Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The Storyteller

One of the many legacies of the South is the ability to tell a tall tale.  Southerners are known for the ability to spin a yarn and tell it in a way that with the appropriate drawl, the ability to pause can make for some a long tale or wind but for many they are stories of times and people we did not know, may know, may not know but are still interesting and vital.  These stories have gone on for decades and the irony is that the South is one of the most ill educated uniformed people I have ever encountered.  The books of my youth are just that of my youth and since moving here I don't value them less I actually cherish them more as it enables me to see something good and bright in a place that it anything but.

This arti, How to Lie Like a Southerner, from Garden and Gun explains the legacy of the Southern Storyteller the way only this fascinating magazine can.  Even the title highlights the contradictory nature of the Southern gentle folk.  While sipping sweet tea on manicured lawns, debating the egg salad served and the recent gossip of the church set, we have a vision of the South that is part Gone With the Wind and Django Unchained with a touch of Cold Mountain in Selma.  Those are fairly accurate oddly and great training films for those unfamiliar with the South.

But transplants are the best gauge to understand the South as we are both observers and participants in the pas au deux that is best explained by these posts from City Data.

My life has been completely destroyed because of this "fake friendly" crap. The thing I despise above all else are liars. What the Southerners don't realize is being fake is a lie. Acting is lying. When you "act" nice & friendly to some body's face it's just an "act" & acting or pretending is deceiving or lying. You're not being friendly, polite, or tactful, you're being a liar! And everybody hates liars! Honest people hate liars & liars hate liars!

When you're only acting "friendly" you slip up. In a conversation you'll agree to do things. I've had guys down here tell me they'd take me scuba diving, swimming & water skiing. One of the guys in my church said he'd take me around the lake a few times on his boat. But they're not real. They're only blowing sunshine up your ass. They have absolutely no intention of ever doing what they say. They never follow through on anything. Their words are completely hollow. You cannot count on a Southerner. The only thing you can count on is they'll worm their way out of everything they don't want to do by simply saying "oh, I'm sorry! I forgot!" They're not sorry & they didn't forget, they are a LIAR plain & simple! In the beginning I made he mistake of believing them. Needless to say I still have never been water skiing once in my entire life. I was really looking forward to it. But it was just another lie. Those conversations were a complete waste of time. I got nothing out of it but disappointment. And now because of being constantly lied to I have an unGodly bitter hatred towards Southerners. The bible tells us to hate what is bad & lying is the very first thing Satan did. Lying is more Satanic & evil than murder or rape. And all these Southerners here in the "BIBLE BELT" are the biggest liars the world will ever see. That's the joke or the punchline to the whole "BIBLE BELT" thing. The bible belt people are more Satanic than anybody because every time they do that phony fake nice act they're lying. They say they follow Jesus & then lie like Satan. CONSTANTLY! EVERY DAY! Then showing their fake phony face in church once or twice a week makes them sleep better at night.

And when you say "Hi! How are you?" when you couldn't care less how they are, isn't that lying too? "Acting" like you care when you really don't? The people at my church do that every single day. Say they follow Jesus while doing as Satan does.

"Friendly" is when you try to build & friendship. Back up North you talk to somebody in a store or the bank or the doctor's office & if you see that you have things in common you exchange phone numbers or email addresses & both parties work towards cultivating a friendship. You call them up & invite them to go hang out. You take an interest in them & want to learn about them & get to know them & build a friendship. Southerners NEVER EVER do this! Whenever you talk to a Southerner they'll talk your ear off for an hour but the conversation always ends the same. They say "well, it was good talkin to ya! C'ya later!" & they go their separate way. I've been down South over 20 years, I'm very friendly & I talk to tons of people. But I've never once had a person say "hey, let me get your phone number & I'll give you a call & we'll go do something" and actually call you like they used to always do back up North.

