Pat and I pitched a story to The Bitter Southerner about confronting history in the South. The crux of what I want to write is that some of us use history as a tool for progression and others use it as a tool of regression. Whether its through obvious negative reinforcement (Confederate flags) or more subtle tactics like naming buildings, roads, or businesses after Civil War soldiers, using history in the regressive context continues today. I've read Tracy Thompson's New Mind of the South, The Promise of the New South by Edward Ayers, as well as a few older sources (The Mind of the South, duh) in order to gather resources concerning how others have written about this. The weirdest experience I've had so far is going down a worm hole that eventually led me (though I didn't know it at the time) to the KKK's website, which looks terrible, by the way. No, don't search for the KKK's website. Don't give them the traffic! I did it on accident! I also found a real life Secessionist website, which is pretty insane.
In just the time I've been nose-to-the-grindstone researching, I've learned a lot about the South and what kind of role I want to play here in the progress of this region. I've run into a lot of disappointment on the way, as well. I interviewed one man who told "If you want to get rid of Lee-Jackson Day, you should get rid of MLK Day, too." As a 28-year-old Southern lady living in the Post-Obama world, I just can't help but be shocked (though not surprised) when I hear that kind of thing. An important idea, though I don't know if I'll be able to cover it, is of Heroes. In the South, we rely on heroes to lead the way. Lee and Jackson are still remembered because they were brilliant soldiers, pious servants, and gentlemen. Though, ethically and morally, they are anti-heroes. Martin Luther King, Jr. is a real hero. Etc. Heroes are easy to remember. At the same time, I think revering people like Lee and Jackson also puts us in a morally grey area. Revering them stops us from forgiving ourselves for our ancestors' sins. That's what keeps the wound open. During conversation Chuck Reece, the editor at B.S., reminded me to try and keep politics out of this, though it may seem pertinent. I'm sure the comments alone will bring in that kind of discussion.
I'm hoping this article will open some doors for me. I've been looking for non-profit jobs all around the South that deal with poverty, racism, social justice, etc. I've been a little scared to apply since I know it will- most likely- uproot my life here in Staunton completely. But I can't take the risk of not being a better force for positive change in the South any more. I have to put my time and energy where my mouth and soul are. I've also been thinking (again) of applying to the Southern Studies M.A. at Ole Miss. Man, would that be a great way to make connections and really dive into this subject area. The way Chuck Reece throws out the names of his friends- important Southern voices, scholars, personalities, makes my head spin.
That's what I want... in the end. We'll just have to see, I guess.