Which South Do I Supposedly Hate?

Every once in a while I like to share the love that comes my way.  It is striking just how many of these emails revolve around the same silly points.  Today a reader thought enough of me to send this along:

All you allow on your website is people to spew their hatred of the South just like you do. You are an egomanic. The South has been slandered by it’s victors, rednecks and people like you. I sent you the truths about the civil war and all you did was pulled it off to control people’s thinking and exposure to some real truths and not the negativity you publish. I feel very badly for the students who are forced to beleive the material you “teach”!! [unedited]

I just want to ask the following of these people:

Exactly which South do I supposedly hate?  Is the question to be understood strictly along historical lines?  Do I hate all time periods (all 400 years and beyond) of Southern history or just specific segments that make up the region’s rich past?  Should we narrow it down by region?  Perhaps there are regions of the South that I hate more or less than others.  Is there a specific demographic that I hate more than others?  Perhaps I hate wealthy white slaveowners, non-slaveowners or even poor whites.  Come to think about it, maybe I hate slaves and other groups of African Americans along with a countless number of other minorities.  Hmmm…  Perhaps there is a cultural element to my hatred of the South.  Do I hate the music, the food, the language?  I could go on and on with this line of questioning, but hopefully you get the point.

All I can say is that if you really believe that I “hate the South” than you hold to an overly simplistic and even a childish view of the region, including its diverse history, politics, and culture.  And for that you deserve to feel offended.

39 responses... add one

I have been a long-time reader but this is my first comment.

I’m a graduate student at Cal State Fullerton, and studied under Lincoln Scholar Dr. Ron Rietveld. Before studying with him, I was what one would consider to be a “ne0-confederate.” However, after learning the “truth,” as your “hating” e-mailer has called it, I became a Northern supporter.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that people forget that we are historians first, not politicians. We deal with what actually happen; we interpret history on what was said, written, and done; and we look for the truth to be presented–even if that means our value systems, our interpretations, and our friendships are shattered. “Facts are stubborn things, ” said John Adams. We are all about presenting the facts.

In a way presenting what we investigate, as opposed to presenting what we “want” to be the truth, goes against what I have come to call our “Responsibility as Historians.” Thus, for doing so I have lost several friends.

Keep at the truth; thank you for doing so; and I appreciate this blog.

I don’t know if you ‘hate’ the South, but your bigotry is quite obvious on occasion.

Perhaps you should attend one of those ‘sensitivity’ classes.

Ghost,

Perhaps you can tell us who I am bigoted against. That’s a strange word choice.

Alex,

Thanks for taking the time to comment and thank for the kind words re: the blog. I do want to state for the record that I do not consider myself a “Northern supporter”, whatever that might mean. As you can tell my research interests focus mainly on the Civil War and Southern History, which explains the emphasis of this blog.

Kevin, you already know this, but let me put it on record: There are folks out there who will conclude you “hate the South” (meaning you hate the Confederacy) if you try to explain the centrality of slavery to the coming of the war, if you insist on calling what happened at Fort Pillow a massacre, if you insist that Abe Lincoln really was a good man who tried to do his best in an impossible situation … It’s a disease of sorts, and I’ve had my run-ins with them over the years, too.

As we said in the 1970s, just keep on truckin’…

James,

I get a kick out of your little exchanges with R. Williams. Today’s exchange reaffirmed my belief that he views me as the poster boy for academia. I find that to be simply hilarious.

Back to your point. The problem is that Williams and others perceive that what I am saying is meant as some kind of slight or insult against the Confederacy. Nothing could be further from the truth. For example, he believes that the simple mentioning of Southern Unionists is mentioned as a moral statement or slight against “the South”/Confederacy – whatever that means. And what is his evidence? His evidence is that I and others don’t spend nearly as much time on political divisions in the North. This is silly. Much of what I read and write about is centered on the South. I don’t want to spend as much time on the North, but not because I believe that they are the good guys.

I don’t know how you do it.

Kevin,

You point out, again, one of the problems in CW memory. That there are those who want to believe that “the South” is and was the Confederacy. I try when talking or writing to refer to “Confederates,” “the Confederacy,” or “secessionists” rather than “the South” or “southerners,” but it is difficult at times because so much of CW history has been framed and written about in those terms.

Could it be that these people think you hate them because they hate you? I was reading McPherson’s “For Cause and Comrades” yesterday, and I was struck by a couple of letters soldiers wrote instructing their wives to teach their children to hate. From a Georgia lieutenant: “Teach my children to hate them [Yankees] with that bitter hatred, that will never permit them to meet under any circumstances without seeking to destroy each other.” McPherson shows that both sides wanted vengeance and could be equally embittered against the other, though he does not include a quote from a Northern soldier asking that his children be taught hatred. This, of course, does not mean that there weren’t any. How sad that we are, after almost 150 years, still dealing with this.

