Skip to comments.Southern Like Me: What Americans, and President Obama, can learn from the Great Migration South.
Posted on 09/29/2011 9:13:19 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
Im a Jersey boy. I was born there, went to high school and college there, and assumed Id spend the rest of my life there. But though I loved the people and food, the Jersey Shore summers, and short rides through the Lincoln Tunnel to Broadway shows and Madison Square Garden, I gave it all up and moved south. Very far south. Im not alone.
According to the latest Census figures, and stories in USA Today, the Associated Press, and elsewhere, the South was the fastest growing region in America over the last decade, up 14 percent. The center of population has moved south in the most extreme way weve even seen in history, Robert Groves, director of the Census Bureau, said a few months ago.
That migration wasnt limited to white Yankees like me. The nations African American population grew 1.7 million over the last decade and 75 percent of that growth occurred in the South, according to William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution. What those stories and studies failed to report were the reasons propelling that migration. The economic and cultural forces driving this migration south have been ignored by the press. And by the Obama administration
So I figured this Jersey boy who now calls Oxford, Mississippi, home could explain why. This Yankee turned good ol boy could explain the pull no, the tug of the South.
Have you lost your mind? is the refrain I heard over and over from friends up north when I told them the news. It was as if Id just told them I was moving to Madagascar.
I then explained the move. I started with some humor. I explained that we have electricity in Mississippi. And indoor plumbing. We even have dentists. I told them we have the internet in Mississippi. And cable TV. I told them I travel a lot, and Memphis airport has planes, too.
I then told them about the quality of life in Oxford, and how far a dollar stretches. And the ease of doing business. When I show them pictures of my house, and get around to my property taxes, things get positively somber. On a home valued at $400,000, my tax tab is $2,000. My parents in New Jersey pay $12,000. And for a whole lot less house. On no land. When I remind friends about the pension liabilities theyll be inheriting from the state unions, things get downright gloomy.
I then explain that my work is mostly done by the phone or internet. So where I live has little bearing on how much I earn. But it has a whole lot to do with how much I keep.
Having disposed of the economic arguments, I knew that one big question lurked: Okay, Lee, but whats it like living with a bunch of slow-talking, gun-toting, Bible-thumping racists?
My friends didnt use those exact words, but I knew its what they were thinking. I knew because I thought the same thing about the South before I moved here. Most of what we Yankees know about the South comes from TV and movies. Think Hee-Haw meets Mississippi Burning meets The Help and you get the picture.
But my own prejudices bore little resemblance to the reality I encountered when I moved south. I fell in love with the place. With the pace of life, for openers. Things got done, and done well, but it always seemed as if people had time for one another.
Though Id never owned a firearm, I learned that the locals took personal protection into their own hands, knowing that a call to a county sheriff wasnt a solid defense strategy. I also learned how much fun it was to shoot stuff, from targets to tin cans to turkeys.
The Bible thumpers proved to be more caricature than anything. The people I met didnt impose their religion on me. They tried to live by the standards of their faith. Sometimes they did; sometimes they didnt. But the pervasive pursuit of those standards made the South a better place to live.
It was on the race front that I was most surprised. Yes, the South had a painful and tragic history. And yes, I encountered bigots who didnt worry about using the n word, and wished for a return to the 50s the 1850s. But they proved to be the exception.
Instead, I saw blacks and whites interacting in day-to-day life in ways I never saw up north. Indeed, in the suburban town where I grew up in New Jersey, I could count the African American residents on one hand. But in my small Southern town, my daughters first-grade class is thoroughly integrated 25 percent of her class is African American.
Like me, businesses around the world liked what they saw in the South, too. Companies like Boeing, Nissan, BMW, and Toyota could have chosen anywhere in the world to locate their most modern plants, but chose to locate them in the South.
Where there are plants and jobs, people move. And Americans have been moving south from the rust belt and industrial North for decades. In 1960, Detroit had a population of 1,850,000. Today, it has 720,000. Houston is now larger than Detroit, Atlanta is larger than Boston, and Dallas is larger than San Francisco.
Those numbers reflect a shift in political power. Texas picked up four seats in the House of Representatives this past year, while Ohio and New York lost two. Georgia and South Carolina picked up a seat, while New Jersey and Michigan lost one.
What caused this migration of capital the human, industrial, and political varieties? Ask transplanted business owners and theyll tell you they like investing in states where union bosses and trial lawyers dont run the show, and where tax burdens are low. They also want a work force that is affordable and well-trained. And that doesnt see them as the enemy.
In short, policy matters. So, too, does culture.
Its quite a story, actually. Americans, black and white alike, are moving in record numbers to a part of the country where taxes are low, unions are irrelevant, and people love their guns and their faith. And yet we have heard hardly a peep about this great migration from our nations public intellectuals.
