Skip to comments.Definition of South, Southern Is Changing
Posted on 11/25/2005 5:17:11 AM PST by freepatriot32
CARY, N.C. - The joke around here is that this town's name is really an acronym for "Containment Area for Relocated Yankees." As far as Vernon Yates is concerned, they haven't been contained well enough.
Nearly surrounded by pricey subdivisions, the cinderblock Yates Grocery and Farm Supply sells neither anymore. As if things weren't bad enough, style maven Martha Stewart has chosen this Raleigh suburb to build a signature neighborhood of houses designed after her homes in Maine and New York.
Holding court near a potbellied stove, the 69-year-old man in the suspenders and NASCAR shirt laments that his old customers have been replaced by fast-talking, SUV-driving Northerners who don't seem to be able to read a STOP sign.
"It's all gone," Yates, pausing for another spit of tobacco juice, says of the Southern town of his youth. "Everything is completely different from what it used to be."
Things are indeed changing in the South. And so is the notion of what it means to be "Southern."
In this most maligned and mused-upon of American regions, the term conjures a variety of images. Magnolias, front porch swings and sweet tea for some; football, stock cars and fried chicken for others; lynchings, burning crosses and civil rights marches for still others.
We've had the Solid South, the Old South and the New South.
But are we heading toward a "No South"?
As the South's population booms _ projected to comprise 40 percent of the nation's population by 2030 _ a new Associated Press-Ipsos poll finds that the percentage of people in the region identifying themselves as "Southerners" is slowly shrinking.
The AP-Ipsos poll conducted this past month found 63 percent of people living in the region identified themselves as Southerners. That mirrors a trend from a University of North Carolina analysis of polling data that found a decline of 7 percentage points on the same Southern identity question between 1991 to 2001, to 70 percent.
"Does it mean that being a Southerner no longer has any meaning? I don't think it does," says Larry Griffin, a sociologist at North Carolina who analyzed the AP polling data. "It just has a very different kind of meaning."
Are the qualities that have long been ascribed to the South really true anymore? Are Southerners really more hospitable than other Americans? Does family really count for more down South? Are depth of faith, loyalty to home, reverence for history and sense of place identifiably "Southern" traits?
The South has become "sort of like a lifestyle, rather than an identity anymore," James Cobb, author of the newly published "Away Down South: A History of Southern Identity," would argue. "The things now we would base Southern distinctiveness on are so ethereal."
And sometimes contradictory: In a region that once tried to break away from the Union, people are generally considered more patriotic than the rest of Americans; in a place where blacks were oppressed for hundreds of years, poll after poll shows them identifying themselves as "Southern" even more often than whites do.
"The South is a region of irony," says Bill Ferris, co-editor of the Encyclopedia of Southern Culture. "It's both un-American and deeply American."
New York City-born Bob Petrolino has lived in Raleigh for 30 years and has heard his share of snide remarks about "damned Yankees." When the local paper recently ran a landfill story with the headline "N.C. set to become Yankee dump," he fired off an angry letter wondering when we'd finally get beyond the Civil War references.
"I find a lot of people who are still fighting that war," the 71-year-old IBM retiree told the AP. "They still have that chip on their shoulder, like, `Hey, we would have been better off if you'd never come here.'"
About a third of the Southern residents responding to the AP poll say they were born outside the region. But of those born in and living in the South, only 77 percent choose to call themselves Southern.
William Andrew Johnson was born in Savannah, Ga., and lives just outside Charleston, S.C. _ where the first shot of the Civil War was fired. But he rejects the label "Southerner."
Why? Because of the political baggage he associates with the term.
"I'm not a red-stater at all," says the 61-year-old retired investment banker from Mount Pleasant, whose family has been in the region since the 1800s. "You know how a Southerner defines `patriotic'? He supports any and every war."
So how do you measure patriotism?
Studies have found that people in the region enlist in the military out of proportion to their percentage of the overall population. But that could be as much a factor of economics or the predominance of military installations in the region as love of country.
And what about the so-called Bible Belt? Are Southerners really more religious than other Americans?
Church attendance figures compiled by David Olson, director of the American Church Research Project, show Southerners are much more likely than the average American to go to church _ though, as a region, their Midwestern brethren have a slight edge. The Arbitron broadcast rating service finds that Southern dwellers are 48 percent more likely than people in the rest of the country to listen to religious radio programming.
And what of the closeness of extended families associated with the South?
Six of the states in the top 10 for highest divorce rates are in the South. And the Census Bureau recently reported that the South is home to 7 of the top 10 states with the highest percentages of out-of-wedlock births. (The Census counts Delaware and Maryland as Southern states.)
According to the AP poll, geographic Southerners appear to have a higher opinion of themselves than do others.
