“The South” is an idea too often wrapped in a fog that emanates from the left as well as the right.
Yesterday I read an article by Peter Birkenhead, a Californian, who recently visited Louisiana and found “The South” a benighted land dominated by misty-eyed racists in denial of their slave history (See " Why the White South Is Still in Denial About Slavery"). His experience at a slave cabin-turned restaurant leaves him outraged and ready to send back his gumbo, never to return to Dixie.
I know the feeling. The South is my birthplace, and there are times when I'd like to cast it off, too. But my southern drawl and my heritage come along with me wherever I go. So we've had to come to terms with each other, despite an adulthood spent in New York.
I can't deny that in many places in the South, rebel flag-wavers abound, prejudices survive, and memory dissolves into myth. This is a pathology that must be confronted at every opportunity. But travelers have a way of taking a small slice of a place and creating a monolith, and Birkenhead’s account –despite its insights—leaves room for illumination and for recognition of the complexities that make this region of the country –and the history of slavery -- a challenging object of study.
As a white southerner, details of my own history challenge what most of my northern friends envision when they think of “The South,” an idea too often wrapped in a fog that emanates from the left as well as the right.
So pull up a chair. You may be in for a few surprises.