Northeast. Even the discrimination in the urban South looks like that in the rest of the nation and not at all like that that Martin Luther King banished in the 1960s.

    The worst stereotypes are the rural hardluck counties that fought resistance beginning in 1865 and never stopped. They bob and weave with the fortunes of the federal courts but there are still wannabe sundown towns waiting for the right legal climate.

    The cities demographically (thanks to transplants and immigrants from all sorts of places) mostly look like everywhere else. Most place though still take nods to local culture even as they prove welcome to diversity of all sorts.

    What outsiders don’t get is that the Democratic Party lost its hold on the South in the 1980s and has not be successfully in telling the majority of Southerners, including some longtime black Repubilcan families and black newly-minted business-oriented Republicans why they might want Democratic rule again. A lot of the old bad Democrats even after 50 years are still around and the one that aren’t are business-benefit grabbers.

    The Decadent South has been a media staple since the Civil War, only briefly replaced by the Sun Belt.

    1. athena

      Even the discrimination in the urban South looks like that in the rest of the nation and not at all like that that Martin Luther King banished in the 1960s.

      Honestly, I’m not sure the modern urban cores in the south aren’t slightly less discriminatory and racist than what I’ve witnessed when I’ve been up north. Southern white bigots engage in a lot of psychological projection rooted in the KKK history and the alive and well neoconfederate movement (although most neoconfederates have no idea they’re neoconfederates!), which results in paranoia about impending race wars and nonsense like that, so they flee to the little independent cities outside the city limits.

      1. TarheelDem

        Discrimination pre-1960s was de jure (by law) discrimination enforced by norms and draconian laws, not to mention terror. Discrimination today is in the face of various civil rights acts that purport to end de jure discrimination. At least in the 1960s non-Southern states purported not to have de jure discrimination. Today, everybody has de facto segregation with the exact same dodges and winks and nods no matter where in the nation you are.

      2. davidgmillsatty

        Even that is changing in a hurry. Reason? No new construction. No place to flee. People are having to get along. I live in such a place. Our homeowner’s association has four white board members and three black board members. Subdivision has about a thousand homes all above 2800 sq feet and on a 1/3 of an acre or more. Has a 35 acre lake with 80 homes on the lake. It was once in Shelby County, Tennessee and was recently annexed (in sections) by Memphis.

  16. Edward

    Molly Ivans wrote an essay on this subject in her first book. Does West Virginia qualify as the “South”? They did not secede.

    1. JohnnyGL

      “South” is often getting confused with rural flyover states that are reliably republican. In addition to W. Va, Kansas is another good example.

      Kansas, Nebraska, Dakotas…no cotton, Jim Crow history.

      But they do have evangelicals, and issues around LGBT rights. Lots of poor whites, too.

      1. CalypsoFacto

        Kansas has a moderately progressive history pre-Koch colonization; it voted to join the North in the Civil War. Missouri joined the Confederacy. Some of the worst guerilla fighting of the late war took place along the KS-MO-OK border lands.

        Evangelical dominance of Kansas is a post-1991 ‘Summer of Love’ (the first big abortion protests) effect. Those protests were not a local/grassroots effort, Kansas was targeted by the conservative/evangelical protest organizers because of relatively lax (regionally) abortion laws and moderately socially conservative populace. Sam Brownback, longtime gov of KS, was funded by the Kochs and is now off to a glorious post in the imperial capital after thoroughly screwing KS. The ‘poor whites’ were normal middle and working class folks prior to the Koch colonization. But it’s not really part of the south, except in as much as it’s part of the larger Texas cultural/regional area.

          1. CalypsoFacto

            thanks for the correction – I just read through the wiki on MO in the civil war and the distinctions of being a slave owning state but not part of the Confederacy (and the contribution of MO to the Union army) had been forgotten since history class.

            1. Sutter Cane

              Missouri is an odd duck. I can’t remember the source, but there is a cliche:

              “If you’re from Missouri, a southerner will think you’re a Yankee, a midwesterner will think you’re from the south, and an east coaster will think you live way out west – and they’re all right.”

      2. Nonsense Factory

        The phrase, ‘flyover state’ is about as abusive and condescending as any phrase about the South, Appalachia, etc. People in ‘flyover country’ surely resent the term; it implies that the West Coast and the East Coast cities are the only ones that matter and they get to set the tone for the whole country. I think that kind of resententment, especially in the de-instrulialized ‘Rust Belt’ played a huge factor in the rise of Trump.

        1. JohnnyGL

          Agreed, at this point it makes less sense to talk about anti-southern prejudice and more about a generalized coastal snobbery.

          Often times, the worst snobs are those who are originally from rural areas, but have since ‘escaped’, and now look down on their roots.

          In a sense, the people of ‘flyover country’ seem to have noticed how much elite coastal media hated Trump and finally took their chance to get a kind of revenge. The end result is to sharpen the contradictions further.

  17. Bobby Gladd

    My wife and best friend of nearly 44 years is from Alabama. She’s the smartest (scary smart), kindest woman I’ve ever met. She comes from a dairy farm in NW Alabama, and is a U. of Alabama (’72) graduate. Her large extended family are the best.

    I was born in NY, raised in NJ. I’m what’s known as a “Damn Yankee.” (A Northerner who comes to the South and doesn’t leave.)

    We spent many years in the “Deep South,” B’ham, Tuscaloosa, and Knoxville. It was a good time. (Live in the Bay Area now, after 21 years in Las Vegas.)

    1. Arizona Slim

      One of my red-hot flamin’ liberal friends is from Birmingham. She’s now a retired nurse, and I have an open invitation to go bike touring with her. After reading this article, I’m a good bit closer to making that flight reservation.

      1. Mike

        I spent a week and a half at a cycling training camp in rural Alabama. The roads were excellent and traffic was minimal. I got the impression that road-building is an important part of the economy there. The only issue was the dogs that tended to run at us from most trailers near the road.

        The poverty was indeed shocking. It was obvious in the poor dental health in the small town where we stayed. The segregation was also surprising. I was told that people there developed a stable self-segregation. They only mixed at the town store.

  18. Adrienne

    I highly recommend Isabel Wilkerson’s “The Warmth of Other Suns.” It tells the story of the Great Migration of Blacks from the south to the north and to California. The book documents the violent racism that refugees from Jim Crow experienced as they tried to settle in the north. Chicaco, for one example, only allowed Blacks to live in tiny, overcrowded ghettos–and any family that tried to settle elsewhere saw their houses burned to the ground. Redlining, of course, was invented in the North.

    The California part of the story was very interesting to me, maybe because that is my native land. Blacks mostly took the trains north, to Chicago and Detroit–but to go west, they had to drive. The book describes ‘sundown’ towns, the Green Book, and the extreme difficulty that Blacks had in trying to find housing and jobs once they reached the Promised Land.

    Blacks mostly found work in munitions plants and military bases during WWII, which is why the great majority of Black Californians lived in either LA, the southeast corner of SF, or the East Bay. Those areas were heavily segregated and ghettoized, tho now of course those same neighborhoods are favorite targets of gentrification.

    Growing up in California’s Bay Area, it took me a while to understand that there are two Californias: liberal, “cultured” coastal cities and conservative, “backward” inland cities and towns. Of course, the taint of the Okies resides exclusively in the “backward” California…and prejudice against Southerners is still endemic in the “liberal” coastal communities.