Of those asked whether Southerners were more courteous than other Americans, 55 percent of those living in the region said yes, while only 35 percent of non-Southerners felt that way. And non-Southerners have a much dimmer view of race relations in the region.
From the earliest days of the Union, social scientists say, the South emerged as a kind of "internal other."
"It became kind of like a negative subreference ... where any American problem or the worst American problems could always be identified with the South," says Cobb, a historian at the University of Georgia. This was the South of Jim Crow laws, bottom-of-the-list school test scores, the backwoods of "Deliverance."
Sometime in the 1970s, the region morphed into what author Fred Hobson called the "suddenly virtuous" South. Today, many of our notions about the South seem based on some long-gone reality. This is the South of country music lyrics, carefree Sunbelt retirement, schoolkids who answer "yes, ma'am."
The South is now the nation's most industrialized region; though traditional textile employment and the like has largely moved offshore, the region has attracted high-profile employers such as automakers. About three quarters of Southerners now live in metropolitan areas.
But if you're looking for the "real South," retired Dallas salesman Patrick Phillips says don't bother going to Charlotte, N.C., Birmingham, Ala., or even Atlanta, the presumptive capital of the New South. It's not there.
"I think the true Southerner is pretty much lost in the metropolitan area in today's time," says the 56-year-old Tulsa, Okla., native, who identifies himself as a Southerner. "I think you have to get off in the back roads of the Southern states to really get into it again."
The AP found that people who live in rural areas are much more likely than their urban and suburban counterparts to consider themselves Southern.
For novelist Cassandra King, who grew up on a southern Alabama peanut farm, the South will always be "the agrarian South of the hardworking, reddened-neck farm family."
"Southern identity," she says, "comes from the red clay or white sand or black dirt which produces our peanuts and corn and okra and field peas and sweet potatoes."
The region is still set apart by its poverty, and some old stereotypes hold water. Eight of the top 10 states with the highest percentages of mobile homes are in the South, as are nine of the states with the highest rates of adult toothlessness.
Other stereotypes are way off.
States with the highest percentage of households without indoor plumbing? Six of the top 10 are in the West and Northeast. And while you can marry your first cousin in Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island, it's legally taboo in Kentucky, Mississippi and West Virginia.
John Shelton Reed, author of numerous books on the region, says the South has stopped being "the regional odd man out" in some important ways. In terms of income, literacy and the racial attitudes of whites, "the differences between Southerners and other Americans have now become so small, by historical standards, that they hardly matter at all."
And, Reed says, some "ancient regional differences" have reversed themselves. The region has gone from having a higher birthrate than the national norm to a lower one, from net out-migration of blacks to net in-migration.
In many ways, he says, the rest of the country is starting to look more like our image of the South _ particularly in its tastes in music, sports and food.
"We have exported country music, NASCAR, and the Southern Baptist Convention so successfully," he says, "that they may not be `Southern' institutions much longer."
Rather than being pleased with this so-called "Southernization" of the country, some are more concerned about what they see as the blandification of the South.
Graham Banks, chairman of the pro-secession Southern Party of South Carolina, says there's something wrong when the Country Music Awards are being presented in New York and Southern stock-car tracks lose race dates in the name NASCAR expansion.
"Every time there's something good that people like, it becomes `American,'" says the 38-year-old investor and writer from Bamberg, S.C. "They co-opt it and then call it something else and then begin to slowly morph it into something that isn't Southern, and then it dies."
Oddly, when asked by the AP whether the South is a distinct region with its own culture, only 58 percent of native Southerners considered the region significantly different from the rest of the United States, compared to 66 percent of people born elsewhere.
We're now a couple generations removed from the Voting Rights Act, and the last Confederate widow has finally passed on. But for Ferris, the South will always be more than just a convenient grouping of states for statistical analysis _ because history matters.
"I think the region is, always has been and always will be different _ distinctly different _ from the rest of the nation," he says. "We have a long memory here. ... The memory of a war lost, and occupation and Jim Crow and civil rights. These are powerful memories that shape our everyday lives."
The AP-Ipsos poll was conducted by telephone Oct. 21-26 among 658 adults in the South and 1,345 in other parts of the country. Sampling error was plus or minus 4 points for people in the South, 3 points for people elsewhere.
EDITOR'S NOTE _ Allen G. Breed is the AP's Southeast regional writer, based in Raleigh, N.C. AP researcher Monika Mathur in New York analyzed data for this report.
New Englanders' politics nmake their home states unlivable, so they flee to the South where they set about recreating the conditions that made where they came from unlivable.
Californians are doing the same thing to the West, of course.