Also, I think it is interesting how defenders of the Confederacy want to deflect criticism of the CSA by pointing fingers at the U.S. and others. It reminds me of the Biblical story of Adam and Eve. When God approached Adam after he had eaten the apple, Adam’s defense for breaking God’s law was “the woman, WHO YOU GAVE ME, made me eat the apple.”

Aw, Kevin, are your friends at it again??

Just checked my email on covering your back. I didn’t get any fan mail, but I made a new friend who follows your blog, and he shared some of the hate mail he received after writing an article that some would call “South bashing”. The same arguments were made over and over and over again. I do wonder if these are the same people who simply travel from Internet site to Internet site. As James said, keep on trucking, or, as we used to say DOWN SOUTH WHERE I, A SOUTHERNER, LIVE, AND A SOUTHERNER WHO DOESN’T SEE KEVIN LEVIN AS A SOUTHERN BASHING SOUTH BASHER, keep on keeping on, brother!

Whew! Some people just need to get a life.

Bob,

I’m not going to speculate, but it is interesting that I am the one that is accused of hating and yet the content of many of these emails pointing just this out are anything but nice. Clearly, it’s a defensive/reactionary posture and so the tone is anything but surprising. Dare I say that many of the comments are written by people who apparently have little education.

Sherree,

Thanks, as always.

Kevin,

I agree with Sherree. I’m a Southerner and do not believe you or other “academics” are bashing the South. Perhaps it’s because I see these detractors as keeping a very negative memory of Southern history alive in the South, specifically, and the nation, generally, that I have decided to disagree with them. Besides, if these people throw you in that “South-bashing” heap, where does that leave me? I have elected to read primary sources and attempt to process them in light of actual events. I am nowhere near understanding them all given my relatively recent change in opinion. I am, however, not the ardent supporter of the Lost Cause as I once was. So, who’s the real “hater” here?

God bless their little pea brained hearts. They are exactly the spice you need to keep this blog interesting. Your best arguments come out, and they respond with something stupid. Then you counter with something eloquent. More stupid begets more eloquence. That’s why I visit here every day…your sincere, well thought out premises and your ability to parry those who disagree make the offerings here the best of the CW blogs.

You are blessed to have such good enemies.

You’re welcome, Kevin. I am not sure that I am helping you very much, but at least you know you have some real supporters out here in cyber land. Sorry for hitting the capital lock key in the above comment! I didn’t check the comment before I sent it. A sentence in all capitals makes it sound as though the commenter is yelling, which was not my intent, as I know you know. Also, thank you Greg. Anytime you agree with me, I know that I am in good company!

I think that part of the problem with comments and emails like the one you quoted has to do with the anonymity of the Internet. Any topic or post that is controversial seems to elicit a deluge of rants from men and women who hide behind their computer screens. As I mentioned above, I also believe that the same people log onto different web sites. The arguments posed are almost identical from web site to web site, as is the prose. Meaningful dialogue will continue in spite of the rants, and maybe some day we will actually have a conversation about race and about sectional differences that is constructive. This is exactly what our President is asking us to do–not to mention asking us to converse about other issues that divide us, like abortion. My personal problem with both the Lost Cause view of the Civil War and the Progressive view that developed to counter it, is that I truly cannot locate my actual history in either theory, and I really appreciate your willingness to at least hear me out, Kevin. Perhaps there will be a day in which we move beyond both the Lost Cause view of the war and the Progressive view, and enter a post Progressive era, just as we entered a post modern era of history or a post feminist era, and if we do, this will be a positive development, in my opinion, although I doubt that anyone on either side of this debate will agree with me!

Have a great day, Kevin, I hope that the negative mail stops. You certainly don’t deserve that. Thanks, as always, for the hard work you do, and for the dedication that you display in maintaining this blog. Sherree

Kevin (aka Jersey Yankee Scalawag), :-)

What I find most interesting is that on one hand, some of these people that we encounter emulate the character of people like Robert E. Lee, and the concept of being a gentleman or a lady, and yet it’s clear all do not follow the examples they emulate. Not to preach to the choir, but snipes, insults, and the like do nothing to advance their views on the issues. Seems some folks need to spend a little more time both honing their skills in rhetorical discourse and historiography if they want to be effective in making a point. Of course, a little more time spent on the historiography can eliminate some of the “points” altogether.

