South Slammed as Rest of the Country Gets Free Pass — Again

A never-ending debate here at PR* concerns the degree of racism in the South, compared to the rest of the country. Editor-in-Chief Jon, who was born in Texas, grew up in North Carolina, and considers California home, feels the South is correctly maligned regarding racism. Editor Trish, who was born in North Carolina but grew up in Florida and considers it home, feels the South is used as a scapegoat to allow the rest of the country off the hook and an air of superiority to boot. Editor Buck, who was born in Florida and returned here after college, largely stays out of the argument.

George Stephanopoulos covered the Tennessee Senate race to fill Bill Frist’s seat on This Week. He unknowingly bolstered Trish’s case when he explained about candidate Rep. Harold Ford, that “if elected, he would be the first black senator from the South since Reconstruction.”

Because you know how we are down here: all unenlightened and everything, unlike the rest of you who are so colorblind and forward thinking. Take a moment now and pat yourselves on the back because it’s not at all surprising to hear Southern states would have sent less African-Americans to the Senate than say, California. Or New York. Or Ohio.

Except that none of those places has ever sent any.

In fact, only five African-Americans have served in the U.S. Senate — two from Mississippi, two from Illinois, and one from Massachusetts.

My point is not that the South is right to have done so little to erase color barriers in this country, rather that it is not alone in this deficiency. And as long as people can point to the South as the “real problem,” they avoid solving what is, in fact, an American problem. So what George Stephanopoulos should have said is that Ford would be the first African-American elected to the Senate in 48 states since Reconstruction.

And that sucks. Go, Rep. Ford.

*Where —full disclosure — we are all white.

2 Comments

  • October 15, 2006 - 12:54 pm | Permalink

    I do believe there are more racists per capita in the South than other regions. I also believe that the percentage of Republicans who are racist is (much, much) higher than the percentage of Democrats.

    There are racists in California, to be sure. In fact, my 78-year-old next door neighbor here in West Hollywood is a vile racist. She grew up in Soviet Russia, in a secular home with a Russian Orthodox heritage. During World War II, she was captured by Germans after her home was destroyed and her family killed and spent time in a Nazi concentration camp.She’s an equal opportunity hater — blacks, Muslims, Catholics, Jews, latinos — you name it, she hates ’em.

    California has never elected a black person to a state executive branch office, although the late Tom Bradley, the popular long-time mayor of Los Angeles ran for governor twice. (Blacks comprise only 10 percent of the population here, however that 10 percent equals 3 million people.)

    There are racists everywhere in America. But I think the primary site of the cancer of bigotry, especially toward blacks, is in the heart of my dear old Dixie.

    Btw, Blanche K. Bruce of Mississippi was the only black senator from the South to serve a complete term in the 19th Century. The first black senator was Hiram Rhoades Revels, who was appointed to serve the remaining year of Mississippi Sen. Jefferson Davis’ term when Davis left Congress to become president of the Confederacy.

  • October 15, 2006 - 2:03 pm | Permalink

    Great catch Trish. What in the heck was Georgie Porgie thinking?

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