You are spot on. In the past 12 years, my town of Durango CO, has become unrecognizable...in 12 short years. I believe I'll be moving in the not so distant future. To where I don't know...I thought about Montana, but the "bankers and lawyers" are there already.....
Yes. Well said, Bill. Irony and paradox.
"It's both un-American and deeply American."
As for people moving to the South from other places--that's the history of the South. Sooner or later, they settle down, come to their senses, and become indistinguishable from the rest of the Southerners. Most of the people of the South are descendants of at least one non-Southern immigrant.
As for the blandification of the South--it can't happen. The South's too wild, too weird, and too geographic.
As for the "Southernization" of rest of the country--it's like the South had the last laugh: "Surprise!"
If that's the case, brace yourselves for a massive migration from Europe.
So, the Noo Yawkaz are moving to areas all over the south? Good. Maybe they'll all stop coming to New Port Richey, FL.
Nice re-post...The sectionalism will be forefront soon...
Don't count on it, but if you do your job right their children will be singing "Dixie" with a Southern accent.
I tellya, man, the Wal Mart over there is like a teleport to Long Island- FREAKY.
If you're a conservative, and like it when the cops run the rif-raf out of town instead of letting them hassle the public, think Arkansas, south (of course) of Little Rock. Not Hot Springs though, since it's becoming a haven for old hippies and hippie wannabees.
I must agree.
We are from New England and after getting out of the military decided to settle in Georgia. I wish you could see what transplants have done here- the area becomes more "yuppified" yearly, prices are climbing and there is construction and development EVERYWHERE.
How far must we go in order to get AWAY from these people?
Many have forgotten the significance or location of The Mason-Dixon Line. Remember that Rising Sun is North of the Line.
Bingo - I WAS a Yankee for 16 yrs sadly, but after coming off active duty, I chose TEXAS to raise my kids (Note - I was a RED STATER trapped in a BLUE STATE). Oh yea - even attended school in the CITY OF EVIL! :)
Now.... I'm raising 2 conservative young freepers in God's Country!
I think the article doesn't mention that the Blue states are aging and fading and the RED STATES are getting redder and stronger!
GOD BLESS TEXAS (and the South). ;) I'm not from Texas but I got here as fast as I could!
You're getting a lot of New Yorkerss in your area?
That's what I loved about the west coast of Florida. It attracted primarily midwesterners.
The northeasterners tended to head over to the east caost of Florida.
True Southerners (born and raised)"don't give a damn how you did it up north!" Come to the South and be welcomed, but just remember, "when in Rome, do as the Romans". If you have chosen to come to the South, there must have been a reason you liked it the way it is, if you find you don't like it "take I-95 NORTH!
Just messin' with you...
American By Birth...Southerner by the Grace of God!
I have always considered anyone south of Jacksonville, or north of Georgia a yankee anyway. :)
It's important that all these people moving in from other parts be Southernized.
Do your duty, all you Southerners and all you neo-Southerners and all you children of reluctant Southern converts!
Jacksonville IS the capital of the South. Cities like Atlanta are too busy trying to out-yankee the yankees!
Okay, I know you're squirmin' in your chair like a young'n before recess, so tell us the significance of the Mason-Dixon and Rising Sun ;^>
If you are talking about the traditional white Southerner, in whom Scots-Irish and English strains are predominant, your statement is correct insofar as New Englanders and Middle Atlantic residents migrated into the South in late colonial and early republican times because the frontier advance was more active in the South than the North. Southern migration westward had reached as far as the northeast corner of then Spanish-ruled Texas by 1811 even as New Englanders had only penetrated as far west as northeast Ohio, the former Western Reserve of Connecticut, in great numbers. Even parts of New York and Maine remained wilderness as Kentucky, Tennessee, and (mostly Southern settled) Ohio entered the Union. As a result, the opportunities for land ownership were greater in the South. Abraham Lincoln's paternal lineage was English Puritans who settled in Massachusetts around 1640. His grandfather migrated to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia from Massachusetts, and later his father moved to Kentucky.
Additionally, the Upper South and Border States received some migration from the Northern states in the 19th Century. Pockets of Union sympathy in parts of Arkansas and Texas often coincided with settlement from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, and other Northern states. After Reconstruction ended, Southern commercial growth attracted businessmen and professionals from the North and Europe.
However, all the early migrations of Northerners were made by people who assimilated into Southern culture. The greatest portion represented small farmers whose agrarian lifestyle differed little from their neighbors. They were largely unaffected by the religious skepticism and disdain for traditional culture that began to adversely impact Northern elites in the 19th Century. Like the minorities of Germans and Irish Catholics in the mostly English and Scots-Irish South, Northern settlers adopted Southern folkways and religion, intermarried, and by the second generation were as Southern as any descendant of the first families of Virginia.