I've been suffering through this for over 20 years. It's like a disease. People act like your best friend to your face but they really don't want anything to do with you. And then you end up alone, isolated, depressed & left wondering what you did or said wrong. When in fact you didn't do anything wrong. The thing that I value more than anything is a straight shooter. Hardcore, NO BS, in your face honesty. I love people that know how to "keep it real". And I just found out what the problem is. I always hear Southerners complain that Northerners are "rude". This has been puzzling me for the past 20 years. All the Northerners I've met are very friendly. Northerners will talk your ear off especially when we start talking about how much we hate the "fake friendly", cold, apathetic & totally anti-social Southerners. And here's the thing, The Southerners mix up the word "rude" with "blunt". Southerners don't like honesty. PERIOD! If you're blunt or straight to the point like I am there's your problem. 1 honest person surrounded by a million liars is not going to fare too well. You're a fish out of water, you're in a toxic environment & you cannot survive. It's funny, all these years I thought people liked me & valued straight brutal honesty. The thing that I would say is my best & strongest quality is the thing millions of people hate about me. But they wouldn't tell me. They don't want to hurt my feelings so letting me suffer in a cold isolated shunned hell nightmare is much more humane.

And an even worse problem I've encountered is when Southerners tell me they like me because I'm honest, they know where they stand with me & they can trust me. You'd think this would be a good thing & a huge compliment but instead it's the ultimate insult. This is the biggest kick to the nuts because it's not a two way street. I had a friend that was the worst pathological liar you could ever meet. We'd be driving up to the movie theater & he'd be on the phone with his mother telling her he's still in work & his shift didn't end for another couple hours. I was thinking "hell, if he can lie to his own mother with a straight face like that then I can't trust a single word he says." And I was right, I caught him in one lie after another. One day he says "you know what I like about you? You're honest! I know I can completely trust you. And you can't find people like that anymore." So I'm sitting there thinking "yeah, you can't find honest people anymore because they're all like you!". So he benefits from my honesty & what do I get in return? A lying sack of **** that I can't trust at all! Oh that's just great! Either way my honesty is a life destroyer down here in the South.

Financially I'm trapped here. I have a severe sleep disorder, sleep apnea & heart problems. I'm trying to get on disability. I want more than anything to move back up North but right now I just don't see any way. I always wanted to settle in upstate NY. Maybe I'll escape the South someday but for now I've learned 1 important rule. Avoid Southerners like the plague! I keep to myself & stay away from the Southern liars. I've learned my lessons the hard way. I'm an only child & my parents both died recently. I'm completely alone, no family & I ditched all my so-called "friends" because they couldn't be trusted.
Or this...
I'm from Los Angeles and my family is Jewish New Yorkers. There's no secrets with us. If we don't like you, you know it. If I care about how you are, I'll ask. If you say "Hi, how are you?" and I respond "Good", then it's clear I don't like you and I don't care.

I've already had so many people that I thought were my friends turn out to be huge s*** talkers behind my back. I've never had that problem in CA. I always knew who disliked me. Except the hippie POSs from like rural Oregon and hipster Seattle. In LA, I know exactly who's my friend and who's not. In Louisville, I find out from other friends.

NoLa was the only real "southern hospitality" I ever encountered...so far. It might exist other places, but not Kentucky.
I did laugh as she mentioned Seattle and being from there I get what she referenced. Seattle-lites are not rude but they are not deep either.  The phrase "Seattle Freeze" is not a joke, we are extremely passive aggressive in ways that mirror the South we just are not that phony; we are too well educated so we say, "Sure let's get together" and then never do so.  We, however, pass on the smack talk judgment bullshit that dominates the persona here.  It is why I am so bad with names because we just move on and why they are good with names here so they can smack talk about you and everyone knows to whom they are referring.

Now true the first post has many issues that we could debate or discuss but the sadness, the desperation rings true.  I have watched my blood pressure rise and I live in utter isolation with not a social contact to commiserate, laugh or just shoot the breeze.  I have tried repeatedly and finally bailed when I had one Cop encounter too many.  If this is how you handle people you have no idea how to handle people.  Again the first time I own it, I shot my mouth off and in turn was angry to a stranger and to a woman I had no history with.  The last two I was sitting on a bench and getting out of a car, neither situations demonstrating risky behavior. 