    1. cocomaan

      Second this! Warmth of Other Suns is an amazing, epic book. The characters live vividly in my memory two years after reading it.

    2. Wukchumni

      The new house my parents bought in L.A. in 1960, had a covenant in the mortgage that it couldn’t be resold to blacks.

      1. Michael Fiorillo

        There were covenants against Jews, as well. In fact there were many subdivisions in post WWII LA and vicinity that excluded Jews, even though they had become important builders and developers by that time. Banks that had been founded by Jews financed subdivisions that excluded them. Mike Davis writes about all of this in “City of Quartz.”

        “The Two Jakes,” the sequel to Polanski’s “Chinatown,” refers to this phenomena, with Harvey Keitel complaining at one point that he can’t live in the subdivision he’s building during the postwar boom.

        And on the Right Coast, there was Levittown, the archetypal Postwar suburban development, which had racially restricted covenants. Stuyvesant Town, a huge, (then) middle-income rental project in Manhattan, built and managed by Metropolitan Life, also didn’t allow Blacks to live there.

    3. WheresOurTeddy

      FarNorCal here. We also call it Calabama and DNO (Damn Near Oregon).

      We passed a resolution yesterday in Shasta County to designate ourselves a non-sanctuary county in defiance of state law SB 54, which makes us a sanctuary state. Public comment ran about 60-40 against.

      The comments in favor of it would have made you think Sacramento was Tehran or Damascus. And not one supporter was a day under 50.

      2 old white men and an old white woman passed the resolution 3-2. One of the dissenters called it a “sad day for Shasta County”. Indeed.

      1. Anon

        That’s what happens when the loggers can no longer cut public trees, the Hippies have gentrified all the old Company homes, and your town budget is dependent on Tourist (seasonal) dollars ;) .

  19. Altandmain

    Clinton Liberals will never admit it, but they are big hypocrites.

    They seem to think that their upper middle class or frankly, rich status gives them intellectual and moral superiority over the rest of us mere peasants. They think their degrees from prestigious universities and professional credentials make them better than us. I’m not against education, but using it the way Clinton Liberals do is a good way to alienate people. That says a lot about a group of people who ostensibly pride themselves on being tolerant, cultured, and knowledgeable.

    It seems to me that Liberals fund it acceptable to call working class whites terms like deplorable or red neck. Yet they find terms like raghead or nigger to be racist. Even today, Republicans and Obama Trump voters are referred to as deplorable by many Clinton supporters. NCers today would likely still be called Bernie Bros by said Liberals.

    This has other consequences. How many people in the Midwest and Florida are going to be voting for them now that they have called them names and think of them with such contempt? I will note how this Trump’s margin was in 2016.

    They also treat the left in this way and seem to find it a mystery when many stay home. They feel entitled to the votes of the left and working class whites, despite not delivering any economic benefits and frankly at times, being the source of their problems (Bill Clinton for example deregulated the Glass Steagall act).

    How would they ever build a serious opposition to the Republicans in the South? I suppose that the real answer is that economically the Liberals have more in common with the Establishment Republicans than a left wing candidate like Bernie Sanders.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      This goes to show why all the Clintobama Liberals have to be purged and burned from out of the Democratic Party.

      Or otherwise, if they can’t be purged and burned from out of the DemParty, then the DemParty doors should be locked from the outside with all the Clintobama Liberals locked inside. And then set on fire and burned all the way down, as used to be done with Plague Huts in ancient times.

      1. John Wright

        The Clintobama liberals won’t be purged until the donor money dries up.

        With Russiagate cast as a way to explain HRC’s loss, there is evidence of desperation.

        But I don’t believe the wealthy donors believe “the Russians did it” but are watching to see how well the Democrats can control/manipulate their followers with Russiagate.

        The donors are watching the Democrats to see if their former but now depreciated investment is worth future investments.

        If Russiagate becomes widely ridiculed, the Democrats might see a need to become more Bernie friendly as they might see the need to get small donor money.

        My fear is that both parties see their financial well-being advanced by advocating for “moar war”.

  20. Marc Andelman

    I was born in Boston, and, have to say, that this is the last old southern town. The Boston globe recently ran an excellent series on racism in Boston. The average net worth of a black person in this town was reported to be about eight dollars. Most of the city, including the once elegant Blue Hill Ave, is terra incognito to the wealthier Bostonians. On top of which, Trump is a disease with the cause being the investment policies of our proudest academic institutions and of the wealthy elite in general. We all know the stock market is not a market, but manipulated funny money, to the extreme detriment of the sort of productive investment society needs to function for the majority

    1. Stillfeelinthebern

      I’m not proud to say, I think Milwaukee and the state of Wisconsin beat Boston for this title. Highest incarceration rate for black men in the country, abysmal education differences, John Birch society building still here (Appleton). And then we have our current Rep troika working on more puntatively welfare reform. That’s never about white people.

    2. Summer

      “We all know the stock market is not a market, but manipulated funny money, to the extreme detriment of the sort of productive investment society needs to function for the majority…”

      When the ethnic populations bet on numbers, it is called “numbers running” or “policy game”.

      Change the last names or look of who’s “numbers running” and somehow it became the way to plan for retirement. WTF??? All I can say everyday I think about it.

  21. PKMKII

    Not to mention the many subsequent, unpunished attacks against people of color well north of where ‘the racists’ are supposed to live: Chicago in 1919, Los Angeles in 1992, Staten Island in 2014.

    New Yorkers tend to treat Staten Island as the city’s own South, both literally and figuratively. When stories break out of hate crimes committed against minorities in the city, the comment section will invariably include someone declaring that the perpetrator must be from Staten Island. If the South is America’s psychological dumping ground for the blame of racism, then Staten Island is a microcosm version for NYC.

    1. Jim Haygood

      New Yorkers tend to treat Staten Island as the city’s own South

      Besides being geographically on the western (New Jersey) side of the Hudson River, Staten Island’s southern tip of Tottenville (latitude 40.50 deg north) is but 54 miles north of the Mason Dixon line (latitude 39.72 deg north). A degree of latitude is 69 miles.

      1. Ellery O'Farrell

        Are you then on the NJ side of the Staten Island debate as to whether it should be part of NJ or NY? If you are, what are your views as to the Southerness of NJ? (Not being snarky – NJ is a complicated political entity, as to its prejudices and idenfitications as well as other things.)

      2. Jack

        Actually the Mason Dixon line does not continue on eastward after reaching Delaware. It goes South, forming the western border of Delaware. However, that is only 85 miles from the southern tip of Staten Island so you still have a point, lol.

  22. JohnnyGL

    Having gone to college down south, I’ll throw in a couple of points…

    1) The church divide has gotten wider. A generation ago, most catholics still went through the motions. Their kids don’t bother anymore. Many will proudly attest to their hatred for the catholic church (not unjustified). The gap between the functionally secular and the attentively religious is can be a tough one to bridge. Some people don’t intuitively grasp the concept of ‘faith’ having been told, or told themselves, that reason/science is THE only truth.

    2) The southerners that migrate to northern cities often talk about their childhood home as if they needed to escape from prison. This is particularly true of those that are LGBT. They’ll often talk about how intolerant the south is, giving a warped view of how bad things are. Not to dismiss their stories, by any means, but it’s often not a full picture.

