No, the South Isn’t Awful, It’s Awesome
June 30, 2015
I joined the pile-on on the Confederate battle flag because I was persuaded by things I heard and read about the history—such as this Atlantic article by Ta-Nehisi Coates—that the original meaning of the Civil War and the Confederacy was all about slavery (though I can also see the argument for what you might call the evolution of meaning).
I have no wish to take any of that back, but I do think that something got lost in the national conversation. I heard otherwise thoughtful people make it sound as if not only the flag but the whole South—today, in 2015—were hopelessly backward, if not outright evil. I don’t think that’s fair at all.
As an antidote for anyone who was exposed to such toxic Progressivism, I recommend this piece by Jonah Goldberg: “The Dignity of Charleston Flies in the Face of the Left’s Uninformed, Anti-South Bigotry”.
There are few subjects that ignite more casual, uninformed bigotry and condescension from elites in this nation than Dixie. “Practically the whole region has rejected nearly everything that’s good about this country and has become just one big nuclear waste site of choleric, and extremely racialized, resentment,” the Daily Beast’s Michael Tomasky wrote last year.
How then to explain the tens of thousands of South Carolinians, white and black, marching in unity across the Ravenel Bridge on Sunday night? Did the city bus in decent Northerners?
. . .
Blogger Glenn Reynolds noted that when the South was solidly Democratic, we got Gone With the Wind nostalgia. Now that it is profoundly less racist, but also less useful to Democrats, it’s the enemy of all that is decent and good.
The Confederate flag, and other rebel iconography, is a marker of Southern distinctiveness, which, like American distinctiveness, is inextricably bound up with the enslavement and oppression of black people. But only the South is irredeemable in the Left’s view, and it has been so only since about 1994, when it went Republican. Which is to say, the Confederate flag is an emblem of regional distinctiveness disapproved of by 21st-century Democrats. Their reinvigorated concern is awfully nice: When the South actually was a segregationist backwater that African-Americans were fleeing by the million — when Democrats were running the show — they were ho-hum. Today the South is an economic powerhouse, dominated by Republicans, and attracting new African-American residents by the thousands. And so the Left and its creature, the Democratic party, insist that Southern identity as such must be anathematized. The horrific crime that shocked the nation notwithstanding, black life in Charleston remains very different, in attractive ways, from black life in such Left-dominated horror shows as Cleveland and Detroit, and the state’s governor is, in the parlance of identity politics, a woman of color — but she is a Republican, too, and therefore there must be shrieking, rending of garments, and gnashing of teeth.
White Northern liberals explain how the South is an irredeemable cesspool of hate, while ignoring the fact that blacks are abandoning the Northern blue states in huge numbers to move to the South.
Demographer Joel Kotkin found that 13 of the 15 best cities in the country for African Americans to live in are now in the South. Over the last decade, millions of African Americans have been reversing the Great Migration of a century ago to live in Dixie. A big part of that story is economic, of course — the “blue state” model has failed generations of minorities — but it’s also cultural. Word has gotten out that while the flags may be around in some places, the Old Confederacy is gone.