Again most of my views  are shaded via the children whom are truly the most tragic figures I have ever encountered. If I hear one more time the phrase: "I was just playin wit you" I will go postal.  Call the cops really do.  Honestly the lack of humor here and ability to garner empathy is long gone here and again that is a reflection of education and intelligence.  To say dumb it down here would not be a stretch. 

The Southerner is oft referred to as Charlatan, a Rogue, a Perjurer a Knave.  But there is this quality that Northerners cannot beat and that is CHARM.  I suspect that confuses the whole hospitality issue and I in turn think of the movie Let the Right One In.  The parallels are too significant to ignore.

The editorial below discusses how Black Millennial are looking to reverse the Great Migration of decades ago and in turn move South.   The comment section was polite but utterly mystified and mostly critical.  This is by far more relevant to what I see here in Nashville and by the way Black Southererns treat migrants here with this same derision.  That is the one thing about the South, Nativism crosses color boundaries.

Prashant Kumar

Knoxville, TN July 9, 2017
Let me answer the author's rhetorical question in title -- because South is a whole new level of racism. Up north, you can feel it indirectly on most occasions and on a few occasions it is out in open. Here is south it is out in open all the time. "You people" is where most conversation starts, and this is with people that I know for some time.

I have lived in South for 15 years, as an immigrant and of different race. Not a day goes by that in public I am reminded of racism. Weird looks use to bother me for first 2-3 years, but not anymore. The kind of things I have experienced include: People spitting in my direction when I was pumping gas; Being yelled something by a person driving a truck with a giant Confederate flag fluttering in the back; Being approached by a 20 year old kid at the mall, to ask me about my religion and tell me that I should convert to Christianity; Every time I board a plane, weird looks from at least a couple of people worried about me being middle eastern; I am a vegetarian and fit, but even the most obese people don't shy away from giving advice that I since I can now afford it, I should be eating meat for better health. These are just a few examples.

Ms. Allen good luck selling your up coming book. But please stay away from south. And oh! please work on your writing skills -- the espresso story makes a shock opening, but seems one-sides and not really believable.

 I met a young couple who are in fact moving here.  I was amazed at how little they truly understood about the Segregation that exists here via Education,  Geography of the neighborhoods and the way that where one lives determines one's track and that yes color matters here just in a subliminal fashion.  And yes the North is not exempt from this it is just the willingness to at least try to correct it is overt and tolerated, there is none of that here. None of it.  The like the status quo and they use class as the divider and that is easy to do by paying lower wages, pushing faces of color into smaller businesses, less available loans, personal or business, or in turn higher rates and of course less investment in public education and transit, the two big issues that Millennial are just coming to terms with as they begin to breed.    This couple had a young son and soon would be attending school, but which as it matters where you live.  And in turn I pointed to the very coffee shop we were in in the supposedly diversified newly gentrified hood, they were it for faces of color as patrons.  Know where you belong and follow your tribe here.  Don't make waves and whatever you do keep to your own kind.  So I guess if you prefer your racism discreet then this the place for you.  The lies are kept by the liars that believe them. 

That said this is a new breed, a new class of individuals who are like many who migrate here and go "What the flying fuck?"  And are willing  to ask questions, demand change and vote.  That last one there is the key and without it nothing will change.  But the South fears change as that means being honest about their history and their reality as it affects today.  We can't have that now can we? Bless your heart for thinking such things!

Racism Is Everywhere, So Why Not Move South?

The New York Times
July 9, 2017

Last winter, while waiting for friends on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, I wandered in and out of the boutiques on Madison Avenue. I could feel eyes on me, following me, my big Afro, hoop earrings and even bigger book bag.

I went into a coffee shop — a place that specializes in espresso. It was full of white men and women laughing and chatting. I took a seat at the counter and the barista asked for my order.

“An espresso,” I replied. He didn’t budge.

“Are you sure you want a cup of espresso?”

“Yes,” I said.

He went behind the counter and grabbed a cup. “Are you sure?” he asked again. “Do you know that it comes in this small cup?”

