Tuesday, July 28, 2009

In Defense Of The South

The right side won the Civil War. The actions undertaken by the Federal Government in the 50's and 60's to secure the equal rights of African Americans were the right things to do. That being said, the complaints of southerners that they are now being unfairly singled out by the charge of racism by the rest of the nation should not be dismissed out of hand. Whatever their opinions concerning the past, many southerners believe the South is being unfairly branded as being the only region where prejudice exists in this country. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and subsequent Federal legislation guaranteeing fair elections applies only to the South. The South rightly claims that much progress has been made in race relations. The Supreme Court has taken notice of this recently. While it refused to overturn the 1964 act, the Court did indicate that it might consider legal challenges to the act in the future. I lived in Jackson, MS for four years, attending Seminary. At least in Jackson, it appears both black and white wish to move on and not fight past battles. When out of state forces tried to rid the state flag of its Confederate symbol, the African American population stayed home on election day, defeating the efforts to change the flag. The African American community just did not care about this issue. While I cannot speak with experience concerning the rest of Mississippi, in Jackson the relationship among the races appears to be better than in the Mid West, where I currently reside. Southerners can point to recent events such as the incident of African American children being denied access to a Philadelphia swimming pool and the arrest of Professor Henry Louis Gates (see here and here) in Cambridge, MA as evidence that racism is not just a southern phenomenon. Without accepting one side's story in either case, these cases do demonstrate that racial tensions do exist in all parts of the United States. A new book has recently been published, "Sweet Land of Liberty." It chronicles the fight for Civil Rights for African Americans in the North. The struggle for equality has been a nationwide struggle, not just a southern one. Even in the Church there are racial tensions. Sometime this year, or next, I will read "Reconciliation Blues", a book written by an African American Christian critical of how the Evangelical Church handles matters of race. My impressions of this book will be posted here. On 2/20/1958, William Faulkner had this to say concerning the matter of the United States and race in a speech in Virginia:

"It is easy enough for the North to blame on us, the South, the fact that this problem is still unsolved. If I were a northerner, that's what I would do: tell myself that one hundred years ago, we both of us, North and South, had put it to the test, and had solved it. That it is not us, the North, but you, the South, who have refused to accept that verdict. Nor will it help us any to remind the North that, by ratio of negro to white in population, there is probably more of inequality and injustice there than with us." (From "William Faulkner: Essays, Speeches & Public Letters")

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