    1. Amfortas the Hippie

      When I crossed the Brazos and moved to Austin from East Texas, I called it “escaping the Pine Curtain”(turns out, somebody else actually printed this at some point, but I’m happy to be his Alfred Wallace)
      That’s what it felt like, but I can’t say how much of that feeling was due to my own peculiar history.
      The rural places in East Texas are …different.
      there is a definite connection with the Old South/Dixie, even today…it’s in the air…maybe in the moss hanging from the trees…
      it prickles one’s neck hair.
      In my book, I call it a “Faulknerian Darkness that permeates and underlies the entire region..”…meaning East Texas to the Florida Panhandle, where my Wild Years took place.
      up close and personal, the people there(in my experience) are just people…like rural people everywhere else I’ve been…but stand back, and that darkness is there.
      I’ve ruminated on this a long time…30 years, now…and have settled on the theory that it’s akin to the feeling one gets taking the tour of the prison museum in Huntsville, Texas, where old sparky is kept…that a great evil once passed through there, and stayed for a while, and left it’s mark on the place.
      All that said, go to Houston or even Beaumont,Lufkin or Conroe today, and one finds a modern city, with a progressivism that is surprising to someone who has spent most of their time in the woods.

  23. Jamie

    Poverty, racism and militarism are bad no matter where they occur. The author is right to remind us of that and to highlight instances of racism in the North every bit as egregious as those in the South while pointing out progressive moves made in the South kept quite by the MSM. We need to know these things. We need to condemn Northern racism and celebrate Southern progressivism. And we need to acknowledge prejudices when pointed out and do what we can to free ourselves from them, no matter where we live.

    The reason we need to be free from prejudice, however, is to establish clarity, not to avoid shame. There are very real regional differences in the U.S. (see David Hackett Fischer’s Albion’s Seed, for example), and our mythology deliberately obscures the real differences while exaggerating false ones. I do not think it is helpful to attempt to shame people into accepting false equivalences. Yes, we are all sinners, but the sins of the South are not the same as the sins of New England or New York or Pennsylvania, or the Mid-West or the West… By all means, condemn evils in all regions, and celebrate progress in all regions, but don’t pretend there are no meaningful particulars in each region. The South is one region, but the “North” is many. And there are different paths of “progress”, and different struggles in each. Let’s not obscure this.

  24. armchair

    Did anyone benefit more from the “poor misunderstood south” theory, then Bill Clinton? Didn’t Howard Dean urge the Democratic party to go chasing after good ol’ boys with rifle racks in their pick-up trucks? Didn’t Kennedy have to put the whole space program in the South, to placate them? Don’t wealthy states ship government benefits to the south? Haven’t we been told for decades upon decades that lefty/liberal/progressives need to go chasing for southern approval? Yes, and it has mostly landed us with crappy compromises, bellicose foreign policy and wink-wink-nod-nod racism. I’ve been lectured by too many loud mouth southerners, about how wrong I am about everything, to believe that they are all secret Atticus Finch’s.

    1. yamahog

      It makes sense to put the rocket launch facilities on the east coast of Florida – the closer to the equator you launch, the easier it is to get to escape velocity (and Florida is about as south as you can get in the Continental US), and you want to launch the rockets over non-populated areas in case something goes wrong. If launched rockets in Iowa, you could have wreckage dropping on New York City or other catastrophes.

      By all accounts, it was LBJ who insisted on putting NASA in Texas. It’s not inefficient, there’s a lot of STEM capabilities in Texas thanks to the oil and gas companies. California and New York were the only other states with enough STEM people to really be a suitable host. I don’t know why they selected against New York, but California was already saturated with aerospace at the time and I’m sure people were reluctant to add to the problems.

  25. dcblogger

    As someone who grew up Virginia and went to college in Vermont, I know what you mean. But there is a reason the South is sneered at. Until very recently the worst politicians America produced came out of the south. And the very worst preachers, the televangelists, are almost all based in the south. Of course the non-southern oligarchs won’t ask any decent preacher to appear on cable news.

    With any luck Justin will win his race for Congress and we can begin to push back on this dumb Hillbilly narrative.

  26. chuck roast

    After decades and decades of watching entrenched crackers control the levers of power in DC and the rest of them determine the outcome of national elections, please pardon my jaundiced world-view.
    The biggest mistake we ever made was fighting the Civil War. Just think, the rednecks could have had their own little Brazil while the rest of us could have made a reasonable attempt at developing a civilized society.
    That’s all.

    1. Jim Haygood

      rednecks could have had their own little Brazil

      Actually they do:

      SANTA BÁRBARA D’OESTE, Brazil — On a stage festooned with Confederate flags, a singer was belting out “Dixieland Delight” by Alabama near an obelisk honoring the Americans who fled to this outpost in the aftermath of the Civil War.

      “We’re not racists,” said Cícero Carr, 54, an engineer whose great-great-grandfather hailed from Texas. Wearing a fedora featuring the rebel battle flag, he explained in Portuguese, “We’re just revering our ancestors who had the good sense to settle in Brazil.”


      Maybe that’s what you meant … :-)

      1. WheresOurTeddy

        If only more had gone.

        Germany understands and addresses their embarrassing, tragic past. America celebrates ours.

    2. davidgmillsatty

      There are lots of days that people in fly over America hope that the east and west coasts would just slide off the continental shelves.

  27. Eureka Springs

    Born in Arkansas I attended kindergarten in the infamous Little Rock Central High in 1970. I stood up as a five year old and demanded my grandfather allow the second generation maid in her 80’s to be able to ride in the front seat of the car when we took her home.

    The next year was divided between Fort Hood and public schools in Houston. Then we moved to Omaha public schools for five years and discovered what mean and violent people were. Northerners (black and white) are just plain mean by comparison. Since many are referencing movies I thought Boys Don’t Cry portrayed the kind of meanness I’m remembering across the board. The way they treat each other, strangers, their sports… in every single way I can think.

    There is of course far too much meanness everywhere.

  28. Jim

    A great difference between the worlds of the North and the South was discovered as the Civil Rights movement attempted unsuccessfuly to move North to such cities as Chicago, after 10 years of successful agitation in the South.

    In the Norther ghettos, King found an absence of functioning institutions that could sustain the morale of the black community. Christopher Lasch noted that King himself stated that “the shattering blows on the Negro family,” have made it fragile, deprived and often psychopathic…nothing is so much needed as a secure family life for a people to pull themselves out of poverty and backwardness.”

    Lasch went on to point out, quoting King, that the Northern ghetto did not have a workable subculture and that “jammed-up, neurotic psychotic Negroes” were “forced into violent ways of life.” Such conditions then led King to mistakenly demand the abolition of the ghetto through open housing ordinances and massive federal action aqainst poverty.

    Lasch argues that his advocacy of such programs constitued a tacit admission that the North lacked the stable black community on which the civil rights movement existed in the South. Lasch then quotes Hose Williams: “I have never seen such hopelessness.” after a month of attempted organizing in Chicago. “The Negroes of Chicago have a greater feeling of powerlessness than any I have ever saw. They don’t participate in the governmental process because the’re beaten down psychologically. We’re used to working with people who want to be freed.”

