Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

Real news for working families.  An online newspaper


I Love My Southern Roots
But --- The South Needs to Rise Again

If you've ever had a one-sentence conversation with me, you know that I am southern. My words make that clear, not always because of what I say, but always because of the way I say them. My vowels are long. I can stretch any one-syllable word into at least two.

I love my southern roots. I love my southern grandmothers’ quilts and their love of the Lord.  I love my grandparents’ small Texas town where I sat on the front-porch swing and read for hours drinking sweet, sweet tea while my grandmother whistled as she did housework.  I love okra, biscuits and gravy, collard greens and chicken-fried steak. I love southern hospitality and civility.

We know that the niceties of life are vital.  These things are all part and parcel of my southern heritage.

I also know a thing or two about the South’s relationship with racism. I am ashamed that our confederate past is still a part of the South’s present. It is time that we stop perpetuating the southern myth. One cannot allege pride in the South while ignoring the stain of our slave and Jim Crow past.

I recently heard a man on the radio proclaim, in support of a Robert E. Lee statue, “I’m not a racist."

He continued, "I know black people. But, hell, I’m proud as hell of my southern heritage.”

If someone strongly argues that they aren’t a racist and follows that with a “but”, then odds are that they are, in fact, racist.

Robert E. Lee owned slaves and was known as an owner who found no fault in breaking up his slaves’ families, one of the most devastating aspects of slavery.  One of his slaves referred to him as "the worst man I ever see."

He stated in a famous letter to his wife, whose family also owned many slaves, "The painful discipline they [slaves] are undergoing is necessary for their instruction as a race....”

Any person or society that holds one race superior to another cannot be defined as anything other than racist. Supporting Robert E. Lee and the confederacy is a racist position and allegations to the contrary are false, no matter how many black people one might know.  

The end of our nation’s Civil War didn’t result in any epiphanies for the South; they simply enacted “Black Codes”, laws that were passed to continue the oppression of former slaves. These laws were then followed by the Jim Crow "separate but equal" decades that remained in place well into the 20th century.  Our southern “heritage” consists of one long, continuous battle to keep blacks from enjoying the civil rights that whites have considered ours from the very beginning.

Slavery and Jim Crow are not times to which pride should be attached. It is past the time that this legacy be relegated to the pages of history. If it means that we get rid of every single confederate statue and flag, then so be it.

The Berlin Wall came down. Saddam Hussein’s statue was toppled. Germany has strict laws banning Nazi symbols and what’s called Volksverhetzung - incitement of the people, or hate speech. Germany realized that those things were best left to be studied as lessons in the dangers of right-wing radicalism.

Even Penn State realized that a statue of Joe Paterno needed to go.

We need to do the same with our symbols and purify ourselves.

The South needs to rise again…as a better version of itself.

Vickie Weiss is an educator and attorney.

Graphics, layout, links added by the Observer

Comments  (to add a comment go here)

On March 28, 2018, Dale Braiman of St. Petersburg wrote:

Ms Weiss clearly states the latent racism that still exists in not only the South but throughout the United States. While proud of her heritage, she is brave to express what most thinking people know in a clear and easy to understand essay. While the issue is complicated, her simple explanation makes clear that the opportunity exists to examine our closely held beliefs and elevate our humanity. Every Sunday School class in the South should read, discuss and embrace her essay. Thank you for publishing it.

Dale Braiman, St Petersburg
Former Columbia County Resident


Meeting Calendar
No need to be confused - Find links to agendas and where your participation is welcome.

Make a comment • click here •
All comments are displayed at the end of the article and are moderated.