Here’s another thoughtful, honest and insightful comment from Dany Fleming. I’ve just written him that I love his comments and I hope that he starts his own blog!
Thanks for posting this, Jeff. Interestingly, Jimmy Carter was in our little city last night to receive an award and give a speech on the Middle East. He kept to his preplanned script and refrained from anything about race.
The local newspaper’s article on his speech, however, was certainly filled with anti-Carter vitriol. Incidentally, Obama visited here about a week before the elections. Harrisonburg is becoming quite a fertile microcosm for debate in the heart of the Bible-belt.
My wife, from Boston and then Chicago, has certainly been surprised by the hold the Civil War has on much of the South. The 250-year history of this area is dominated by the 5 years of 1860-1865. Here’s some of what you’ll find in this area.
R.E. Lee High School, Turner Ashby H.S., Stonewall Jackson H.S. – 3 of 7 area HS named after Confederate generals.
Until 2005, MLK Day was officially Lee-Jackson-King Day (Really! As approved by the Virginia legislator under the first Black state Gov.)
Multiple annual Civil War re-enactments attended by thousands.
The city’s newest history museum is dedicated to documenting the Union Army’s crop destruction that happened here as part of the Union’s effort to cut Confederate food supplies.
Part of this fixation can certainly be attributed to the fact that this area is home to some of the most devastating violence and war fought on U.S. soil. However, that’s not at the root of all the division.
Unlike any other war I know of, the “victor” left the area and allowed the “vanquished” to write (and re-write) the history, as well as to govern. I certainly learned about the “Time of the Great Separation” and the great Jefferson Davis in HS; not about the Civil War.
So, understanding the perverse, long-standing and complex psychology of Southern racism is difficult. It’s often hidden behind that most “American” of ideals – individual and state’s rights.
Stephen Biko’s movement, as noted in some of your blog posts, worked to help South African’s “decolonize their minds” from apartheid. It was a smart, thoughtful and effective strategy. It’s also an enlightening idea for what’s needed here. Bludgeoning folks on their stupid, racist notions is hard to resist (I probably do that too regularly here). Convincing them that they’re better than their hate is hard.