    Once King moved North he found himself, according to Lasch, addressing a constituency that no longer cared to hear about self-help, the dignity of labor, the importance of strong families and the healing power of love. The King strategy in Chicago, of open housing marches into white neighborhoods, had no discernible connection with the political goals King now espoused, their only result was to arouse fierce hostility in the neighborhoods thus invaded

    Lasch concludes his analysis of the failure of the civil rights movement in the North with the observation that King had failed to distinguish between die-hard segregationists in the South and hard-pressed working class and lower-middle-class communities in the North, where his open-housing marches met with a more “hostile and hateful”reception than anything King had experiences in Selma or Birmingham.

    Lasch believed that the most important difference between the North and the South lay in the demoralized,impoverished condition of the black community in cities like Chicago, which could not support a movement that relied so heavily on a self-sustaining network of black institutions, a solidly rooted petty-bourgeoise culture and the pervasive influence of the church.

  29. camelotkidd

    The Drive By Truckers have a song entitled–The Three Great Alabama Icons–where singer Patterson Hood says–“Ya know racism is a
    Worldwide problem and it’s been since the
    Beginning of recorded history and it ain’t
    Just white and black But thanks to George
    Wallace, it’s always a little more convenient to
    Play it with a Southern accent.”

  30. Steve

    Kevin Phillips The Cousins’ Wars is the best, historically data-driven explanation of the cultural divisions in North American history. The tides of cultural conflict driving English wars of succession were carried into the New World over time by immigrants fleeing the changing authorities’ oppression. This is echoed in the US’ Revolutionary War and again in the US Civil War. The American people split twenty years before the start of gunfire in the Civil War. The creation of the Southern Baptist and Southern Methodist groups mark the split. An aspect of this is easily seen in Christian book publishing sales data on the localized popularity of various Bible versions. New England doesn’t buy bibles while the South is a stronghold of King James Version buyers.

  31. KYrocky


    The reputation for southerners is not something anyone should have to struggle to understand.

    Southern heritage, anyone? States rights? Secession talk when a black man is elected President?

    Look no further than the types of people the voters in these states elected to higher office for generations. Jeff Sessions? Roy Moore? Rick Perry? Do we need to mention Strom Thurmond? Charlottesville? Jefferson Davis Birthday holiday?

    A generalization is just that. If you want to generalize the south I say it is fair to do so by the people, the events, and images that the people of the south themselves proudly project and are solely responsible for.

    I also suggest that until every southern state removes the confederate symbolism that they added to their flags as a message against civil rights, until they return to their pre- and post-civil war state flags, then that symbol of hate still infuses the population of those states.

    Progress is being made. Mississippi because the last state to recognize the MLK holiday last January, 34 years after the holiday was created . So there is that.

    1. JBird

      I really loathe, even hate, insulting simplistic feel-good propaganda that not only distorts history, it hides it, and also enables oppression and corruption. It’s a serious judgement error to decide that a third of Americans are stupid, or less than, because of beliefs that were, and sometimes still are, held by most of the nation, throughout the country until about two generations ago. The only real difference between North and South was the degree of oppression of blacks and poor whites along with perhaps the political corruption and poverty. A difference not in kind but merely of degree.

      But saying that the North stopped having chattel slavery several generations before the South doesn’t change the often extensive pseudo-slavery, especially of our current national prison system, that has and continues to replaced it. Nor does it change the history of Northern sun-down towns, lynchings, housing covenants, general discrimination, and police brutality and murder. This facade of ethical and moral superiority used against the South is just that. A mask of false goodness.

      1. Expat

        I concur. While the South has built a facade of lies in order to pretend the Civil War was about anything but slavery, the North has built a facade of lies to hide the inherent and persistent racism which pervades it and the entire nation.

        Freed blacks moved north to become wage slaves and were channeled into ghettos. They were denied education and opportunity. The South was certainly worse, but not as hypocritical.

    2. davidgmillsatty

      Your thinking is thirty or forty years behind. The reality of where we are today as a nation can be seen by how the counties across the nation vote for President. Clinton won 489 counties out of 3,144. Most of those counties that Trump won were not in the south. Even Obama only did slightly better. He won something like 650 counties. This is not a southern problem. It is a rural problem.

  32. John D.

    Here in my native Toronto, a city that has a reputation for being tolerant and cosmopolitan, we recently had the “pleasure” of a sneak peak at the antics of the Trump White House – albeit on a much smaller and less deadly scale – when a certain Robert Bruce Ford slimed his way into the mayor’s office. Perhaps some of you remember hearing about this obscure figure? Heh, heh. Ugh.

    Ford and his scumbag brother Doug, who was holding little bro’s puppet strings (and is still causing trouble on the political scene), hell, their whole family for that matter, were and are a pack of nouveau riche dirtbags, and are out-and-out hicks in a way that even Trump, blustering Noo Yawk loudmouth that he is, manages to avoid. Rob became mayor for many of the usual reasons such things happen nowadays, but one of the factors, unfortunately, was the not insignificant level of support he received from the local black and immigrant communities, who were perfectly willing to overlook his many racist outbursts. And they approved of him not a little because of his open and undisguised homophobia. This in a modern city with a liberal reputation. Make of that what you will.

  33. Adam Eran

    Reading recommendations: Albion’s Seed delineates the ancestry of various cultures (Puritan, Quaker, Royalist and Hillbilly) in our English colonial predecessors. The “hillbilly” culture comes from the border between Scotland and England where constant warfare made for belligerence and militarism as a positive cultural value ([General!] Andy Jackson actually kidnapped his wife. Donald Trump is their rep, too)

    Also: The Populist Moment – talks about the post-civil-war abuse of the South. The South was impoverished. Their biggest asset (slaves) was gone, their banks all failed and their currency was no good. They were poor! So they had to get goods (seed, etc.) on credit from the “Furnishing Man” — later shortened to “The Man” — at rates that would be familiar to payday lenders. It’s a miracle the South (and portions of the Midwest) haven’t assassinated the Wall St. Banksters.

    Finally: The Hidden Brain – Lets us know that we are all prejudiced. Prejudice is part of human perception. Recognizing and favoring those who are your family (and resemble you) is a primitive capability all children have. Resisting it only strengthens it (so censorship like “the ‘N’ word” is actually counterproductive). We just need to take it less seriously. We’re all bigots. Those who wish us harm will exploit that. So…lighten up.

    1. athena

      Resisting it only strengthens it (so censorship like “the ‘N’ word” is actually counterproductive) We just need to take it less seriously.

      I was with you until the quoted part. That has not been my personal experience, or the experience of anyone I’ve ever known, and I’d be curious to see a citation for the original research that claim is based on.

    2. Roger Bigod

      Fischer loses his historian;s objectivity to the extent of going native regarding the Virginia Gentry. Their culture, while attractive, went into decline with the collapse of tobacco culture. Later Southern leaders were rich and affected big houses with white columns, but lacked the attention to education that produced Jefferson and Madison.

      The rural South didn’t have many Catholics or Episcopalians because an ordained priest was necessary for weekly communion. So the Presbyterians filled gap and became local gentry. While they still lived in the Borderlands, some of them signed a document of dissent, and some took it so seriously that they signed in their blood. To commemorate this, they wore a red cloth around their neck. Remind you of anything?

