I am tired of the useless anti-south talk.Sep 22, 2023
As a result of strong anti-southern biases among northerners and people outside of the south, anti south commentary persists in this season of keyboard warriors. In response to DeSa*tis and Abbo*t legislation, people easily want to ban Florida and Texas, for example, from the union. It’s wild how quickly they become cessationists. Understandably, these laws cause frustration, anger, and a desire to rapidly remove them from their positions, but there’s a difference between critiquing them and their fascist governments, and the entire population of a state. There are people in both of those states doing important, necessary, and difficult work against both of these governments. There are people who are risking their livelihood and lives to sustain their activism work for the betterment of their societies. And y’all wanna cut them off?
This anti-south bias shows up as humor or dismissive comments that are supposed to be received as simply ‘teasing’ when in fact, they reflect a deeper sentiment. I call it a deeper sentiment because it’s patterned. These aren’t statements held by one person in the conext of one post. These are frequent comments made consistently by an overwhelming amount of people across all social media platforms. These comments sound like this:
- I knew it was a Texan. What did you expect?
- Floridians are racist and conservative.
- Distrusting the intellect of the person speaking because of their southern accent
- Laughing at southern drawls, twangs, and pronunciations
- “Let’s cut Florida off.”
When in history was racism in this country only in the south? This is an ahistorical myth. It keeps us dismissing the accountability we should be holding the north to and sustains the notion that racism only looks like the explicit expressions of hate. Yes, racism is hoods, murder, and violence, but it’s also silence, smiles, sweaters, and subtle rejection. All of the above can be found in all northern states, systemically.
There are ways to address this explicitly in our classrooms. You don’t even have to add new units or go out of your way to incorporate new topics in your curriculum. It’s all in HOW you talk about us and how you find ways to highlight southerners in your work.
What you can do:
Teach about the activist movements and emphasize how they often begin in the south.
- The SNCC Sit-Ins (North Carolina)
- Montgomery Bus Boycott (Montgomery, AL)
- Voting Rights protests (Mississippi)
Intentionally mention that the south has always led in anti racist movements.
- “The south has always led in anti racist movements throughout US history.”
- “Did you know that many leaders of these movements came from the south?”
- “Did you know that many movements for social justice start in the south?”
Mention southern cities and home states of the leaders you may be studying.
- Montgomery, AL - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Tuskegee, AL- Rosa Parks
- Georgia- John Lewis was political leader there
Make sure to critique and analyze the racism of the north.
- Books you can consider for this education include How the Word is Passed, The Strange Careers of the Jim Crow North, Ghosts in the Schoolyard.
This doesn’t have to be a major shift in your teaching, but a minor shift in how you see humans in a region of the U.S. The south isn’t just land. It’s not simply a political area. It’s home to millions of people who fight for the rights that the rest of the nation can benefit from. Your solidarity is better offered by consistently putting forth the critiques of the government and supporting the individuals on the ground doing the important work.
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