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The Americanization of Dixie: the Southernization of America Hardcover – 1974
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover,"" illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Pre-order today
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The main theme the author advances -- that has a wealth of documentary support -- is that the South and the North seem intent on imitating the worse in each other: exporting their respective vices without importing their respective virtues; and failing to assure a spiritual, cultural, social or moral balance of payments.
And while it is finally being begrudgingly acknowledged that diversity is America's most valuable possession and national asset; and that equality is its most lofty ideal. Yet, 140 years after the Civil War, the nation is still groping for a society in harmony with the principles on which it was founded. Without attaining equality, America has already begun to destroy its fragile state of diversity. And in the face of neo-racism (what Tim Wise has labeled "Racism 2.0"), Americans continue to perceive diversity and equality as being mutually exclusive. As well, after 200 plus years of "white only Affirmative Action," white Americans, both North and South, are unified against the issue of "Colored Affirmative Action." Giving advantages to colored minorities remains the nation's favorite bugaboo. This shared racial hypocrisy is curious however, since it is well known that it is white women who are the primary beneficiaries of Affirmative Action. Yet, no one seems to get bent out of shape when white women are given the advantages originally designed for non-whites?
One answer given by this author is that in the U.S. "being different" has always meant being of a different skin color; and being of a different skin color has always meant being better or worse., that is, being either superior or inferior. And being of a different skin color, has meant being "the other." The main currency of a racialized nation is descending gradations of skin color. America remains pretty much a "skin color hierarchy," "a skin color aristocracy."
But is it the North or the South that is now the most racist (or racialized) part of the American nation? Even though the South is unquestionably still the most violent part of the U.S. and has the lowest per capita wages and remains the poorest part of the U.S., the South still has more school desegregation, more Black elected officials, and less unemployment than any other region of the country.
Likewise, having found poverty and racism alive and well and even menacing in its own house, the North has lately shown itself to be more and more like the "old South" in the political, racial, social, and religious inclinations of its collective majority. It is no longer just a joke to call Western Pennsylvania the Alabama of the North, or to compare Chicago, Philadelphia and Boston with Mississippi.
Since Reconstruction, the South and the North have not been exchanging strengths as much as they have been exchanging sins and weaknesses; and more often than not they are sharing and spreading the worst in each other, while the best languishes and withers on the nation's cultural vines. The dominant trends are clear and unmistakable: deep divisions along race and class lines, an obsession with growth, acquisition and consumption, and a headlong rush away from the cities into the suburbs, waste of natural resources, institutional malfunctioning, abuse of political and economic power, increasing depersonalization, and a steady erosion of the sense of place, of community, of belonging represents the "new North." And while the "new South" has given up the culture of the KKK, it is a case of one step forward and two steps backwards.
Benjamin Mays, the President of (all black) Morehouse University pointed out at a New South Symposium in 1974 that "the vast majority of White Americans, North and South ... are segregationists at heart ... It is not merely the fact that the Supreme Court is forcing them to desegregate, but it is the belief on the part of many white people, perhaps millions upon millions, that white people are mentally superior to black folks." Although the polls on this score have improved, the South is not yet completely out of danger when it comes to racist attitudes. Eugene C. Patterson's (former editor of the Atlanta Constitution) has suggested that the South would do well to finally surrender "the racial ball and chain" and move full step into the modern era of racial equality. And while the South has indeed made full steps forward, it has watched the North retrench and renege on its promise of equality and this has caused Southern progress to also stall. There is unanimity among whites on the issue of black equality.
This is a rich uncompromising picture of a free nation still struggling with the question of what kind of nation it really wants to be. Is it going to continue to only pay lip service to its founding ideals or is it finally going to give up the myth of white supremacy? That is the question that lies at the base of these discussions. Ten stars