Why I Incessantly Post Socio-Political Articles on Facebook
July 13, 2015 § Leave a comment
Once again I turn to my poor underfed blog because my facebook post was getting too long. This morning a friend posted this:
Coming from a childhood where “The War of Northern Aggression” was used in History class and we were all taught to revere Lee as a local hero, I find it fascinating how this war continues to be fought, 150 years later.
I have made my own Lee apologist comment in recent years but it’s really hard to stand by them any longer. Staunton has a R E. Lee school, my Boy Scout council was named after Stonewall Jackson, and I was taught in 7th grade that the war was about economics, not slavery.
Fellow Stuarts Draft/Staunton/Waynesboro folks: How have you thoughts changed/stayed the same over the years?
And it got me thinking. On my wall, not many white friends are posting openly about racism in our country, at least from the it’s-here-and-it’s-wrong perspective (the other kind usually get a quick boot from me and then I don’t see them anymore). Of those that do, most of them, like me, are Southern transplants.
My family moved around a lot when I was a kid, but we didn’t leave the South until I was 12. I too was taught that the Civil War was an economic war, and that the North was the aggressor, and that slavery had almost nothing to do with it and we don’t talk about that nasty little business anyway. To this day I instinctively bristle when I hear the name General Sherman. We moved to California in 1998, where I experienced intense culture shock alongside the influx of hormones that is entering teenagehood, and those feelings stuck with me. I learned how people outside the South viewed Southerners, and I learned the culture of subtlty, systematic overarching rules for society (and close-the-door-so-we-can-talk-about-it) was a uniquely Southern phenomenon. We then moved to the mid-Atlantic, which is another totally different part of the country in a totally different way. All of a sudden I was surrounded by peers who were into politics and social change, and who, living so close to DC, could see clear paths to do so in the future.
I have never considered myself a racist person, but I wasn’t always part of the solution. When I was a kid in Georgia and kids in the neighborhood would parrot their parents racist jokes, I would laugh even though I never understood why they were supposed to be funny. (Years later my husband, upon meeting my entire extended family for the first time, was told a string of racist jokes and unflinchingly looked them in the eye and said “I don’t get it.” Later, when he told me about it, I had to explain to him that he didn’t get it because he is not racist. I was so proud of him for not going along with it just to make nice, as I had repeatedly done growing up.) In middle school, one of my very best (and only) friends ultimately left school in favor of homeschooling in part from the isolation and derision she experienced as a Pacific Islander in a white/black world. I sympathized with her, but being an object of derision myself, I never stood up to her tormenters.
When we moved to California, I was so nervous on my first day of school that I threw up at lunch and had to go home. I was on edge for my entire first semester, partially because my Georgia accent was an object of much interest and intrigue (kids would surround me and say, “say it again! SAY IT AGAIN!!” and scream when I repeated whatever drawling word I had just used), and partially because race relations were so different in California. Two best friends, Sheree and Rashida, one white with long blonde hair and blue eyes, one black with short dark hair and brown eyes, often joked that they were twins and could be mistaken for one another. It legitimately shook me to my core, because I was so afraid that someone would get upset that they were not only publicly discussing the fact that they were different, but reveling in it. Race is different in California, because the history is different. The culture is also much less rigid than my previous experiences in Georgia. I relaxed some, and started to open up more about my feelings and viewpoints. Some time later I had a friend visit me, and though usually a very talkative girl, she shut up in public places. When I asked her what was going on she said, “I don’t want anyone to hear my Southern accent and think I’m stupid.”
In college I met more people and expanded my mind and viewpoints more. I took an African American History class in my junior year that once more rocked me to my core. Even though I had lived out of the South for almost as long as I lived in it, it was the first time I was forced to face my Southern whiteness and all of the history behind it. From then on, I saw the world differently. I saw the things that people said differently.
Now I work in entertainment, which has such potential for good that it often does not live up to. I feel it is safe to say shows like Will & Grace and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy opened up the entire country to the rapid change in opinion on DOMA and Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. But we still have this racial divide, this North/South divide. Non-Southerners think Southerners are stupid, and racist, and ignorant. Southerners are defensive, and fall back on old social mores and refuse to talk about it. Nothing gets done.
So I post articles. I post things that change my mind now, and may have changed my mind then. I post things that I learn from my friends who make it their lives to study this American situation, and from those who simply live it. I try to think of myself before my eyes were opened, and what may have brought me to these conclusions sooner. I talk about it for all the years I thought I wasn’t allowed to talk about it. When I’m teased for being an intense liberal I get mad, because this should not be a liberal/conservative issue. It’s a human issue. So I just keep trying, because it worked for me. And I feel that camaraderie with my fellow Southern expats, because they are the only people who really understand. I will be a Southerner in my heart forever, which is why I want to change the hearts and minds of my friends and family in the South, and the North, and everywhere.
It’s an old war with old, old, old hurts. The time for ignoring it is over; it’s time to talk about it and heal together.