“Yes,” I said. Why else would I have walked into an espresso bar?

I didn’t know what to do, so I did what so many millennials do. I fired off a complaint on Twitter. And I realized once again that New York is never as progressive as it’s made out to be. Often it’s a lonely place to be young and black.

So lonely, in fact, that black millennials are leaving — or not flocking here in the first place. Rather, more alluring possibilities lie in the South, specifically in cities like Atlanta, Miami and Dallas.

In 2014, the top states that black millennial migrants moved to were Texas, Georgia, Florida and North Carolina. California remained the only state among the top five outside the South. The pattern is different for their white counterparts.

A report released last year by the New York City comptroller, Scott Stringer, found that between 2000 and 2014 about 61 percent of millennials moving to New York were white, while only 9 percent of 18- to 29-year olds moving into the city were black.

Nationally, almost 82,000 black millennials migrated south in 2014, according to an analysis of census data done independently by Artem Gulish, a senior analyst at the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown. Forty percent of these black transplants came from the Northeast, 37 percent from the Midwest and 23 percent from the West. Black millennials from abroad are more likely to settle in the South.

Black people have been moving to the South for years, of course, and it’s not a trend reserved for the young. But to me it’s beginning to seem that black millennial culture — the center of black life — and the idea of black hope and opportunity are now squarely located in the South.

Over the last year, while doing research on black millennials, I have interviewed many black people in their 20s and 30s — lawyers, hairstylists, writers, secretaries — who moved from the North to the South or were planning to do so. The reasons they gave me were variations on this theme: Black life is now the South. Racism is everywhere. And at least in Atlanta real estate is more affordable than in New York.

So, I wonder, should I go, too?

I grew up in Englewood, N.J, happily going to Baumgart’s, which serves some of the best ice cream I’ve ever tasted. My mother told me she wasn’t allowed into the cafe when she was a child. It would be surprising if I weren’t always followed in Barneys. Eric Garner was killed 30 miles from my home.

The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that New York and Pennsylvania each had more hate groups than Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi or Virginia. The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, at California State University, San Bernardino, found that more than 1,000 hate crimes were reported in nine major cities in 2016. New York City had 380 incidents, the highest nationwide.

Given all that, the way Southern transplants talk about life in a promised land of upwardly mobile black people is appealing.

Except, I sort of hate the South.

My great-aunt Dee died recently at the age of 99. Whenever I asked her why she left Manning, S.C., in the 1930s during the Great Migration of Southern blacks to Northern cities — after explaining to her what the Great Migration was and that she was in it — she said her family moved for the chance of a better life, better jobs. She would never go back, she told me. There was nothing there for her to go back to.

I visited Manning, a small city a little more than an hour southeast of Columbia, this year, and that feeling — nothing to go back to — followed me around as I tried to find relics of my great-aunt’s South. I was overwhelmed when I learned that Brown v. Board of Education had roots in a case in her county.

I learned about a pool that was covered over after failed integration efforts. I read about two white men who were affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan who burned a black church in Manning — in 1995.

I also met Meesha Witherspoon (possibly a cousin of mine), who is young, educated and made a conscious decision to stay in Manning, where she grew up. I wondered if her life could have been mine, or how my ideas about where opportunity lies in this country would have been shaped by life in the town my great-aunt left.

This South where history looms large, filled with Confederate flags and songs of Dixie, isn’t the South black millennials are flocking to. Perhaps that, too, is part of my Northern elite imagination, or just a tired stereotype. Instead, they are headed to a modern, progressive South brimming with black politicians and business executives, a formidable black activism scene and black middle-class suburbs.

Most of the people I talked to who had moved from Northern cities to the South were upbeat about their new home but also frank about its shortcomings. The lower cost of living drove many of the conversations, but people were also returning for other reasons.

I spoke with Jessica M. Barron, a sociologist and demographer based in Durham, N.C., who moved from Los Angeles and counts herself in the migratory trend. “There is something about black millennials wanting to find some type of reclaiming or resurgence in terms of moving back to the South, reclaiming the South as a place where black folks can thrive,” she said.