      The Dissenters were later incorporated into the Scottish Presbyterian Church. It’s ironic that “redneck” is used for the rowdy, pugnacious group that’s the basis for anti-Southern prejudice. But the actual wearers of the red cloth paced a high emphasis on education and personal discipline.

      The sons of the immigrant in my male line appear to have been illiterate. But one of them married a women from the Borderlands and her mother lived with them. They moved to Alabama, where two sons became Presbyterian ministers. Later generations produced 3 MD’s, 2 dentists, a Math professor, a biochemistry prof, some NASA engineers. One of the early ones graduated from what became Auburn. He was so broke that he had to walk back to the Birmingham area where he grew up. But he had the gold-bordered certificate for best student.

  34. Sneer Liberals

    If you sneer at the Southerners then you are not a progressive at all. Liberal yes. Lambert once put it very well: if you want to see hatred, watch a liberal to talk about working class. It is part of the 3rd way liberals social democrats to forget about class and talk only abouy identity virtues

  35. Jim A.

    We should never forget that secession was about slavery. But we should also remember that many in the North advocated the abolition of slavery not out of a sense of compassion for the enslaved, but out of a racism so deep that they didn’t want to share the continent with people of color.

      1. nowhere

        Indeed. I’ve known liberals (and people that don’t classify as either) outside of the South that don’t think this way.

        However, there are usually kernels of truth in most stereotypes.

        P.S. I spent 28 years in the south.

  36. WheresOurTeddy

    I am from California and have lived here most of my life.

    I lived in Georgia (suburb of Atlanta) for about a year in 2008, and my nephew lived with me for about 6 months. At the time he was 18-19. He’s bisexual, so most of his friends were LGBTQ, the overwhelming majority of which were gay men.

    These young men, supposedly what we’d call “woke” before that word was ubiquitous, were born in the late 80s/early 90s…in the south. All – to a person, every single one – had awful stories about how they’d been treated by friends/family/school/law enforcement/employers/etc etc etc.

    They also freely and openly used the N word and were surprised when I, original resident of rural NorCal, was repulsed by its use and stipulated it wouldn’t be uttered in my house.

    I stated that I couldn’t believe that they felt no solidarity whatsoever with the most glaringly oppressed group in their region’s history (other than the natives who were shipped to Oklahoma in the 1800s on the Trail of Tears), when the LGBTQ community is one of the last it’s legal to discriminate against.. They were surprised I was surprised.

    Barack Obama almost won Georgia that fall of 2008. If he’d been named Barry O’Callaham and looked more like me, he’d have won the state easily.

    This is my lived experience of the South. They can’t join us in this century because too many of them haven’t gotten to the 2nd half of last century socially yet. I wish I could be more optimistic but that’s that.

    1. armchair

      So true. I can’t believe how many LGBTQ people I’ve met over the years who’ve fled from rural / red-state America. It is not an advertisement for the awesomeness of those tight-knit rural communities.

  37. Jer Bear

    Not sure if it’s prejudice or confirmation bias. What a Midwesterner such as myself learned about the South is that they are less-educated, have more crime and more poverty. Also, they talk funny. Imagine my surprise when our folks moved us to California and found everyone making the same assumptions about us,

  38. fat feller

    Being from south of the Mason Dixon line has had it’s challenges within the makeup of my immediate family. You see, I married a fine lass from New York. We have been married thirty years and have five children.
    Her folks sold their Long Island home and moved to a fairly decent upscale neighborhood outside of D.C. to have a relationship with their grandchildren. Which they did with all the love in their hearts that they could muster. Dependable beyond measure when the kids were sick and we had to work. Coming to every event while in good health, they lavished our children their most important asset, their time.
    In the thirty years I knew them, they held me in contempt. Even in the years of failing health and while I cleaned them and disposed of their bodily waste, washing them and feeding them during the last days the contempt was as if I could taste it, it was that heavy.
    In death, my wife’s family argued vehemently about selling the house for over a year as we looked in on said dwelling while paying the ongoing charges at no small cost to our personal budget. The rest of my wife’s family still lives in the New York area.
    Not once could they tell me they loved me or even hug me. I don’t say this to elicit any kind of response, but rather an observation. To them, I was a moron, an outcast and an imbecile. They were educated professionals who worked at large firms of which everyone here should know as common names in all that has transpired over the last ten years.
    Now that they have passed my children and I are still regaled with tales around the Thanksgiving table of just how stupid we southerners are even though the family is eating at our table. It is a conundrum that does not escape me and a bridge that will not be repaired anytime soon in the future.
    I no longer travel to New York as it is really a hostile environment for people such as myself. It represents everything that is wrong with the country.

  39. Stephen Gardner

    I live in Dallas, TX and I am a little to the left of Mao-ze-dong. ;-) I voted for Bernie in the primary because Rosa Luxembourg wasn’t on the ballot. ;-) I voted for Jill Stein in the general election because Bernie wasn’t on the ballot. I see lots of Bernie bumper stickers here in the belly of the beast so probably NYC needs some new glasses. Pinko colored glasses perhaps. ;-)

    1. Sutter Cane

      It does get tiresome that when any place votes 55% Republican, the 45% that voted otherwise are forgotten, and the place is considered 100% deplorable. Meanwhile should a place vote 55% Democratic it is of course considered to be filled with enlightened beings!

      1. Amfortas the Hippie

        It’s almost a cliche to be told by various self identified “progressives” that Texas should just secede already and damn them all.
        Lib/Prog social media is filled with such talk, especially when some moron Texas congressman does something stupid in public.
        My appeals for compassion(even hateful sheet-wearing idiots are humans), for self-interest( my repeated calls for engagement with the 80% or so of my local teabillies who are not crazy and sheet-wearing, and who are potential conservative progressives(!)), and for not generalising a whole region because only the loud idiots make it on TV…all fall on deaf ears.
        “Texans are all irredeemable!”…”don’t let the door hit you…”…even a “kill them all” thread a couple of months ago on an ostensibly Progressive site!
        It gets tiresome…and it is the direct result of the Clintonist portion of the Mindf*ck.
        The craziest part is that my own long experience in rural Texas doesn’t seem to matter. As I waved at up-thread, yes…Faulknerian Darkness …but things have improved a lot since I was a kid growing up in backwoods east Texas. The Klan is still there, but they fear being outed(a delightful reversal of fortunes)…and ordinary folks frown on open display of hateful idiocy.
        there’s also the general American trend towards Homogenaeity…so many towns look just the same…much more so than 30 years ago…and that is accompanied by a general population mixing wherein even way out here we have a Korean, and a Japanese, family, and ample New Yorkers and Californians and Canadians, and so on.
        It’s not 1986, even as we still have work to do.
        That work won’t get started if these unexamined assumptions persist.

        1. JBird

          Looking at yourself can be painfully hard work. It’s so much easier to damn them all to perdition while blaming them for everything in righteous rage. It is interesting to see Americans across the political spectrum act all the same. You just have change the words.

  40. nihil obstet

    The South was long an internal colony of the U.S. Prior to the Revolution, there was no anti-Southern bias. After the Revolution, Southern leaders were admired — George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, et al. As industrialization got under way the South took on the characteristics of an internal colony, providing commodities to the manufacturing areas of the world. The philosophical support for wage labor conflicted with slavery, so the leaders supported the growing human rights movement opposed to slavery. After the Civil War, the North began treating the South as a colony, with complicit leaders supported in maintaining a third world economic structure. Plessy v. Ferguson is only one of the Supreme Court rulings that helped that structure. The 14th amendment was interpreted to outlaw any state laws that empowered cooperatives, but not to outlaw things like lynchings.

