I never used to defend the American South. Never. I always hated it. I hated everything about it, and I hated living there.
It felt wrong to me, that I lived in Alabama. I could feel the wrongness of it every day. I think other people could tell too. I stood out, no matter what I did. I was in the wrong place.
But once I moved up north, to the East Coast, I became frustrated. People I worked with asked me crazy questions about the South- always assuming I must have grown up poor and stupid.
And racist, except mostly no one said it.
People would parrot back to me everything I said in their best Hee Haw accent-- see? This is what you sound like.
Here's a secret. No one likes this. It is rude.
And I don't sound like that, thank you. Also, almost no one I've met in Philadelphia sounds like Rocky.
I only began to struggle with being a Southerner once I left.
Here are some facts about the American South--
-Not everyone who lives in the South is conservative or a Republican. In Alabama, in 2012, 38% of people voted for Obama. That's almost 800 thousand people. 15 entire counties went entirely Democratic.
-There are people who live in the South who are not black or white.
-Racism is not a thing that only happens in the South. The entire country is racist. We are living on land that was stolen from Native Americans and build by slave labor. Yes, you too, people on the East Coast.
The rest of the US loves to point at the hicks down South and throw shade. Look who doesn't have their act together. Look at them. Over there. Don't look at ME. Don't look here, at MY re-segregating schools. At MY racist stop and frisk policies. At MY rates of incarceration for people of color.
No matter where you live, you are living somewhere racist. And if you actually gave a damn, instead of playing laugh at the cracker redneck, you'd take a hard look at yourself.
Now. All that said. It would be super helpful if the South would... I don't know. STOP BEING FUCKING RACIST. Maybe you could stop trying to prevent black people from voting. Maybe you could stop talking shit about people on "welfare". WE KNOW YOU MEAN BLACK PEOPLE.
Maybe you could stop waving the Confederate flag around? If you would like to be proud of the South, here is a list of things you can be proud of.
-Southern food is the best damn food in the country, and everyone knows it.
-The music. The blues are from the South. AND rock and roll!
-We own American literature. Eudora Welty. William Faulkner. Tennessee Williams. Flannery O'Connor. Alice Walker. Harper Lee! And look at how many of them are women! How awesome is that?
-Martin Luther King, Jr.
So, I said all that to say this-- Brad Paisley and his stupid Accidental Racist song needs to shut the fuck up. For one thing, dude? You are from West Virginia. That ain't the South. In fact, we only have a West Virginia because they didn't want to secede with the rest of Virginia.
It is not ok to wear the Confederate flag. Find a Lynyrd Skynyrd t-shirt without the flag on it. They exist.
If you think the Rebel flag is about Southern pride, you are wrong. You are doing it wrong! Do you know what the Rebel flag means to me? Not the Civil War or hometown pride-- it means the Klan. It's from the KLAN, you guys.
Also, slavery wasn't that long ago. Just because something happened before you were born, doesn't make it go away. Actions echo into the future. Not to mention, that the people who tried to burn the Freedom Riders to death, who wanted to kill James Meredith for going to Ole Miss, who DID kill and terrorize so many people it makes my soul ache just to think about it? Those people are still around!
If you are my age, those people are our grandfather's and parents' generations. Tons of those people are STILL ALIVE. And John Lewis, who was almost killed in Selma on the march to Montgomery, is still alive too. He's working in Congress and just generally being a BOSS.
It was not that long ago!
Jesus fucking Christ. Sometimes I see people in New Jersey or PA with Confederate flags, and it just makes me want to go lie down in a dark room until my fucking brain stops hurting.