A South Carolina native, Jasmine Owens, 35, is a good example of that. She moved to New York after law school and built a legal career. She was working as an assistant district attorney in the Bronx when an opportunity came last spring for her to move to Atlanta and work in the Clayton County district attorney’s office. She wasn’t unhappy in New York. She had a nice group of friends, liked her job and was in the market for a home.

But she realized she could have so much more outside of New York. Instead of buying a $170,000 co-op with an $800-plus maintenance fee, she moved. She now lives in a four-bedroom townhouse that cost $200,000 in a good school district for her young son.

Ms. Owens was also attracted to the large black professional population and Atlanta’s reputation as a “black mecca,” something she believes New York doesn’t have despite its significant black population. “A black mecca in my opinion would be a location where you know that wherever you go you can find people that look like you, that have the same experiences, that have the same background,” she said, adding that you don’t have to actively seek out those people because “they’re just in your normal everyday routine.”

Takisha and Tanisha Williams, 31, agree. These twin sisters, Alabama natives and hairstylists, live in New Jersey, but told me they are counting down the days until they can leave the area. Takisha misses the stars at night. She also misses black society in the South, which she says is at a different level. “They’re educated, they’re driven,” she said. “I don’t think this is just a fad. I think this is something that has been on the come up for the last decade.”

A lot of my uneasiness about the South is tied to race, or racial hatred. So I asked everyone I interviewed — some native to the Northeast, others who had moved back and forth — about racism in both regions. No one said the same thing. Tetrina Blalock of Jackson, Miss., has also lived in New York. She sees open racism everywhere in this political moment. Where she lives now, she said: “They’re bold with it now. Like bold.”

Belton Mickle, 33, a South Carolinian who moved to New York for graduate school and then recently returned to Atlanta, said people are more openly racist in the North: “In the South, no one wants to be thought of as a racist.” Instead, what he notices is “a bit of condescension.” Ms. Owens, the lawyer in Atlanta, agreed. “In the South, it’s not going to be as blatant unless you make someone upset,” she said.

There are, of course, some sights that are more prevalent in the South. Jaide Smith-Akinbiyi, 29, left the Bronx for Florida nearly 10 years ago. She said it was upsetting to see the Confederate flag on display at first. It was a shock to realize that the mentality of that era still exists for people, that they proudly hang the flag. Now, though, “I’ve become more used to it.”

But race was not what the people I interviewed focused on. Their reasons for deciding where to live their lives were the same reason my great-aunt left Manning for New Jersey decades ago: opportunity.

Opportunity — for work, for a bigger house. And something else. It’s a sort of visible humanity, Dr. Barron, the sociologist, said, the idea that black people can live in an area where blackness is seen as valuable, despite the horrific past, because of the legacy that black people have left in the region. “I will be seen as Jessica doing XYZ versus the black girl here doing XYZ,” she said, of making a life in the South. “I think people underestimate that.”

That thought — the idea that you could be Jessica, or Reniqua, and not a girl who doesn’t know what espresso is — stayed with me.

In May, I stood in the sticky hot heat of New Orleans watching the removal of a statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee. As workers tried to pry the statue from its pedestal, I felt that progress was being made. I was overjoyed to be in a diverse crowd. And grateful when two black men gave out some red Powerade.

But then some people came up and argued about how the statue deserved to stay, which somehow devolved into a conversation about “those people” who apparently get “plenty.” And once again, I felt suspicious of the South. As the statue was lifted off the pedestal, secured only by cords and rope, it looked eerily like a lynching.

By the time the general landed on the ground, leaving an empty column in the middle of a traffic roundabout, applause broke out. The disruptive people had been escorted away.

The next day I headed to Hattiesburg, Miss., to visit a church for L.G.B.T. worshipers, where I was greeted by a tattoo-covered, nose-ring-wearing lesbian minister and spoke to a young black couple who had driven from Alabama. It seemed like a different South was emerging. Maybe even a South I could one day call home.

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