    When you’re abusing people for your profit, you always wrap it up as the fault of the abused. You have to consider them stupid, lazy, and immoral. And so it goes on.

    1. rowlf

      That fits with what Gustav Hasford from Alabama wrote in his novel “The Phantom Blooper”:

      “The South is a big Indian reservation populated by ex-Confederates who are bred like cattle to die in Yankee wars. In Alabama there is no circus to run off to, so we join the Marines.

      History is a Frankenstein’s monster puppet whose strings are manipulated by the White House. Indians are murderous red devils who spitefully built their villages on top of gold deposits and in the paths of railroads and were unwholesomely partial to captive white women. Confederate soldiers are un-wholesomely partial to black women and had nothing better to do than whip Uncle Tom to death and sell black babies down the river. The Russians, who have never fired so much as a pea-shooter at an American soldier, and who have never taken a cupful of American soil, and who lost twenty-five million people saving the world from Adolf Hitler, are an Evil Empire spawned by Satan, and are our worst enemies on the planet. Because of our history, we drop bombs bigger than Volkswagens onto barefoot peasants twelve thousand miles from home and call it self-defense.

      Black John Wayne saw it all: you can stay here and live with us in our constructed phantom paradise if you promise to pay lip service to the lies we live by. If you salute every civil service clerk who claims to be Napoleon, you may play in our asylum.

      In America we lie to ourselves about everything and we believe ourselves every time.”

      1. rowlf

        I like Hasford:

        “Nothing but a few metal historical plaques remain to show that the Greyhound bus is rolling along a black strip of asphalt laid down over the graves of a defeated race of people who lived in a stillborn nation, rolling through a haunted region, over buried battles. It’s Viet Nam, Alabama.

        The South was the American Empire’s first subjugated nation. We are a defeated people. Our conquerors have cured us of our quaint customs, quilting parties, barn raisings and hog killings, and have bombed us with revisionist history books and Sears catalogs and have made us over into a homogenized replica of the North.

        The only visible relics of our conquered nation are crumbling brick walls and weed-grown fieldstone foundations and fluted white Doric columns being swallowed by swamp water. Crumbling earthworks, trenchlines and gun emplacements, are silent now in the shades of forests of virgin timber, all garrisoned until the end of time by ragged, barefoot Confederate grunts, sweet old ghosts wailing to be understood.

        But the Confederate Dream lives on. The Confederate Dream, a desperate and heroic attempt to preserve from federal tyrants the liberty bequeathed to us by Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. Stubborn sinews of the Confederate Dream live on, deep in our genes, a dream recorded silently and permanently by the metal in this soil.”

      2. The Rev Kev

        “The Russians, who have never fired so much as a pea-shooter at an American soldier”

        Unfortunately not quite true. There was the Polar Bear Expedition (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polar_Bear_Expedition) and the American Expeditionary Force Siberia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Expeditionary_Force_Siberia) after WW1. They were part of an international force to topple the Bolsheviks which of course never worked. Now these expeditions are only a foot-note in history. I believe that the last American soldier that took part in these expeditions only died in 2003.

  41. audrey jr

    Thanks for this post, Yves.
    When I was 9 y.o. in 1967 we moved from Raleigh to Phoenix due to my mother’s severe asthma.
    My mom was an executive secretary and found her first work in Phoenix through an employment agency. While interviewing with the agency personnel a woman told my mother, who was very well-spoken, that she need not worry about her southern accent, that she would soon lose it. This was a comment unsolicited by my mother and she was, understandably, quite taken aback.
    That comment stayed with her and she spoke of it all of her life.
    She did move back to N.C. eventually and died there in 2014.
    I have always been proud of my southern roots and I always will be.

    1. Wukchumni

      It’s hard to lose a very pronounced accent, My dad sounded like Henry Kissinger despite being in the USA for nearly 50 years, and he almost despised him more than Nixon.

  42. audrey jr

    A note on the reverse prejudice of southerners to northerners, my great grandparents, teasingly, upon our first return visit to N.C. after moving to AZ called my little brother and I “yankees.”
    I cried for days and days afterward.

  43. Wukchumni

    Every place has their whipping boy region. My mom is of Slovak blood and when she and my dad would go to Czech expat events in SoCal, she related that the Czechs would treat her in a way that was quite similar to how rank & file Americans think of Mexicans in a stereotypical method, as illegals w/o any saving graces.

  44. kareninca

    In 21 years in Silicon Valley, I have met three people who were from the South. Admittedly I don’t get out much, but that is very few. One was a graduate student in biology, a gay woman (she told me) who was about to move back to the South because she hated it so much here. I spent the whole conversation doing my very utmost not to be a typical obnoxious Connecticut Yankee. I was curious if she’d heard of Florence King’s “Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady”.

    But the thing was, every single thing I said made her madder and madder. We talked about philosophy; she was entirely unfamiliar with the field; at her request I described the questions that philosophers pursue; her view was that it sounded like the sorts of questions that children ask; I agreed; I said philosophers keep asking things that people typically give up on asking; that vastly offended her. She was practically trembling with rage by the time we were done talking – even though I had been doing my utmost to be amiable. I have never had a similar experience. I don’t know if it is common, or if she was just at the end of her tether in an alien land.

    1. athena

      That was just her. Ironic that she was aspiring to work in science, yet has no respect for the philosophical underpinnings of the scientific method itself. I’d just write it off as “annoying college kid behavior.” She also might have just been having a very bad day.

  45. Scott1

    I was too Northern for the Southerners & too Southern for the Northerners.
    What really matters is that you do not get paid as much for the same job
    White or Black in the South, where they seem to expect you to love them. In NYC it was money you got was what was understood kept you showing up.
    Far as I’m concerned that’s what makes two Americas.

  46. bassmule

    I grew up on Long Island, in a suburb of New York City. After I graduated from college in 1972, I spent the next 30 years living in New England. In January 2004, I was living in Boston, and my wife and I decided we’d had enough of the cold. We looked south, and ended up living in Asheville, NC, known as a hip little town: Friendly to gays, artists, etc. After 10 years, we moved back north, when we realized that even in Asheville, we were never going to make it as Southerners. Here, briefly, is why:

    1. We were tired of people who called us “liberals” like it was a dirty word. The attitude of a lot of people, even in liberal Asheville, and certainly outside the city limits, was that they were the real Americans, and we were, I don’t know, Communists or something.

    2. We were dismayed that the schools, if they taught anything about the Civil War at all, called it the War of Northern Aggression.

    3. We were tired of people telling us to “Have a Blessed Day!” This was the phrase that almost always ended conversations with plumbers, electricians, and bank tellers. It was things like this that reminded me that Billy Graham was born in Black Mountain, just 20 minutes on I-40 from Asheville.

    4. There is a certain passive-aggressive attitude that drove me nuts, in particular. I call it “The Long No.” No one would ever tell you straight up that they were not going to do something. They’d put you off and put you off until you got the message.