Robert

Kevin,

Here is how some of your readers describe those who desagree with them:
Diseased
Silly
Need to get a life
Have little education
Pea brained
Stupid

Makes me wonder who hates who.

Dan

Dan,

Thanks for the comment. While I agree that these might be examples of poor word choice I don’t think they really compare with what I am describing as hate-filled language.

Kevin,
As the email writer alluded to, you clearly have some grudge against the South and despite your current residence, have not become assimilated. You have become what we from the land of cottonwood and cicadas call a “Damn Yankee!” A “Damn Yankee” is of course different from a regular Yankee in not knowing when to leave and go home, yet not adopting the Southernisms to blend in with the culture.

Since clearly your profession precludes your migration back your homeland, might I offer some suggested therapeutic options for your situation, which may assuage your “Yankeism” into at least a moderate “Southernism”:

1. 200 hours of the Andy Griffin Show, Beverly Hillbillies, and Green Acres.
2. One week, cornbread only diet. Must be the thin, crusty, Southern style. Not that overly sweet “northern” muck.
3. Memorize every line from “Gone With the Wind.”
4. Attend one BBQ contest, preferably as a judge. Must remain at the table until your entire tongue is numb from the sauce.
5. Nine gallons of Muscadine Wine. Nuff said. (probably will need it aver the BBQ sauce.)
6. Start pronouncing it “Peh-Khan” pie.
7. Go into a convenience store and ask for a “coke” but point to a Pepsi product.
8. Make at least two meals strictly from Paula Dean’s cookbooks. “Now ain’t that gooood, Ya’ll!”
9. Watch every lap in at least four NASCAR races. Be able to explain what “he done got blowed up!” really means.
10. Attend at least one snipe hunt and return with at least a passable “tall tale” to share.

I think if you accomplish at least this short list of activities, then you’ll be properly adjusted. Your hate for the South would then be lessened to the degree that you might actually consider allowing some of the “truths” which the email writer has proposed.

Craig.

Every right-thinking, carpet-bagging, centralizing, and tariff-lovin’ northern Yankee scoundrel should loathe South Dakota, simply on principle…and, for that matter, Baja California del Sur (del Norte is okay, but del Sur just drives people loco!)

And don’t even get started on Rio Grande del Sul…they make the Paulistas look rational.

And South Australia? Come on, Adelaide as the state capital? Enough said…

Seriously, it is like arguing matters of faith with a believer – you will never convince them of anything based on factual evidence; after all, they answer to a higher power…(in this case, apparently it is Mort Kunstler)…

Sic Semper Ridiculous

Kevin

I would submit the following as allowable substitutes for Craig’s list.

1. Listen to John Boy and Billy every morning for 6 months.

2. Refer to some one as Y’all and a room full of people as All Y’all.

3. Be able to discuss at length the subtle differences between RealTree camouflage clothing and Mossy Oak.

4. Drive a pick up truck with at least 3 of the following in the rear window/tailgate
a. Confederate Flag
b. Bass Pro shop bumper sticker
c. A sticker from and ACC school which you never attended (NOTE: MUST NOT BE BOSTON COLLEGE OR MIAMI!!!) An SEC school is an acceptable alternative (except Vanderbilt)
d. Terrorist Hunting Permit
e. Memebership in a hunt club
f. AIN’T SKEERED sticker

5. Wear a fishing hook on the bill of your hat.

6. Go on a summer family vacation for 3 years running to Myrtle Beach or Panama City.

7. Run out to Miss Scarlett’s Convenience Store and buy milk, bread, cigarettes and lottery tickets any time the forecast is for ANY amount of snow.

8. Corrollary to #9 on Craig’s lsiting….refer to it as the “motor” and not the “engine” and define “3 wide into the turn!”

9. Have a dog, or be friends with someone who has a dog, named Lee, Stonewall, JEB or Forrest.

10. 2 words: Boiled Okra

I guess NOT loving the Confederate States of America (as opposed to “The South”) with every beat of your heart, NOT revering Lee as a god-like knight of yore, and NOT desperately clutching to the idea that the war wasn’t about slavery = hate in the minds of some people. If you don’t play by their rules and believe exactly as they do, well…

Shoot Kevin if you do all that was listed by John B and Craig you been pert near Adoptable. As a dyed in the Wool Southern I know I have my biases but at times I feel like many here don’t recognize their own when they post on here. My college History Professors were from Ole Miss and other fine Southern Schools of learning not those places North of the Mason Dixon Line. I have read many of the same books and facts from the Historical records of the War but interpert them differently based upon my Education and background.

PS I am sorry for those who are harsh and uncouth in their criticism.

Actually, Kevin hates the North. North Jersey, to be specific. Land of the New York Giants.

