Monday, June 4, 2018

Go South

Birds migrate southward in winter to offset the cold and hence the South and the Southwest have found themselves with more than winter birds arriving to take advantage of temperate weather and  growing economies.  The irony is that the once predictability of winter and summer temps have changed dramatically with the issues surrounding climate change.  And "weather" you believe it or not the systems from Hurricanes, Tornado's and heavy rain and snowfall has been well documented across the globe to have someone go: "This sure is different and ain't like it used to be."  Yes with over a half a century on the planet I recall two to three snowstorms in Seattle and never recall a period of drought well surprise the rainy city is now different.   Ask those in Alaska about the sightings of Bears and the recent Cougar attack in North Bend in Washington is showing that animals are struggling to survive.   Get over the stupidity.  Oh wait it is the exceptionalism of America - stupidity.

I read this op-ed and I agree that understanding the South is akin to saying on Facebook about your relationships - It's Complicated.    That said in the two years I have lived in Nashville I have come to realize that there are some commonalities that reign throughout the region, those of Religion, Class, Gender and then Race (as I wrote about in Holy Crap), the South has other issues that come from a resentment towards those who refuse to understand that Slavery was only one component of the Civil War and until you realize that Reconstruction, the economic and social isolation from America that resulted and the sheer level of migration out by a large swath of the population affected the people here that has lasted GENERATIONS.  This region re-defines tribalism and nativism in ways that I have never experienced elsewhere.

Where you are from or more importantly "who are your people?" is the essential dividing line when asked "Why are you here?"  They are appalled here when you even remotely criticize the region or even ask questions about why something is the way it is (such as lack of transit or sidewalks as a good example) as a personal affront.  And that too is a definitive characteristic across the country as if you have told someone that their baby is really ugly.   This need to define and defend ones roots and justify their choice of where they live or work seems to dominate the dialog from here to Seattle.  A quick review of Reddit or any other online site where a writer complains about a City or even a sports team is quickly dogpiled with hate and vitriol that is akin to the insult "and your mother too."

This is largely due to class identification and a type of need to prove you are good, better, smart, and more importantly rich.  Well I can assure you that the 1% do not troll the Internet other than Trump and that if one notes is strictly one sided and rarely interactive.   The rich, like Roseanne, are so isolated from normal people which wealth allows they are ripe for bizarre conspiracy theories, ignorant fake news and the means to simply state their endless stream of bullshit unimpeded.  I doubt anyone would sit at a bar and listen to this for any period of time let alone the hours that those two rant on social media.  And maybe that is the point we don't want to be with people and talk with them but at them. That is one thing the South has managed to do for decades thanks to the power of the pulpit it trains them early to talk endlessly, in a stream of non-sensical thought, cite random Scripture to defend and validate the bullshit then send the flock out to shove food into their starving faces as it is both comfort and a way to avoid conversation as who can speak with their mouth full.

To speak of the South is to speak of America, segregated less by Race but by Ethnicity and Money.  The reality is that when you have money you live anywhere but when you don't you find your tribe, your community and you build it.  Black Americans found themselves shut off from this when new ways from Jim Crow laws to financing for homes and businesses became in-accessible via higher rates and the commercial zoning and codes that prevented them from building and growing their business.  What desegregation brought was largely an end to thriving black communities that were NOT equal to those of white residents but they were theirs and they owned and worked and lived in it,  We white folks gave them the projects and access to schools that we promptly underfunded and in turn made it equally bad for everyone!  See how that works!