Why? Because their ideological prejudices wont permit them to admit the obvious. Theyd prefer to focus their research on the pre-1970s South because they are more comfortable with and more invested in that old narrative, while this new one marches on right under their noses. And their keyboards.
And so it is with a sense of puzzlement that this Jersey boy turned Mississippian watches the decision making of President Obama. Millions of Americans may have voted for him in 2008, but millions have been voting with their feet, and he doesnt seem the least bit interested in understanding why.
Last December, gun manufacturer Winchester moved one of its plants and 1,000 jobs from East Alton, Ill., to my small town of Oxford. Joseph Rupp, who runs the company, explained: While I am disappointed that employees represented by the International Association of Machinists chose to reject a proposal that would have allowed us to remain competitive in East Alton, we look forward to expanding our existing operations in Mississippi.
For a town of Oxfords size about 12,000 people this was cause for celebration. For East Alton, which has 7,000 residents, it was a catastrophe.
And I wondered as I read that story, Does anyone on President Obamas staff read the business section of the paper? He should be studying the Winchester story, and why those jobs fled his home state of Illinois. He should be talking to Richard Fisher, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. Fishers recent report revealed that since June 2009, Texas alone was responsible for 37 percent of all net new American jobs.
He should ask Americans like me whove moved South why we did it. And he should be especially interested in understanding why African Americans are fleeing his home city of Chicago for the South, too.
If he dared to ask, hed learn that we are all fleeing liberalism and chasing economic freedom, just as our immigrant parents and grandparents did.
But he wont bother asking. Our ideological academic-in-chief is content to expand the size and scope of the federal government and ignore the successes of our economic laboratories known as the states. He is pursuing 1960s-style policies that got us Detroit, while ignoring those that got us 21st-century Dallas.
In the downtown square of Oxford sits a bronze statue of our most famous storyteller, William Faulkner. The past is never dead, he once famously wrote. In fact, its not even past.
That line has great depth, but in an important sense its not quite right.
It turns out that white Yankee migrants like me, African American migrants from Chicago, and businessmen owners in Illinois and around the world, see something in the South that novelists, journalists, academics, and our current president cannot.
Lee Habeeb is the vice president of content at Salem Radio Network, which syndicates Bill Bennett, Mike Gallagher, Dennis Prager, Michael Medved, and Hugh Hewitt. He lives in Oxford with his wife Valerie, and daughter Reagan.
At the same time though, places like Atlanta have been hit the hardest by the recent “Great Recession.” Are the economic factors that have lead to this great southward migration still valid??
Hope you'all know how to vote, so we'uns don't git infested down here with liberals. A cautious, Welcome to the South.
NC has become little NJ, maybe that is why we have an idiot governor.
I’ll continue with part two of the story:
After living in the South for a while, I noticed that some people are poor and some people are rich. That’s just not fair so I got together with a bunch of my fellow transplants and voted for tax increases so the poor would be better off. Then I noticed that the library didn’t have my favorite book “Billy has Two Mommies” and us transplants banded together to force the library to purchase books that promoted a more “progressive” outlook on life. Then I saw some drug addicts and decided to vote for more tax increases so they would have clean needles. After a few years of me and my band of transplants “fine tuning” this town, I looked around and realized what a cesspool we had created. Bummer. Guess I’ll have to move.
Apparently the South has risen again.
I know I enjoy ‘visting’ relatives down there, the got alot more going on than up north here in Iowa.
Favorite Bumper Sticker: Welcome to the South, Now go home.
Worth studying how Seasonal Affective Disorder is less prevalent in the South.
Agreed. A VERY cautious welcome. Too often the first thing you hear from a transplant is how much they wish the city would do thus and so like they did “up there” and then vote to raise taxes for it.
Not saying this guy is saying that but still....and I was born and bred in NJ many a year ago...I finally got my native card just last week....
Great article. Thanks for posting.
I moved to SC about 5 years ago. Haven’t looked back since. Of course, I moved down here because my values matched. So it was easy to assimilate. I’m getting a bit annoyed at the number of transplants that seem to be showing up lately with no desire whatsoever to be part of the greatness that is the South.
only problem is that many yankees come down and then move down bringing their ignorant voting ways with them.
Was talking to one last year and asked why they moved down here.
Weather high cost, taxes, roads awful.
As we talked I asked how you would be voting now you got out of MA, she said Dem.
I told her the reason why your old state is a dump is because of how you voted in the idiots who kept raising the costs etc.
She could not get it into her head.
Earlier this year I saw her and all she did was complain about how we had a cold winter, how it is not diverse, how people here do not accept homosexual marriage or their agenda, how many in the public schools actually teach the constitution, do the pledge honor soldiers, marines at labor day etc, have Christmas concerts at the public schools, how many hunt, fish, no veggie places, no vegan places, hardly no bicycle lanes and MANY CONFEDERATE FLAGS.