The breed of Northerner that has migrated to the South after World War II is very different from other Northern waves. Especially in the case of those people from New England, New York, and New Jersey, they are very different in culture, lifestyle, religion, and ethnicity from the Southern mainstream. Midwesterners and Middle Atlantic people (PA, DE, MD) have fewer of these differences, yet some have an attitude of superiority to Southerners based on little more than their inflated self-worth. Several Southern cities, such as Dallas and Houston, have large suburban areas where Western, Midwestern, and Middle Atlantic influences have overtaken traditional Southern ones. In other areas, such as the east coast of Florida and several North Carolina cities, there have developed areas dominated by Northeasterners where many of the residents speak like they still lived within 50 miles of Times Square.
The migration of politically and religiously conservative Midwestern, Middle Atlantic, and Western white Americans into the South will ultimately be absorbed into the mainstream of the white South. Continued migration of liberal, culturally alien Northeasterners may ultimately tip the Atlantic seaboard of the South, except for South Carolina, over to the dark side, politically and otherwise. Next to the illegal alien problem, the influx of these liberals is the greatest threat to the survival of the South as a distinct region and culture.
Ditto for Flagstaff, AZ. 15 years ago, sleepy little mountain town. Now, rampaging neo-California cloverleaf microcity. The only consolation is that my real estate will sell for about 8X what I paid for it.
Relocating to front range of Wyoming, myself.
Southerners, as well as illegals, need to assimilate. They are living in unassimilated enclaves and don't speak the language.
(Move along, people, nothing to see here.)
I wanna party with YOU! ;^>
However, Midwesterners and Southerners also influenced the state, and in the 1890-1914 period, California politics was affected by both Populism, mostly Southern and lower Midwestern in origin, and Progressivism, with its roots in the Northeast and Upper Midwest. Except for Hawaii, the unions were more powerful in California than anywhere else west of the Mississippi.
While Southern California, specifically Los Angeles, had a large Jewish community from the early 1900s, in part due to the movie industry, they were overwhelmed numerically by successive waves of migrants, mostly from the Midwest, who had converted suburban Los Angeles, especially Orange County, into a conservative bastion. Few of these migrants were drawn by the movie industry, but for employment and business opportunities. John Wayne, born in Iowa, migrated as a child to Southern California with his father, who was seeking employment as a pharmacist.
This migration moved California politics rightward. The same GOP that supported Earl Warren in the 1940s became the party of Ronald Reagan (a native of Illinois) in the 1960s. Reagan's election and the status of California as a Republican bastion on a national level from 1952 to 1988 reflected the strong influence of conservative and mostly Midwestern migrants. Even as late as the 1980s, Rush Limbaugh, a Missourian, used his Sacramento radio station to develop his conservative talk show that he would later carry to prominence in New York.
What tipped California into the liberal camp, perhaps for generations to come, were three shifts in population flow: the end of westward migration from the Midwest as the attractiveness of the South increased, the eastward migration of white Californians, especially conservatives, due to the high cost of living and deteriorating living conditions, and the massive migration of Hispanics, legal or not, into the state. Pete Wilson (a native of Missouri) was probably the last traditional Republican to hold the governorship of California.
The fate of California should be a warning not only to the South but the inland West, even to Mormon majority Utah, that liberals and foreign immigrants can overturn the political and social order in a relatively short time.
Assimilation of Northerners of conservative political and theological sentiment into the Southern mainstream is taking place and is a good thing. Better Dick Armey (North Dakota native) or Ron Paul (born in Pennsylvania) than Ann Richards or Molly Ivins, both native Texans, the former a descendant of early Texas pioneers.
It was an evil confederate, commy pinko plot to take some of the warmest states for their unassimilated enclaves that still don't speak the language.
"It was an evil confederate, commy pinko plot to take some of the warmest states for their unassimilated enclaves that still don't speak the language."
You've got a bad attitude. If, by "the language" you are referring to that nerve grating dialect they speak in the Northeast, I'm right glad we don't. I think you'll discover if you look that the commie pinkos seem to be heavily concentrated in the Northeast. We do, however, have evil confederates, which I much prefer to Damnyankees.
Heh heh heh...too late now...the bankers and lawyers are already there Gus. I also hear there's a lot of surly bartenders up there now, and I can't abide them.
Let me know how it goes FRiend...I'm interested.
All right, all you Southerners. Wallace T. has spoken (post #23). Now get out there and do your duty! You have a big job ahead of you, and there's no time to waste.
You have made a very good point, Tert. If the livin' were not so easy in California, Californians would be far more concerned about the threats that loom over them from all directions.
How ya been, pally?
Doing okay. Kinda get sick of this place myself sometimes, but I try to check in.