And this in turn explains why Immigrants who arrive set up thriving businesses, Churches, live in their own communities and seemingly do not integrate into the larger community but in turn enable a thriving economy and tax base that brings further resentment by those who have been here the entire time.  They are unaware or frankly don't care about the issues that endlessly dominate the dialog about race until Trump and then that microscope turned on them and in turn their lives and communities in ways that have become full of resentment and blame.  Just here in Nashville a City Council woman targeted signage and lighting that dominates my part of the city, South Nashville, which is the most diverse community in the area.  Funny how that law thing works.  Again come to Nashville the pie shaped area of the city has it well divided and in turn segregated by race and income and in turn access and availability of affordable homes and employment in the largest sector - hospitality and health.   Nashville is obsessed with East Nashville and if you go along the Gallatin Pike it is fine until you reach Cahal Street and then you begin to cross into some seriously dangerous territory.  East Nashville is further divided by Shelby which to the right you enter the Cayce Projects which is a world unto its own but to the left, cool apartments, shops and services.  This goes throughout the city as the housing projects cuts sectors into the areas close to the city for years in a place that urban was synonymous with "black" and therefore dangerous but turn in the other direction it is as if a wall was theoretically built; Germantown is a another example of a neighborhood divided by Jefferson St and Rosa Parks Blvd, the irony of those names not lost, one side largely public housing and a decaying area to the right all new builds, cool restaurants and yoga (first sign of white people).    Under the new Jim Crow and redlining the reality is now being switched and soon only the rich will live in a City.  Nashville has a way to go before that ever happens as there is no city, bars and sports stadiums however there is no shortage. Urban planning is a anomaly here as that has the word urban and words matter here.

There is a very lengthy and well written article in The Atlantic about how the new aristocracy works and it is all about access and availability and the endless victimization of how the rich are targeted and in turn their efforts to ensure that their class maintains regardless of laws and rules that are in place to enable integration and more importantly meritocracy.   I urge those to read it as it explains  The South in ways that I have said repeatedly - its about the money STUPID.  And they do stupid big here.   Self preservation be that of one's family name, one's history, one's employment or one's way of living explains it all to you and understanding that is all that this is about proves that if we are to end the division the only way is revolution.  It will never happen here ever again and no one knows that better than the South.

No One Really Understands the South

By Alexis Okeowo  
     Ms. Okeowo grew up in Alabama.

June 2, 2018
The New York Times
Opinion

“Why do black people still live in the South?” a black friend from Chicago asked me last year, genuinely bewildered. She had just seen the film “Mudbound,” which tells the story of a black family and a white family living intimately, side by side, in post-World War II Mississippi.

It was inconceivable to her that anyone would want to live in an environment where black people had faced the kind of poverty and brutality that was depicted in the film, and she wanted me, as someone who grew up in Alabama, to explain.

My friend was viewing the Deep South through the lens that popular culture and most of the country outside the South also use — the same stereotypes I heard when I left Alabama to go to college in the Northeast. I encountered classmates who thought they were surer about the South than I was — it was too racist, too religious, too backward, too conservative, even though they’d never been there.

And so Alabama voters surprised observers last December, when they sent Doug Jones to the Senate in a special election — the first time an Alabama Democrat had won a seat in that chamber since 1992. This fall, Democrats hope to elect more candidates to offices around the state and through the South. Stacey Abrams won the Democratic primary for governor in Georgia last month, becoming the first black female candidate for governor from a major party in the United States. Liberals around the country are feeling cautiously optimistic as they look to the midterms.

Alabama is having its primary on Tuesday. Emily Jortner, volunteer coordinator of the Lee County Democratic Club, a social club made up largely of white progressives, said she will be watching two first-time candidates — a former Miss America, Mallory Hagan, and a psychologist, Adia McClellan Winfrey — vie for the Democratic nomination in the Third Congressional District. The winner will face the Republican incumbent, Mike Rogers.

“There are so many people running in the state that there just aren’t enough Democratic political operatives to work on their campaigns — it’s exciting,” Ms. Jortner said. “I don’t think polling is going to tell us what will happen in November; I don’t think past races will either. We’re sort of in the Bermuda Triangle right now.”

And as the race between Mr. Jones and his Republican opponent, Roy Moore, showed, the country has much to learn about the South. After that election, I spent time back in Alabama, talking to people who had watched it unfold and exploring why the nuances of the region were still so misunderstood.

