Southern states – and most especially Southern state legislatures – are rightly getting a lot of negative attention these days because of a series of regressive moves. Those stories feed the caricature that serves as the popular image of our region. The reality is more complex, as realities always are. The South belongs to the rest of us too – and we belong to it. So I add this portrait of my South in this moment to the mix.
My South has –
- dogwoods in bloom outside my window as I write this.
- people fighting to protect Medicaid for our most vulnerable low income residents.
- awesome Mexican/Vietnamese/Southern/Chinese/haute cuisine/chain restaurant/meat & 3/Waffle House food. We have boiled peanuts and grits and barbecue and farmers markets with watermelon and tomatoes and sweet corn.
- excellent art museums and public gardens and small & community theaters and opera and dance and poets and essayists and novelists – all a part of an artistic community with incredible vision and unparalleled talent.
- one hell of an ugly history of racial oppression – and it’s not just history, it’s now – systemic and individual-level racism are horrifically real.
- black and brown and white people doing our damndest to rid the world of racial oppression – (and yes, even when we are really trying, we white folks still get it wrong, time and again, because we are so soaked in this from the time we are born. But some of us are determined to get beyond that and will keep at the work of addressing systemic racism at its white source until we either succeed or breathe our last breath).
- gay bars and LGBTQ+ community centers and Pride fests and passionate, powerful QTPOC (queer & trans people of color) who might yet succeed in teaching us all how to live without crushing the souls of others.
- plenty of money for prisons, but never enough for teaching children or ensuring access to healthcare or making sure that no one goes hungry.
- churches – tons of churches – a church home for you no matter what you believe or how high church or Spirit-breathing you’re looking for – (and a whole bunch of sincere, God-loving LGBTQ+ Christians – we are faithful people too).
- not just churches – we have mosques and synagogues and temples and meditation centers – there are people practicing their faith in myriad ways and Sunday brunch and picnics in the park for the humanists, agnostics, and atheists among us. In my South, we practice live and let live and we learn and work together.
- no frickin’ public transit to speak of – it’s a shame.
- music in all forms and venues – songs worth singing and musicians worth listening to – music that moves the soul and the body.
- undocumented people in indefinite detention in harsh conditions and a general climate of suspicion toward people for whom English is not their first language – and committed, multi-ethnic coalitions of activists working to change that.
- the most incredible ecodiversity and stunning beauty – these ecosystem treasures that we often don’t even realize are there until after we’ve destroyed them.
- people who will come get you in the middle of the night when you’re stuck on the side of the road – even if you disagree with them on about absolutely everything.
- coffeehouses and craft beer and public libraries and parks and bookstores and cafes.
- far too many people who do not understand the conditions of their own oppression and who thus consistently speak, act, and vote against their own interests.
- Alabama football – Roll Tide!
- activists staring at the evils of environmental racism and organizing to overcome it.
- some of the most assbackward corrupt politicians on the face of the planet, looking after their own power and profit rather than the true public good.
- my people – blood kin and family of choice and (some of) the friends I’ve made across a lifetime – and an incredible community that cares about all of the above.
This my South.