Your Southern Heritage… December 16, 2013 26 comments is a lot of things. It’s homegrown. It’s also your family, your friends, your spouse. Most importantly, your Southern heritage is steady. 26 comments… add one JMRudy December 16, 2013, 1:56 pm “Your southern heritage is family. Your investments are your future. So invest in your family; rape your slaves, make more family members, sell those children off for a profit, and reap the benefits of your southern heritage.” How is this thing so tone deaf to the fact he’s standing on a plantation’s porch? *facepalm* Reply Chris December 16, 2013, 1:57 pm I fully expected this to be an out-take from a fake commercial in “CSA: Confederate States of America.” All it was missing at the end was a punch line about investing in human capital. Reply Kevin Levin December 16, 2013, 2:08 pm Funny, I thought the exact same thing. Reply Evan Kutzler December 16, 2013, 2:53 pm Four words: “You didn’t build that.” Reply Corey Meyer December 16, 2013, 4:46 pm Is this guy for real? And if so do you think the plantation big house was a purposeful decision or just a symbolic representation of the south. Or was is a sign to who is “allowed” to invest and who is not allowed? Reply Corey Meyer December 17, 2013, 7:33 am Please don’t view my comments here as anything but tongue and cheek. It seems that the gentleman in the commercials is genuine and is simply promoting a very stereotypical side of where he lives and works. Reply Robert Moore December 17, 2013, 3:35 am Might I recommend that you all step back, and reconsider what’s in this commercial. Just because the venue and phrase “Southern Heritage” are present, don’t automatically assume that it is reflective of a “slave-based Southern Heritage.” “You didn’t build that”? Well, that’s a no-brainer. In fact, in all likelihood, most of those who inhabit such homes probably aren’t descended from those who lived there before the Civil War (and, I’ll add… that applies to those who were “secesh” AND Unionists as well). Whether you agree or not, I really don’t care… but, my personal experience (and I’m from Virginia, and have lived in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and North Carolina) is, that many of the people (at least in my encounters and experience) who live at these places (if they aren’t people from outside the South altogether… and simply bought the places because they found them “charming”… yes, even despite the slave quarters that might still be on site… and wanted to retire in the South… and yes, a fair number are from the North) are people who have brought themselves up from some rather meager roots. Come on, folks… if you know the history of the South as much as you profess, you also know that the end of the war and emancipation often broke the finances of those who “lived in the big houses”… and many were forced to vacate (unless you happen to be Scarlett O’Hara, apparently). I’ve known descendants of sharecroppers who, over how ever many generations, brought themselves out of their “situations” and reached a point where they could buy such places… and they did. Therefore, part of the failure here is in the comments, and I wonder if it’s not also a reflection of those who haven’t been raised in the South (and, therefore aren’t aware, not having known people who have lived at these places). Even with the plantation house and the phrase “Southern Heritage”, this commercial can be indicative of those who have made something of themselves in agricultural pursuits (or otherwise) well after the war and slavery.. .and not because of slavery. Imagery (as in the case of this commerical) can reflect the imaginations of others… and encourage some to “create” context… and then there is… reality. Reply Kevin Levin December 17, 2013, 3:50 am Hi Robert, Thanks for chiming in on this one. I completely agree with you. It is very interesting to watch how this commercial highlights certain perceptions and assumptions in the viewer. That said, what memories of the South do you believe this individual is encouraging in his audience by situating himself in front of a plantation home and calling his company, Southern Heritage? Reply Robert Moore December 17, 2013, 4:00 am “what memories of the South do you believe this individual is encouraging in his audience by situating himself in front of a plantation home and calling his company, Southern Heritage?” Unless we ask him, it’s hard to say. My take on it is this… I see Southerners… white and black… who have made something of themselves through agricultural pursuits, and I suspect that’s just the feel I get based on what I’ve encountered, in the South, over the years. I think another thing that surprises me with the reaction to this commercial is the way folks, through their comments, make the South and Southern Heritage monolithic. It’s contrary to the same efforts, often made by some of the same folks, to show how the Civil War era South was not monolithic. Reply Kevin Levin December 17, 2013, 4:09 am Unless we ask him, it’s hard to say. Sure, but what do you think? My take on it is this… I see Southerners… white and black… who have made something of themselves through agricultural pursuits, and I suspect that’s just the feel I get based on what I’ve encountered, in the South, over the years. No disagreement here, but couldn’t he have chosen a less