- Important: All passwords were reset on 06/15/11. Old passwords will no longer work. Click here to retrieve your password.
- Subscribe to Our Free Dewsletter
We are non-commercial, all volunteer and supported by our readers. Please help sustain the Dew by making a donation.
Looking at Facts Instead of Mirrors
American South different than it used to be
Hard to believe that there are more foreign-born people living in the American South than live in the whole state of Tennessee, population 6,356,897.
Just look to the latest Census numbers to learn that 7.3 million of the South’s 76 million residents were born outside of the country. And if you take out Florida and its 3.6 million foreign-born residents, the 3.7 million people left are more than everyone who lives in Arkansas (2.9 million) or Mississippi (3 million).
Even more interesting: some 1.2 million people in the South were born in Puerto Rico, on a U.S. protectorate like Guam or to American parents living overseas. Then there are the 26 million Southerners who were born in a different state than they now live in. That could be a Georgia native, like my sister, who now lives in North Carolina. Or it could be a New Yorker who moved to Hilton Head Island.
Interestingly, just a little more than half of today’s Southerners — 41.8 million people, or 54.8 percent — live in the states where they were born.
Not only does this tell us how much more mobile our population is, but it begs the question of what it means to be a Southerner in 2012.
Is someone born in South Carolina of parents born in India, such as Gov. Nikki Haley, a “real Southerner?” Absolutely.
What about an Asian-American child born in Charleston who identifies himself as “American” or “South Carolinian,” not “Southern?” Yep, he’s still a Southerner.
Or the columnist born in Germany to parents serving in the military? Or his wife, born in New Orleans to parents who were raised in Maryland and Pennsylvania? Yes, both are Southern.
Being “Southern” today is much different than it was before World War II when few homes or businesses had air-conditioning, which took off after 1951 when Carrier invented the inexpensive window unit.
In fact, air-conditioning might have as much to do with changes to what’s Southern as anything else because it allowed people from “off” to move to the region, and live and work in comfort. By the mid-1970s, most businesses, two-thirds of homes and half of classrooms in the South had air-conditioning, according to the Encyclopedia of Southern Culture.
But don’t forget two other things that fundamentally changed the South and made it more like the rest of America: integration in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and the spread of commercialism.
It took a generation for most of the South to integrate following the landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision that held separate school systems were not equal. But eventual integration at schools — and in public accommodations, businesses and across the social structure — fundamentally changed the South. Sure, there are pockets of racism left. Sure, blacks, whites and Hispanics have different cultural backgrounds. And sure, some areas unfortunately seem to be resegregating mostly because of economic challenges.
But in today’s South, most people get along most of the time. Today’s kids don’t have the racial baggage their parents and grandparents might have had. The mythological South of Jim Crow and the Dukes of Hazzard has largely passed.
Mass market commercialization also generated big changes. Television is rightly blamed for dulling regional accents and thwarting backyard conversations. The spread of chain stores from McDonald’s to Walmart overhauled the ways Southerners eat and buy things. Instead of maintaining a distinct identity, commercialization continues to chip away at the South by making it a blander region in a country racing toward homogeneity.
Just think how easy it is for a traveler to get off of a plane, rent a car, check-in at a Hampton Inn, eat supper at an Applebee’s, grab a cup of morning coffee at Starbucks, attend a meeting at a corporate campus that could be anywhere, and return to the airport to start it all over. The traveler could be visiting Columbia, Topeka, Portland or Dallas.
Nevertheless, I wouldn’t live anywhere other than the American South. It’s still home to great people, great food and a great quality of life for many. None of those things, however, looks anything like they used to.
Worthy of Comment
Also on the Dew
What's a dynamic dune? It's a reference that was changed to just "dunes" in the law, perhaps because it left too many people confused. Or perhaps the idea that dunes change and move was upsetting to people who want their environment to stay the same. In any event, it's hard to deny that the purveyors of entertainment on Sea Island, Georgia, are bound and determined to "fix" their venue, even though it means breaking the law to do so. Pictures don't lie. All summer long the toys have languished in the dunes, forgotten and unused. It's almost sad. So many toys and Read on →
Mankind has made remarkable progress in every arena of human endeavor--- except possibly getting Congress to do anything, getting women as hosts on late night tv and getting speedy service from the local pharmacy. Even in this Twenty-First Century, the time it takes to get a "fill" or refill of a script can take "from here to eternity." Recently, I trudged up to the neighborhood apothecary for a prescription re-up. It's toward the end of the work day, the place is crowded and I'm at the end of a long line of folks waiting to be served. (None of the folks Read on →
Over the years of my political seething I have cooled myself off some by exercising an art form, the letter to the editor (LTE). I even got one in the New York Times once. Mostly though they go to Atlanta's daily or weekly rags, or when I'm visiting Michigan, their daily. Sometimes I might browse a monthly magazine, a business-oriented one recently. They did an interview with Georgia Power's new president and I couldn't let him get away with his greenwashing, not when they're engaged in a huge con, bilking the ratepayers, ignoring clean alternatives like wind and solar and Read on →
Readers of my articles on LikeTheDew will know that I’m not an advocate of defying the law, but I’m about to encourage this where necessary. Often focused on the joys of my grandchildren, this time I’m focused on yours too. I’m talking about Climate Change and our need to DO something about it. I was heartened to read about two activists who set an example in May 2013, protesting about the burning of coal in an attention-seeking move, by taking a small lobster boat named “The Henry David T,” (a reference to Thoreau) to picket the Brayton Point Power Station off the Massach Read on →