Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sunday's Quote: Ole Miss & The South

Because matters centering upon race have remained prevalent in large metropolitan areas such as New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Baltimore, Detroit and Los Angeles, I have often wondered why the South is hit with the inclusive liability of all racial issues while practically all others are given a pass.

The considerable majority of arguments, when broken down to their most common denominator, harken back to the days of slavery -- something of which the South was the last in the western hemisphere to partake.  Interestingly those driven to demonize present-day Southerners who reject the weight of an institution that has existed on virtually every corner of the planet for nearly 4,000 years exhibit an unusual amount of artificiality when celebrating a heritage of their own that, to this day, is absolutely rife with all the elements they claim to despise.  But I digress.

Nobody dismisses the malignancy of the past, but it does not define who we are.  So to answer the critics, today's quote is from yet another northerner who was pleasantly surprised to discover what the South is all about:

"...Hiram Eastland, James O. Eastlands nephew said, you know, a lot of people have ideas about Mississippi based on things that happened 50 years.  And all of that stuff, as Hiram put it to me, is in our rear-view mirror.  And I was a visitor, but I was really surprised by the nature of race relations in Mississippi.

"I live just outside of Washington, D.C. and there's a mayoral race going on right now in Washington, and its all about race.  You don't see any of that in Mississippi.  People are friendly.  You see blacks and white socializing together in a way you don't here in Washington at all.  It really, really was stunning to me, actually, to see this.

"...for people who don't come from the South or don't spend any time in the South, it might come as a big surprise that people do get along as well as they do.  They are not just over - not get along over football, only, but just the way people are friendly.  The communal spirit there is just amazing."
-- from an NPR interview with writer Bill Thomas; September 13, 2010.  The full piece about his trip, "The sounds and the fury -- down home with Ole Miss, beauty queens and literary greatness in Oxford, Mississippi" was featured in The Washington Post the day before.  It's an excellent read.

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