    5. Proximity to South Carolina. I used to go there a lot for business. I imagine it as being not unlike going from West Germany to East Germany in the ’50s: You knew you were across the border when the paving suddenly became bad, and the billboards for fireworks and evangelical churches appeared. Charleston is a lovely town, but I could not walk along the waterfront facing Ft. Sumter without getting angry about all the memorials to Southern courage, etc.

    Please note that in none of my complaints have I said anything about racism or stupidity. The differences are mainly cultural. Northerners forget that the Civil War was fought in the South. I used to think “What is the matter with these people? They lost! Why don’t they get over it?”

    They’re never going to get over it. I don’t like that, but after 10 years there, I find it hard to blame them. But I just couldn’t live with it anymore.

    1. Noreen

      I’ve been reading these comments and thinking it’s such a cultural difference they’re not quite getting then I read yours. I could have written it myself, every single salient point. The only thing to add is my displeasure at being asked right off the bat “what church do you belong to”. I remember in desperation (NC) saying finally “I’m Catholic” thinking that would end it. The person called me a Papist and I still laugh at that today.

      1. lostinamerica

        Excellent comments bassmule and Noreen. My husband and I had almost exact same experience after moving to small southern town (2500 population). We were told by a neighbor (75yr old Dallas transplant) that we would never be welcomed in the community because of being from ”up north”. Another old local commented that because we were Catholic we would never be accepted “it’s hard to turn a catholic”, so if you weren’t their type of christian you were to be avoided. We left after 3.5 years, sold 2 properties at a loss and will never make that mistake again.

      2. drumlin woodchuckles

        I wonder how someone asking that question would respond to receiving the answer:

        ” First Evolution Church of God Darwinist”.

    2. JCC

      I spent my formative years in Elmira, NY, also known to east coast Southern Civil War buffs as “the Andersonville of the North”. Elmira, in 1925, also held one of the largest national KKK Rallys in the history of the KKK. It is a strange, and not a little schizophrenic, town.

      My only cousins on my mother’s side of the family were born and raised in Charleston, SC. I spent my senior year High School Christmas vacation with them in Charleston and still remember it, over 45 years later, as one of the most miserable weeks I have ever had, fighting the Civil War over and over again as well as suffering through some blatant cultural prejudices. I’ve since written it off as a learning, “what’s good for the goose…” type, experience.

      This is no reflection on my cousins as I still think of them as some of the most caring and nicest people I have ever known. But even though the city of Charleston was one of the prettiest towns I’ve ever spent time in, the atmosphere there back in the late 60’s/early 70’s for a young, dumb Yankee from Elmira, NY was not pleasant.

      To be fair, I’ve been back there often over the years and things have softened quite a bit since then, but I also agree, many will never be allowed to forget the 1800’s.

      (As for summer temps in the Southeast, I’ll take 95F and 80% humidity against 6 to 8 weeks of 115F to 120F SoCal Mojave Desert heat any time – “but it’s a dry heat” just doesn’t cut it for me. Anything over 98.6 is too darn hot :-)

      I am really enjoying the comments today. The experiences related today regarding cultural prejudices in our U.S. have been very interesting, if not enlightening.

  47. cripes

    Re: Staten island

    Strangely, Staten island served both as a way station (see The Planters Hotel in Stapleton) for southern cotton planters and their produce prior to and during the Civil War, AND as a base for abolitionists including George William Curtis and Sidney Howard Gay, and likely played a part in the underground Railroad.

    So it’s a mixed history.

    Personally, I am Manhattan born and raised, at a time when community school control in nonwhite neighborhoods led residents to seize school buildings in opposition to Al Shanker’s teachers union. With my father and brother wielding padlocks, chains and rifles, I attended classes at PS 87 for weeks during the strike of 1968, an event that precipitated white flight from NYC public schools and a permanent rift in NY’s Jewish-Black Political alliance. But i still agree the coy racism of the northern liberal is almost worse.

    For the geographically-inclined, here’s a map of where NYC police officers actually live, (hat tip to FOIA)


    Yves Smith

    “Eric Garner was killed in SI. ‘Nuff said.”

    Considering the overwhelming number of police-involved deaths of non-white males, stop and frisks and other horrors were perpetrated in the 4 bigger boroughs, I’m not sure what you mean.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      There is reason to think that Eric Garner was not just killed accidentally in a chokehold. He had called out abusive policing in SI and a couple of cops had been transferred out as a result. At a minimum, someone may have been trying to “teach him a lesson” and went too far.

      1. cripes

        I did not know but am not surprised.

        The man who videoed Mr Garners death, Ramsey Orta, was hounded, arrested and jailed for years. And so was his wife for good measure.

  48. Rosario

    Been a Kentuckian my whole life. Usually being a Southerner is a novelty on the West coast (the few times I have been there). There is a bit of snobbery I have experience on the East coast, but it is typically the same type of thing. I’m able to hide my accent well (two Ohioan parents) so that usually masks it enough that they never notice.

    I think it is similar for every other political problem, people need scapegoats. The “dumb Southerner” is another useful scapegoat. Talking down to Southerners is easy because it typically punches down (as brought up on this site numerous times). Even if it is done with little thought the effect is the same, “deplorable” backlash, etc.

  49. Roger Bigod

    My home town, Plain Dealing, recently made the Noo Yawk Times.


    When I grew up it was about 50-50 white and black. But most of the white
    parents sent their children to college and they didn’t return.

    I was one. I’ve spent time in some high-falutin’ placed (New Haven, Palo Alto)
    and noved beck to the local city to take care of elderly family. I tend to
    fall in with the local accent, so I don’t recall receiving any prejudice as a
    Southerner. The worst thing I recall was on this blog where I didn’t display
    enough glee at the Confederacy’s loss and was shamed with the taunt of being
    “odd”. As it happens, a great-grandfather lost his eldest son at Bull Run, and
    I don’t view this as a basis for celebration. (If it matters he lived in the
    piney woods east of PD and had no slaves in the censuses.) I’d certainly be
    willing to sign a loyalty oath to the Union if a year and a half in Nam isn’t
    sufficient, but it seems to me the country bigger problems than my questionable
    rectitude. And I draw the line at wearing a scarlet D for deplorable.

    My Southun resume is: 4 great-grandfathers who fought for the Cause (none slave
    owners), including action at Shiloh, Gettysburg and Vicksburg. A grandmother
    whose DAR ticket was based on a man who was at Valley Forge with his nephew John
    Marshall, cousin to Thomas Jefferson and Gen. Henry “Light-Horse Harry” Lee, his
    son Robert Edward,and various other Randolphs, and through William Randolph’s
    mother-in-law, Katherine Banks Royall Isham, Jefferson’s wife Martha Wayles and
    her half-sister Sarah (“Sally”) Hemings, Booker Taliaferro Washington and
    William Faulkner. Also through an Alabama branch of the family, Nelle Harper
    Lee. I like to tell people that my most famous relative is Atticus Finch. Their
    objection that he is fictional gives me an opportunity to point out that this is
    true of much genealogical lore. The chance that I have any DNA in common with
    one of these people is miniscule, but the hint of kinship makes me pay more
    careful attention to their life stories. Especially Booker Taliaferro.