I told her you are in another area, you either do your homework before you move or stay up there or move back and leave us all in peace.
We are here and not up there because we hate your ways, your driving, your rudeness, your agenda, your politics.
I saw her neighbor the other week and asked where she was as I had not seen her.
he laughed and said “she moved the dumb yank. boy was she nuts’
I laughed and then saw the new people in the house and talked to them
LOL They have a confederate flag in the yard, they go hunting, they are from TX, and they said the person who lived there before them lived like a pig.
Message for you liberals who troll on here
If those who wish to move down here then do understand many do now have the liberal social views as up there, and the south is the south, grits, battle flags, different accents, slower way of life, we don’t give the finger every 5 mins when driving, we let people in when we see your blinker unlike up in the north east where they see a blinker so they speed up to not let the person in.
AND DO NOT VOTE FOR THE DEMS LIKE YOU DID IN YOUR OLD STATE
OR YOU CAN TAKE I95 AND PISS OFF I’LL PAY YOUR GAS
There are yankees, and damnyankees.
Damnyankees are the ones who stay.
My roots are southern, but I am a native Californian.
I have been to the South a few times and loved it and the people.
California has been destroyed by liberals. There is no doubt about it. The Mexican takeover will be complete in less than 20 years and then the real ethnic cleansing will begin.
Many communities have already been ethnically cleansed of white and black people by Mexicans.
They and the liberals have already destroyed every institution that matters in California.
I would never send any child to a California public school, that would be a form of child abuse.
But the thought of running away also repulses me.
I will feel bad though for the South when the great white liberal migration happens after they have finished destroying California.
I’d even venture to say that getting invaded by white liberals is worse than being invaded by Mexicans.
my wife is the same,
I got her to move down here and she hates those from up north who insist the south should be like the north, that they want their shopping malls, bicycle lanes, housing communities, gated housing,
She loves it down here and never wants to see the north again, she’s been accepted by southerners because she fits in but if those who want it to look like the north then they need to move back up north
Excellent piece. Thanks for posting it.
That is currently on the agenda in my local from a bunch of transplanted damned yankees. Nearly everyone of them has the same story “Oh it just great living in a small town, but you all need to do this and not do that, the way we did it in xyz where we come from...”
So far they haven’t managed to infest the local government but it hasn’t kept them from trying.
I live in Georgia. On our small street(5 houses) we counted the number of firearms.... a grand total of 32. Not too shabby.
In rural areas and suburbs across the country, there are two types of transplants from cities. One type I welcome. The other I tell to get the eff out of here. Since I'm not a Southern Gentlemen, I'm not polite about it either.
Those I welcome are those who do not want to bring the big city and their big city values with them. Roscommon (my old home) is a small town. We like it that way. We shoot guns, and our democrats are more socially conservative than some republicans. Those I don't welcome are those who move here and want to bring the trash from the city with them. This is the country. Deal with it.
I transplanted to Northfield Township, just outside of Ann Arbor. It's a liberal county and a competitive local area slightly more republican than democrat. I knew what I was getting into here. I'm not going to demand this and that outside of sound practices on the township level.
If I ever became a damnyankee (one word, as my Southern girlfriend says), I wouldn't be pushing for an Ann Arbor style of leftism, or even Roscommon populism. I'd go to an area I'd like, and blend in as much as I can with my accent. The only things with me is that I won't change my religion, and won't waver on life issues. As far as taxes go, I know how it's done in liberal areas, and I do care how it was done up north. It's bad.
Full agreement with your post. Summers are hot and humid, Winters are mild. Welcome to the South, Adder.
Only took me 30 some years to get that card...I was “fast tracked”.
Guilty, but I was only ten. That was 1978. Smartest move my Dad ever made. I also married a southerner!
Change the specific locations and a few minor details and I could have written this article. I moved this summer, btw.
The guy nails even some of the nuances. I love telling my friends at my old home that live on postage stamp lots that pay $500+ a month in property taxes that mine are just a hair over $500 a YEAR. And I have 15 acres and a new home comperable to theirs. And southern hostpitality is almost like a pool in which one can swim. It is real. It is tangible. It is very good on the blood pressure.
Back when I still lived in Louisiana, I ran into an Ohio transplant who kept mouthing off about how ‘all you white Southeners are racists’, blah, blah. I said two words to her: “Marge Shott.” She sputtered for a while, cursed at me and then turned away.
Gee ... gonna have to talk to everyone down here. They cut the time limit when some of us natives weren’t looking. Only thirty years? .. Here’s some Dixieland ... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zzeLoa1gwCU ... may you love the South, as most here do.
