the wrong side of the bed

Thursday, July 13, 2006

whistling dixie

today at rocky rococo's, connie and i saw a girl with a confederate flag baseball cap. she wasn't wearing it, it was just on that ledge thingy behind the headrests in the backseat. it prompted a continuation of a discussion that we've been having ever since we saw the confederate flag cornhole set. though it seems somehow impossible to us, it seems as though people really don't associate the confederate flag with racism. i do and i'm from the south!* maybe this is just what my parents taught me. maybe other people just think it is about southern pride. still, what is "southern pride?" and if it is just about pride, how come i've never seen an african american or latino wearing a confederate flag hat or belt buckle?

anyway, as many of you know, i am looking for a job. on the jobsinmadison website today, i found an interesting factoid. i've crudely highlighted the part that you should look at. you might want to click the image to make it bigger.

this makes the civil war sound like a game of capture the flag in which the south ultimately lost because they weren't hardy enough to withstand the cold.

i am beginning to wonder, really, really wonder, what the heck people think the civil war was about**, what they think being "northern" and "southern" means, what they think the "legacy of the civil war" is, and why we continue to think the things we do. on our walk this morning, jeff, connie and i were talking about history. jeff, a historian, was saying that much of what he is interested in the field is research starting in the 80's that tries to undo all of our misconceptions about history that we have woven through the ages. you know, like undoing all of the lies about pilgrims and founding fathers, etc. so, the next question i have is whether or not i am curious enough to look for books that might tell me what people in the north and south think about northern-ness and southern-ness. given that i am lazy, could someone just recommend a book for me?

* normally i would argue that texas isn't really the south, but, in this case, if i am honest, it really is. i mean, you could buy confederate flags from creepy stands on the side of the road. in houston, you could also buy parrots and gulf shrimp*** from vans on the side of the road. it always seemed like a very bad idea, especially the shrimp.

** as a middle school student, i was told that the civil war was about slavery as a racist institution, in junior high i believe i was told that it was about state's rights, in high school i think i was told that it was about slavery as an economic institution. in college, i didn't take too much history. i only know that texas history was required again! all hail that mighty state and whatnot.

*** the shrimp was from the galveston area. so is the juneteenth celebration. last night my girl scouts (mostly african american girls) and i were talking about juneteenth. madison has its own juneteenth celebration. i asked them if there were a lot of white people there this year. they said there were a few, but wondered why i was asking. i said that it was a holiday mostly celebrated by black people. but i couldn't remember what it was a celebration of! when did i become such an idiot? anyway, i got home and looked it up online. the emancipation proclamation went into effect in january of 1862, but many former confederate states didn't recognize this. on june 19th, 1863, federal troops arrived in galveston and sort of reiterated that slaves were to be freed. the former slaves were understandably relieved to hear this and there was widespread revelry. every year since then in texas there have been juneteenth celebrations. it has spread to other states, too.

this is how the order actually read: "The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere."

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4:18 PM


Bertram Wyatt-Brown is your go-to guy for questions of southern identity, especially as they relate to the Civil War and slavery.

He wrote a really great book called Southern Honor: Ethics and Behavior in the Old South, but lo, it was really long.

So, there's also an abridged version called Honor and Violence in the Old South, which is also good with half as many pages.
Blogger mary_m, at 7:25 PM  
Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz, if only to see Civil War-gasm used in a sentence.
Blogger Belle Reve, at 8:22 AM  
If you want a classic, although it won't tell you much about what people think of north-ness or south-ness today, W.E.B. DuBois's Black Reconstruction is a really worthwhile read.
Blogger carly, at 12:06 PM  
Probably you should just read the lyric sheets from Act I of "Southern Rock Opera" by the Drive-By Truckers. They're from Alabama and discuss this a lot. As Patterson Hood put it, racism is a big problem, and not just black and white, but "It's always a little more convenient to paint it with a Southern accent."

Or how about:

"You think I'm dumb
Maybe not too bright.
You wonder how
I sleep at night.
Proud of the glory
Stare down the shame.
Duality of the Southern Thing."

I think they do a fantastic job addressing the issues of being a white Southern who isn't a racist asshole, and how everyone assumes you are, and how they all assume that they are, therefore, automatically superior to you because they're from the NORTH.
Blogger Gwen, at 3:14 PM  
What? Texas history isn't required at UT ... I took two general American history courses to meet the requirments -- perhaps you just happened to take a Texas history course? (I know that there were a lot of different types of history courses that could fulfill the requirement.)

To be honest, I probably could've benefited from a Texas history course at the college level that gave me an opportunity to examine Texas history critically rather than relying on my 7th grade class for the bulk of my Texas history knowledge. I think it's important to understand where we're from -- not as an exercise in pride but as a simple matter of self-awareness.

I'm curious to know what you find in your quest for books on Northern and Southern identities and the legacy of the Civil War. It's the kind of thing that interests me, too.

- Carole
Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:05 PM  

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