    I’ve read Albion’s Seed, and question his thesis that transported English
    subcultures explain everything. Virginia was a get-rich-quick economy based on
    tobacco. Newly rich people live in big houses and give themselves airs. The
    educational level of a few Founders is impressive, but the big names (Jefferson,
    Madison, Randolph, Washington) weren’t gentry in England. Slavery was in decline
    everywhere in the 18th Cent. except for places with lucrative, labor-intensive crops
    with the workload spread out over the year (e.g. tobacco, sugar cane, later cotton).
    The tendency to get all huffy and moralistic about sad economic arrangements is not
    one of the more attractive features of our species. After the War the North screwed
    the South on tariffs and shipping rates and the pain was passed down to the newly
    freed slaves, with long-term consequences.

  50. Enquiring Mind

    So much of American discussion about different regions and beliefs seems to occur based on lack of awareness or personal interaction. In the distant past, people spoke of walking a mile in someone else’s shoes. Today’s analog may be typing a tweet on their phone, although at how much of a loss in translation! If you prefer, meet in meatspace instead of cyberspace, maybe even enjoy a meal together.

    In my own travels around the country, I have found that people all over are intriguing and offer lessons and opportunities for growth and learning, often about oneself. A trend over the past few decades raises alarms, where the likelihood of chance or purposeful interaction is lessened or eliminated due to class-related segregation. People moving in different circles, and the distance between those circles getting larger and more insurmountable.

  51. Donald L. Anderson

    I am an 81 yr old liberal/progressive.
    Guilty as charged.
    Why am I? Unsure.
    When I was 25 working in Germany I had a girlfriend from one of the Carolinas. Her accent annoyed me. (Perhaps my Northern accent annoyed her?) She didn’t seem very smart and we parted. Have I (unfairly) generalized?
    I do not know.
    I do view Southerners as a bit dumb, often re-necks, less interesting.
    Soon I will die and one more impediment to understanding will be removed.

  52. Enquiring Mind

    Further comment.
    I’ve found that prejudiced people are typically scared. One way to help mitigate that is to interact, so meet, discuss, live, break down misconceptions. There will still be differences and nuances, but with more dimensionality instead of some shorthand or media soundbite or visual that only captures rough outlines.

    1. Duke of Prunes

      Imagine that – interact with those you stereotype… but it feels so much better to just lean on confirmational bias and feel superior.

      I grew up in a small town in the northern midwest and somehow picked up that southerners were not bright. Never really met anyone from the south while growing up nor through college.

      Then, I worked a few days in Macon GA with an incredibly intelligent person, in fact, he was smarter than me?!?!… BOOM! Not all southerners are “goobers” (even though they often talk slow and sound “funny”), to quote Gomer Pyle “Surprize, surprize, surprize!” (hmm… maybe I know where that stereotype came from).

      Now, if we could just get more people on the coasts to be less dismissive of those of us in flyover… but then I’ve often used this to my advantage – it’s not always a bad thing to be underestimated.

  53. schultzzz

    Going to disagree with the crowd on this one. Speaking as the Chairperson of Coastal Elite Secret Lodge #666, I can officially say that we hate the South because for decades, every time some moderately cool idea comes up in Congress, something the entire rest of the country wants . . . nine times out of ten, it’s the Southern senators that mess it up. Legalize pot? no, because the South. Decent textbooks for schools? No, because the South. Desegregate? No, because the South. Improve working conditions? No, because companies will just relocate to the South.

    Sure, there’s lots of jerks in the north too. But northerners, by and large, tend not to *elect our senators solely on the basis of spite*. OTOH, Southern voters don’t care how much their own Senators screw them over, providing that the Senators hold back the rest of the country. And the Senators show their gratitude to their constituents by leaving them with the lowest education and highest workplace related injury rate in the nation. Did I just make that up? Maybe but probably not!

    Also, exhibit 2? Southern rap. From the ‘Miami bass’ sound of the 80s to ‘ringtone rap’, bounce, trap, and now mumble-rap, it’s always been a joke. Some guy in Brooklyn who dropped out of 6th grade is nonetheless rhyming 8-syllable words on a corner right now, pockets on empty. Meanwhile, some Southern rapper makes “Slim Jim” rhyme with “200 inch rims” and gets a million-dollar check and 10% equity in the Autotune corporation. I object, people.

    I mean yeah, you do have virtuosos like the Geto Boys and Ganksta N.I.P., but that was 30 years ago. Much as I hate to admit it, Jeezy and Gunplay had a couple songs too. I am firm but fair.

  54. Ian Ollmann

    I spend the second half of my childhood in Texas after the first half in New England. I stayed on for college too, before fleeing to California. I came away from Texas feeing that every inch of the southern reputation for racism, bigotry, shortsightedness and propensity for zero-sum world views is thoroughly, thoroughly earned. I burned at the cultural propensity for good-old boy politics — the leader as pseudo-aristocrat who doles out favors to his supporters rather than public servant there to benefit everyone. The deep suspicion of people not just like you was heartless and cruel. There is no concept of public investment for the betterment of all. It is zero-sum all the way down. The dominant culture is one of deep seated fear arising from ones own incompetence. No investment can occur without costing each man directly without benefitting him, or so he will believe. Jim Crowe is alive and well in Houston. Even at a “liberal” institution like Rice University, the racial makeup of the staff was deeply segregated by job function. Whites for administrator and professor, hispanic for groundskeeping and black for kitchen staff.

    May the south achieve its own dream of secession and rot in the hell of its own making.

    It is just wrong, wrong, wrong, over and over:

  55. Expat

    Having lived and worked all around the world, I have discovered that people are ignorant and stupid pretty much everywhere. Obviously there are statistical exceptions (so don’t think I mean YOU).

    The American South has long prided itself on willful ignorance. While the North has as many jerks and morons as the South, the South is much prouder of being ignorant since education and humanism are considered Northern liberal things. The South has traditionally been more uniformly Christian and religious.

    And, of course, the South has the long history of racism. In our modern, liberal world being racist is generally considered a bad thing, though with Trump in office it’s not bad for 35% of Americans. Nonetheless, the idea that racism and ignorance go hand in hand is prevalent among Northern liberals so it is easy to take any Southern racist and call him ignorant and consequently stupid.

    I know plenty of smart Southerners and dumb Northerners. I prefer the dumb Northerners since they talk fast and get their stupidity out of their mouths quickly. With a Southerner, you have wait a looooong time while they drawl out what they have to say….by that time, I just assume they are dumb.

    People are people no matter where you go.

  56. dejavuagain

    Northeast Democrats were prejudiced against Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Al Gore. Hillary was from Ohio. I was born in Georgia and at 14 moved to New Jersey and attended an integrated suburban High School. I was appalled by the prejudice of Northerners against Blacks – prejudice against Blacks also from some Jewish Northerners (I am Jewish – Atlanta Jews were liberal on the whole and for Civil Rights movement – remember Leo Frank lynched in 1915.) Though, many of the murdered civil rights workers were Northern Jews. I ran for class offices and always garnered the votes of the blacks in my class – 1/3rd of the school, and that put me over the top – culturally, I was closer to the blacks than to the Northern Yankees. PS – my Southern public education in Latin, Math, etc. put me way ahead of other students in my Northern Yankees School. Maybe the Repugs got some of the Southern Democrats because of Yankee Northern Democrat bias against the South. If it ain’t (non-instant) grits, it ain’t the South – thank you Cousin Vinnie for pointing that out. Nothing is simple.


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