extravagant dwelling. Why do you think he went for a plantation home that has so much memory attached to it? I think another thing that surprises me with the reaction to this commercial is the way folks, through their comments, make the South and Southern Heritage monolithic. It’s contrary to the same efforts, often made by some of the same folks, to show how the Civil War era South was not monolithic. Again, no real disagreement here, but couldn’t you view this commercial as pushing the standard/monolithic view of the South and Southern heritage? Thanks again for the comments, Robert. Reply JMRudy December 17, 2013, 4:46 am I understand your reaction to our reactions, Robert, and the ire towards it is well deserved. For my part, that “H-word” draws more ire than the capitalized “Southern.” I think the concept of Heritage, the concept of a cultural inheritance from blood-linked forefathers, in a modern context is exceedingly false and largely political sophistry. Frankly, when you describe Unionism in the Valley in your work, I’ve never viewed that as a part of “Southern Heritage,” with two capitals. First, it’s not Southern by it’s very definition, because with that capital “S” we’d be referring to the organized government which called itself that. If anything, I’ve always viewed the Unionists in the Valley as simply Patriots and Americans. That said, that Heritage word still gets my goat, chiefly because, like the flag with which it is so often paired with on t-shirts in my town, it has been used in a concerted manner as a tool of oppression by nativists and supremacists. When its used, it smacks me of counting percentages in bloodwork and looking to your lineage for your very definition. As someone who firmly believes that the war helped settle the “every man defines his own destiny, not the blood of his fathers” argument, it gets the knee jerk. Again, I’m not saying I’m right in this, just trying to give you a peek into *why* my mind goes there right off the bat. Reply Robert Moore December 17, 2013, 7:04 am John, I think I was most thrown by your comment “… so invest in your family; rape your slaves, make more family members, sell those children off for a profit, and reap the benefits of your southern heritage.” I’m finding that problematic. Mostly I think it was fueled more with your emotions than historic balance… and sounds too much like a broad-sweeping generalization. I think you know, just as much as I, that… yes, it happened… but, this wasn’t always the case… and that the story of the relationship between those in bondage and slaveholders was much more complex. These dynamics, in fact, challenge us because we find slavery morally unacceptable (I argue that it is strongly because of the era in which we live) and can’t imagine such a thing. Tough stuff, indeed, to wrap our heads around. As for “Southern Heritage”. When I started blogging, the biggest thing that I found annoying was to hear people suggest that… “my people were Southern, and therefore Confederate”. It doesn’t reflect the complexity of the Southern people at that time… Confederate, Unionist, and leave-aloners… and I think that the “bundling” term of “Southern Heritage” serves a purpose, in that regard. I don’t mean to deviate too much from Kevin’s post, but… regarding your mention of Southern Unionist… you see them “as Patriots and Americans”, but because many still were among those who were slaveholders, do your views change, any? For that matter, because of the mindset that existed in most Southern Unionists (mostly Bell supporters, and thereby mostly the “status quo” crowd), what then? I think your “rape” statement may be the root of my cause for asking. Thanks. Reply JMRudy December 17, 2013, 8:21 am Robert, For those who were slaveholders and Americans, I personally find them to be morally reprehensible Americans. So, in essence, their loyalty and their slaveholding/racism to me are mutually exclusive, much as I view them when investigating northern populations. Just as there were war Democrats and peace Democrats, there were loyal and disloyal slaveholders. That doesn’t change the fact that their *choice* to own slaves (and it was always a choice) itself subverted the concept of America in another, passive (in “Federal” comparison) fashion, but their loyalty *does* represent the fact they weren’t actively working for the violent subversion and overthrow of the national government. I’m not quite sure that’s solely a modern viewpoint, either, nor just a product of the era in which we live. The strong feelings of slavery’s moral evil we feel today have roots long before the Civil War era, and are expressed in that era very strongly and deeply, and in many varying stripes and degrees across wide populations. It *was* a flip comment, and an emotional one, but it gets at the root of the problem with slavery, both as viewed by a chunk of folks within the era and from today: race is mutable, imaginary and imposed by power-brokers, and people are often cruel. As an institution that undervalues human life, it is the definition of evil. And that institution is inexorably tied up in “Southern Heritage” as it is so often expressed, as the century after the war showed quite clearly. Slavery (and its resultant racial animosity) is as much a portion of expressed Southern Heritage as any other factor, it’s a hallmark