Brooks,

Actually it’s the northern part of New Jersey that I favor. It’s much more industrious and they embrace the widest spectrum of -isms given its proximity to NYC. It’s the southern part of the state that I despise.

This is one of those threads that took off on its own, Kevin. It is a little difficult to tell who is who in some of the comments. Interesting as social commentary for me–ie, as in how many white Southerners seem to have incorporated the stereotypes of their culture that the people who email you with hate mail represent, and feel the need to recite what is almost an airtight litany in denial that that is who they are, as in Quentin Compson’s famous line in Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom! “I don’t hate it! (the South)! I don’t hate it! I don’t hate it!”

I know. This was done in fun, and is satire, and the comments are funny. I have a sense of humor, too. Also, I see I had the honor of being quoted in the list of your evil readers. Just making an observation. (BTW, what is Muscadine wine?)

Sherree,

A muscadine is a fruit, sort of like a crabapple, but sweeter, that grows wild in some parts of the southern United States, especially in areas with sandy soil. While some people make jelly, jams and preserves out of them, some harvest them and make wine from them.

No, no, no. A muscadine is a kind of a grape, that ripens about cotton picking time. In my neck of the woods it is pronounced “mus-kee-dines.” The best part is the pulp right under the skin. Human “beans” and possums fight for this fruit of the gods.

Vicki
East Texas

Vicki,

I thought there is a “wild” grape vine and muscadines are something totally different. I could be mistaken.

Kevin,

This post has taken a whole new life. I’m not sure this is the direction you were hoping for, but it has been enlightening, even for this Southerner!

There are a number of native grapes in the South. Mustang grapes were also harvested to make wine, at least here in Texas. Muscadines don’t make the clusters like you think of for Concord or other wine and table grapes. Usually there are only a few grapes to a cluster, but each grape is larger. My parents have two rows of arbors for improved varieties, and I can happily graze down each one ending up with a bellyache the next day due to eating skins and all.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muscadine

I’m SURE this isn’t the thread Kevin had in mind. ;-)

Vicki
From the sandy lands of East Texas

It’s perfectly fine. What’s important is that the two of you get straight on this issue. :)

“It’s the southern part of the state that I despise.”

Now THOSE are fightin’ words! : )

Regards,
Cash
Originally from South Jersey

Vicki,

I’m from East Texas also and have had this conversation on several ocassions, but have not got a straight answer, until now. Thanks for the link.

Kevin,

After all the seriousness of recent weeks, it was time for a little levity! ;)

Oh…….lolololololol

Now I have to have some Muscadine wine……that is what I get for being a damn yankee! Don’t know my southern wine…..

oh my…..this blog just gets more interesting every day…..until next time….Sherree

PS. I always thought I was a southerner, being from Virginia and all, until I moved to Florida and was informed by local men and women that I am a Yankee. It took a little getting used to, but I actually like being both a Southerner and a Northerner. It is just so enlightening. You guys really ought to try it, y’all. Kevin, you know what I am talking about!

(I haven’t had this much fun in years. Kevin, Greg, Vicki–all–have a great week-end. Sherree)

Sherree I have discovered many in the South call anybody who lives North of them a Yankee. So take it with a grain of Salt.

East Texas is a great place. I spent the first twenty-five years of my life there. Humid as all get out though. My county, Harrison, was created by deep Southerners migrating there following the Mexican War to buy cheap land and grow cotton. Slavery literally built this county overnight . By 1860 there were more slaves in Harrison county than any other in Texas.

Dan

“Sherree I have discovered many in the South call anybody who lives North of them a Yankee. So take it with a grain of Salt.”

Hi Mike,

I actually enjoy being called a “Yankee”. It is interesting to me, and shows how our perceptions of sectional division in our culture are perceptions that we have imposed upon ourselves. I am very “Southern”, in many ways–as far as being born in the South, living most of my life in the South, my accent, my culture, and my history go–the influences upon my life and way of seeing the world coming from both black and white Southern communities–so to add that I am a “Yankee”, makes me just that much more American, in my opinion. In other words, I love it! Then we have Kevin, who is a Southerner, born in the North. And other readers who are Northerners married to Southerners. And some who are Westerners who consider themselves Northerners, etc. My point is that the divisions we have created are meaningless, when you start to break them down. And since we created those divisions, we can also dissolve them, if we so choose. Sherree

Mike,

To further clarify: I am not called a “Yankee” in a negative way, but in a friendly way. Also, white Southerners, black Southerners, Seminole, and Cherokee alike, all consider me to be a “Yankee”. It has truly been a new experience for me, and, as I said above–it is a positive experience. I am not sure that that is true for Kevin, however, judging from some of the comments he receives. Kevin should be extended the same Southern hospitality that I have experienced. You are always respectful. Not everyone is, though. All contributors to this blog should be respectful. I think you would agree with that, based on your comments. Sherree