Dana Sweeney, a young organizer in Montgomery with Hometown Action, which does nonpartisan canvassing in small towns and rural areas, said the group’s priorities of racial justice, gender equity, access to health care and environmental justice weren’t out of place in those communities. “There’s a perspective that those are values you wouldn’t find in rural spaces in the Deep South, but they’re there,” he said.

In the void of a state Democratic Party that nearly went bankrupt a few years ago, Mr. Jones’s campaign was largely supported by grass-roots voter outreach — and helped by out-of-state funding.

The story in Alabama was not what to make of the allegations of sexual misconduct against Mr. Moore, residents told me, but how people who had never been politically active have suddenly become so.

Sharyn Pulling works with Alabama Together, which is helping support about a dozen women running for office for the first time, part of a surge of new Democratic candidates in the state challenging long-serving Republican incumbents.

“We got stuck in a political rut, where people thought, ‘Things aren’t going to change and Alabama is what it is,’” Ms. Pulling told me. “But people realized they can make waves, if not change things overnight, and fight against what seems like the inevitable.”

The election of Mr. Jones nearly eclipsed another victory for progressives in the state: the election of Randall Woodfin, a Democrat, as the mayor of Birmingham; at 36, he became the city’s youngest mayor in more than 100 years. His campaign workers, he told me, knocked on 50,000 doors; part of that effort was to listen to what people said mattered to them.

“They think that Democrats as an institution, the establishment, are out of touch,” he said.

The outreach worked: more than 5,000 people between the ages of 18 and 35 voted in a municipal election for the first time. “Alabama has been written off for a long time,” Mr. Woodfin said. “The national and international attention on the special Senate election was more about: ‘Here we go again. Alabama is doing something that’s not in its best interests, and is going to be an embarrassment.’ ”

Ms. Jortner of the Lee County Democratic Club, whose husband is running for local office, said, half-jokingly, that one of the club’s missions was to remove stigma and “make it O.K. to be a Democrat in Alabama.”

Kynesha Brown runs voter-registration drives with a group called Rollin to the Polls, working in mostly black and Latino areas. “If the state Democratic Party was more of a well-oiled machine and more in tune with the people they represent, Alabama could be on the pathway to being a purple state,” she said.

Instead, politicians have neglected low-income and rural communities in the state. That is in addition to the disenfranchisement of potential voters who don’t possess acceptable forms of identification or who have been convicted of felonies and still have outstanding legal financial obligations (rules that disproportionately affect African-Americans).

At the heart of the question over the representation of the Deep South is another question, that of the worth of a place, and why people choose to call it home. I’ve long seen a strain of thinking that residents of rural areas, with their failing infrastructure, closing health centers and diminishing jobs, should simply leave, pick up and move to cities for more opportunities and a higher standard of living. Why stay in a place that is falling apart? Or that has a history of oppressing people who look like you? But over a family’s generations in one place, the idea of home solidifies, becomes unshakable.

Practically, home is also where a family’s emotional and financial support network is. So even during times of upheaval — the Great Migration, periods of racial unrest and economic downturn — many native and longtime Southerners stay put. The South also attracts outsiders looking for a better life; my own parents are immigrants and met as students at an Alabama university, and their close friends are immigrants who came to the state to study and work, too.

Ask anyone living outside the Deep South about it now, and you’ll usually hear a term: Trump Country. It’s where some of his most fervent supporters are. Last year, I attended a Confederate memorial rally near my hometown that was filled with hundreds of white working-class people, several of whom told me that their idea of the Confederate legacy was desperately vital to their sense of identity.

But Alabama is also a place where the black working class, a group often left out of the discussion about the country’s blue-collar workers, is largely responsible for one of the biggest electoral upsets of our time. A significant number of black women are now running for office in the state.

This is a key part of what Alabama looks like going into the midterms. How can we start to include that complexity when we talk about the South?

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