“...a month in property taxes that mine are just a hair over $500 a YEAR”
SHHHH! Don’t talk like that!! All you ‘ll wind up with are a bunch of Yankee parasites headed toward your town to do for y’all what they’ve already done almost everywhere else...
—And he should be especially interested in understanding why African Americans are fleeing his home city of Chicago for the South, too.—
Funny he mentioned that. Whenever I come into contact with someone who lives down here clearly talks like they are from the north I ask them where they are from. So far, about 3/4 of them are from Chicago.
You’ll like this:
—Too often the first thing you hear from a transplant is how much they wish the city would do thus and so like they did up there and then vote to raise taxes for it.—
I’m a transplant (just this summer) from the Northwest. That is NOT what you will be hearing from me. I want roads and, if I’m close enough in, water and electric. Other than that I want them to leave me to do for myself. That is why I moved here.
Had to get my dog in (a little white maltipoo) last night because we just cut the “yard” (about 400 bales worth) and there were coyotes in the “yard” that he wanted to destroy.
But if they get the dog, I’m not gonna get the state involved when I’ve got my own perfectly functioning rifle.
He is sort of a “city slicker” metrosexual dog anyway.
—Of course, I moved down here because my values matched.—
Same here. I just had lunch for the first time with my boss. Turns out we are politically redundant. Not only regarding our beliefs, but our level of knowledge about specific issues. It was pretty amazing.
Some FRiendly advice. Keep the little critter indoors at night, unless city slicker metrosexual dog is packing heat. Recommend a 45.
—Earlier this year I saw her and all she did was complain about how we had a cold winter, how it is not diverse, how people here do not accept homosexual marriage or their agenda, how many in the public schools actually teach the constitution, do the pledge honor soldiers, marines at labor day etc, have Christmas concerts at the public schools, how many hunt, fish, no veggie places, no vegan places, hardly no bicycle lanes and MANY CONFEDERATE FLAGS.—
That pretty much sums up why I moved to the south from the Northwest this year as well as why I love it down here. Well, I’m a former bicycle commuter but I’m NOT gonna make ‘em put bike lanes in. The traffic is so light it isn’t an issue anyway. And I’m neutral on the confederate flag. It means different things to different people and I leave it at that.
I've moved to Memphis from Los Angeles by way of Texas. I was constantly being mistaken for a Northerner.
—grits, battle flags, different accents, slower way of life—
Dont forget Ski! And a SLAW BURGER! (though I prefer slaw dogs...
Nice tour, but this isn’t me: http://countrysidefoodrides.blogspot.com/2011/09/dumas-walker-greensburg-ky.html
Great post! My advice to transplants...bring a notepad. Write down all the things you like, and why you like them, and how they got that way in the first place. Then go back North and make those things happen there. We’ll all be better off. Think of it as a “study abroad” program. :-)
The South doesn’t change— it changes people.
Thanks for the vid!
I do love the South. I cannot stand to visit the North, tho I go there on business sometimes. Its an almost alien place.
But I do sometimes have to remind myself I am not truly from aroun heah[but its not so’s you’d notice....]
Your northern transplants sound a bit like the immigrants coming to America, live in enclaves of like immigrants who want everything they left in the old country, brought to their neck of the woods. Don’t speak, but a smattering of English, want an American education, but the Americans teaching their children must speak their motherland’s language, or at least understand it.
—Some FRiendly advice. Keep the little critter indoors at night, unless city slicker metrosexual dog is packing heat. Recommend a 45.—
We got him a .380 with a paw trigger but we won’t let him carry it in the house.
Seriously though, the night thing is very watched around here. He’s too big for them, but the Turkey Buzzards make my wife a bit nervous.
You are mistaking cliquish for clannish. Big difference. You can’t belong to the South unless you have roots here. We’re pretty set on that, but we’ll still be nice to you.
Also, you misunderstood. You were not mistaken for a Northerner. You were mistaken for a Yankee. Again, a big difference.
Them paw triggers are wonderful inventions. My dog is a crack shot, but I do wish he would quit bringing his kills home for me to clean.
Haha - maybe SC needs a border fence with a “legal” immigration process! Question #1 on the immigration questionnaire: Who did you vote for in 2008?
He is sort of a city slicker metrosexual dog anyway.
Now thats funny, I don’t care who ya are....
Welcome. Exactly...we all want roads and sewer and water if we can get it. We need decent schools but we don’t need schools that teach agendas. Here in NC we HAVE been infected with damnyankeeitis...its gotten in our schools and our governments.
But if enough folks like yourself emmigrate to counteract the Agenda 21/leftistfascist crowd, maybe we can preserve whats real and what this country is really about.
—My dog is a crack shot, but I do wish he would quit bringing his kills home for me to clean.—
I am so with you on that. We don’t always share the same “tastes”. And, truth be told, a couple of them possum he brought home had tire marks on ‘em...