Glad your not. Where I was raise to be called a Yankee was as bad as being called a Thief, Lair, or a Carpetbagger. As for myself we are all Americans who live in a subregion of the United States. Your label is based on which subregion you were born in until you leave it and denounce it’s way of life or move there and embrace it’s way of life. I have meet folks from the North who are more Southern than I. Still we are all Americans at the end of the day regardless of our views on this Historical event 150 years ago that caused untold loss of life, heartach and pain for this country.

Mike,

You must have had some really irritable neighbors. It looks like that that didn’t affect your thinking, though. I agree with your last statement: “Still we are all Americans at the end of the day regardless of our views on this Historical event 150 years ago that caused untold loss of life, heartach and pain for this country.” That pretty much says it all.

Kevin,
.
You are a very talented and articulate teacher of history. I was so fortunate to have a few very great history teachers in high school, and it was in history that my love found me pouring through book after book to be able to answer questions that my mind was always formulating. I am sure you have the same effect on your students, and I have great admiration for you.
.
I am the member in your list of thumbnail photos that’s in a military uniform in Vietnam. I have been to the Wall many times to honor and pay respect to my friends who never made it home, and I have seen the explosions of planes, fuel dumps, boats, and a bomb dump that wiped out the west side of Da Nang – spraying shrapnel on us for an 18 hour period, while the West side of Da Nang had been evacuated. At the time I was in Viet Nam, I was involved in one of the most top-secret projects of the era. It’s only been recent that I have been able to talk about what I did, and I am very proud of the project that I was in saved many lives and property. I want you to know that the men that I served with were not Yankees or Rebels – They were American Servicemen, who would give their lives for their brother beside them.
.
I am a Southerner by Birth, and Yes – I have a Southern Name: “Bobby James”. However, my Mother’s Family were Federal Supporters, and my Father’s Family on the other side of the Pamlico River in Washington, N.C. were Rebels or Confederates. I love both of my Ancestors Families, but it was my Father who would take me to the Cemetery where my Great Grandfather was buried. He also showed me the Farm that He and Momma Lived in, when they first got married. It was part of the Grimesland Plantation, or the property of North Carolina Major General Bryan Grimes. My ancestor’s grave is just a few feet away from the Monument dedicated to the General, and they are surrounded by other Confederates – All members of the same community and Church. Today, the Community is populated by mostly transplants from New Jersey, New York, and other Northern States in a thriving Golf Club Community on one of the most scenic rivers in North Carolina.
.
I am an American First, Born in the Blood of My Brothers that I fought with, Wearing the Same Uniform and Sharing the Same Bond of Brotherhood that very few ever understand, Next, I am the Son of Families that Fought for Both Causes. And, Last – I am dedicated to the Memory of my Ancestor, who rode with the 3rd North Carolina Cavalry. You recently had a Post on Five Forks, and I hope that you made it down to the end of the line with Tracy Chernault – Where Barringer’s Tar Heel Brigade fought Hand-To-Hand with Custer’s Cavalry. A Vicious fight that General Sheridan wrote the Tar Heels Fought like Tigers, gaining time for most of the Confederate Infantry to be able to withdraw from the field of battle.
.
I am dedicated to the retrieval of as much historical information about the 3rd North Cavalry as possible. To that end, I have assembled a library similar to the size of yours, and I have been an avid reader for more than 20 years. More importantly, I have also started a Regimental Heritage Site for the 41st NCST or 3rd North Carolina Cavalry, as it was commonly styled. Currently, I have about 80 descendents, and some have made contributions of letters and photos from their Ancestors. My Project is just beginning, and I envision a project like this covering Regiments and Brigades – Both North and South. For anyone who would like the details of how easy it is to launch a Regimental Heritage site, let me know by e-mail, and I will do everything that I can to assist you. I will even share some of my top-quality photos as gratis, no charge.
.
Concerning the Southern Centric Topic – I am an American War Veteran
.
Bobby J. Edwards
Military Intelligence Da Nang – 1968 to 1969
6924th Security Squadron
Morse Intercept Operator – Hanoi / Haiphong Air Defense

Mr. Edwards,

First, thank you for your service and for taking the time to share your thoughts. It’s comments such as yours that serve to remind us of just how rich Southern heritage is. I wish you all be best with your research project on the 41st NCST. And yes, we did make it down to the end of the Confederate line where Chernault’s unit was located. Thanks again.

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