What should we do with those pesky monuments commemorating heroes of the Confederacy?
For disclosure purposes, I am “southern born and southern bred.” Except for the four years after graduating from the University of Alabama, I have lived in the state of Alabama. The four years, post-graduation, I lived in Atlanta, Georgia. Thus, I’ve lived in the south all my life. Business travels, though, have taken me to many other parts of the United States.
While I’ve never been one of those who really cared about the differences between the south and other regions of the United States (We’re all Americans, aren’t we?), I will get a little angry when folks come in here from other areas and proceed to imply negatives about the south and the people who live here.
They come here with negative attitudes toward the area and the southern people. But then they proceed to enjoy our climate, our beautiful beaches, our great food, our hospitality, our music, our values, etc. This is especially true of people who re-locate to the Birmingham area. They come with their usual attitude plus an additional layer of negative attitude because they’re coming to Birmingham. After getting here, they’re taken aback when they discover that we don’t mistreat minorities, particularly blacks. We don’t use the N-word in every other sentence, nor do we regularly turn fire-hoses and police dogs on blacks. In fact, we work together, go to school together, socialize together. In general, we get along.
Outsiders relocating to the Birmingham area usually become rather enamored with the fact that Birmingham is 2-1/2 hours from Atlanta, 2-1/2 hours from Chattanooga, 3 hours from Nashville, 4 hours from Memphis, 5 hours from New Orleans, and 4 to 5 hours from the beautiful beaches of the Alabama Gulf Coast and the Florida panhandle. Of course, full advantage is taken.
But still, they insist on poking fun at the southern people. For example, they just don’t understand our obsession with college football. Twelve of the last fourteen national championships have been won by college teams located in the south. The two exceptions were Southern California in 2004/2005 and Ohio State in 2014/2015. Fans of teams from outside the south tend to riot, destroy property, and injure people when their team wins and even when their team doesn’t win. Because we don’t act like that here in the south, other areas have been spared from destruction. Once again, many outsiders like our values, and reap the benefits of living in the south, but still insist on turning their noses up.
As indicated above, I’ve spent time in other parts of the country. If something’s a little different there, something’s just a little different there. No big deal. But if something down here is a little different to what an outsider is used to, such as the pronunciation of a common word or phrase, they insist on making a big deal of it and indicate that “it must be a southern thing.”
I had an outsider indicate to me that she had “never heard of putting coleslaw on a sandwich, it must be a southern thing.” I don’t really know if it is or not and don’t really care. But it seems like outsiders have to poke fun or turn their noses up at everything that’s deviates from what they’re accustomed to. And, of course, actually trying a sandwich with coleslaw to see if they might like it? Unthinkable!
A couple of years ago, I wanted to get a new handgun. I asked a friend who came here from outside the south and was alone a lot if she wanted to go with me to a gun shop to look at guns. This was during the Obama presidency when everything crime committed was blamed on gun owners, and movements to limit gun ownership were taking place. She replied in an emphatic tone that she wasn’t interested in such things. Because I also wanted a man to go with me, I asked if her husband, when he was in town, might be willing to go to the gun shop with me. “Well, I don’t know, you’ll just have to ask him,” she replied in a snotty tone. This person wasn’t liberal, but felt like owning guns was redneck. Has she ever thought about why she feels safe in her home, even when she’s alone? Could it be because it’s common for people down here to own guns? She takes advantage of what the south offers, particularly, feeling safe in many areas, but turns her nose up at gun ownership.
I was supposed to talk about the movement by the left to remove all statutes of generals and other prominent members of the Confederacy. Instead, I let my feelings be known about folks who move to the south from other parts of the country, take advantage of the many things we have to offer, but still insist on belittling the southern people and the southern culture.
Now that I’ve had my say, I’m ready to get to my thoughts on the actual removal of the statues and memorials in my next article. It’s coming.