in my mind. As America entered that era of slavery-by-another-name, it was that concept of an imagined unified shared heritage (particularly in the 1860s and 70s as white southerners groped for some stability) that was poison to republican democracy. That concept of shared heritage wasn’t only a southern sin (read the northern nativist movements of the Know-Nothing Party or King’s observations of rampant racism in Chicago), but it’s one of those places where it flew in very stark relief for decades. That’s my beef, and what leads to that flip joke about selling your own children (which did happen in places, if not universally). Heritage, sharing its Latinate root with “inheritance,” is the ironic choice of term in my mind. Whose inheritance is that heritage? Because it has a fundamental implication if you look at the term’s usage in the past. So often, from Lee at White Sulphur Springs to George Wallace in his inauguration speech, that has been a lily-white heritage. All of this also colors my sense of wonder when people complain about “impugning” their grandfather’s “honor” when you mention that rebels were de jure fighting to maintain the system of slavery in America. To me, impugning any of my ancestors’ honor, though not pleasant, is not hurtful to *my* honor. My G-G-Grand Uncle contemplated deserting openly in letters home (which were later submitted as pension evidence, which makes me smile). Does his cowardice impugn my bravery? Nope. But it is fundamentally fascinating to me, much as I’d suspect finding a slaveholder in my family tree would be fascinating. Or, in more concrete terms, much as finding out my G-Grandfather was a member of the Klan in Syracuse, NY in the 1920s is fascinating to me. I might just be wired weirdly to find fascination and not personal shame in these, though. Hell, Robert (and Kevin), you both know quite well I *am* wired weirdly already. 😉 Reply Robert Moore December 17, 2013, 9:40 am John, There’s a lot to discuss in your response, and as I don’t wish to continue moving too far from Kevin’s post, I’ll keep my response brief. I think we should continue this in a post that I plan (I hope) to have up sometime within the week. Two things I’d like to approach… “For those who were slaveholders and Americans, I personally find them to be morally reprehensible”. “That doesn’t change the fact that their *choice* to own slaves (and it was always a choice)” I get where this comes from, yet I don’t find it “reprehensible”. I just have a difficult time standing in judgement as it’s very complicated. We can see where, over the course of years, Americans discussed how to move away from slavery… and we can see where there were others who seemed to dig-in even more over the matter. I think it’s those that dug-in who might actually the view of being “reprehensible” than the others. I, for example, was shocked at how a Maryland ancestor who sold some of his slaves further to the South (Mississippi, to be exact), yet wonder if his views had evolved over time, to realize what he had done was wrong. Though he did not emancipate at the time of his death, he did forbid the selling of remaining slaves out of the county. I’ll never know what he was thinking. By the next generation, slaveholding in that branch of my family was non-existant. Incidentally, that side chose to wear blue. This is something that should involve a good, thorough, philosphical discussion… laying aside emotions. I look forward to the chance to discuss this with you further. Reply Kevin Levin December 17, 2013, 11:23 am I think I was most thrown by your comment “… so invest in your family; rape your slaves, make more family members, sell those children off for a profit, and reap the benefits of your southern heritage.” I’m finding that problematic. Mostly I think it was fueled more with your emotions than historic balance… and sounds too much like a broad-sweeping generalization. I didn’t read John’s comment this way. Rather, I read it as commentary of what was just as simplistic a message of Southern history and heritage. This guy chose to utilize what has become a stereotypical view of the Southern past that resonates with many people in Tennessee, the rest of the South, and throughout much of the country. Reply Robert Moore December 17, 2013, 4:23 am “No disagreement here, but couldn’t he have chosen a less extravagant dwelling. Why do you think he went for a plantation home that has so much memory attached to it?” I wouldn’t have selected such a site. I think imagery of agricultural fields and family would have been better. On the other hand, I have little doubt that even images of fields would have brought on comments similar to those seen above. “Again, no real disagreement here, but couldn’t you view this commercial as pushing the standard/monolithic view of the South and Southern heritage?” Sure… and sipping lemonade on the front porch might have been even more so. It’s no different than a cookie commercial with a smiling mom and her kids. The objective is effective marketing (make your audience feel comfortable with the product) and whoever their marketing folks happen to be… and whether they be right or wrong… they have a target audience to which this commercial is directed. The commercial wasn’t made with the “Civil War memory crowd” in mind, because that’s not where their bread is buttered. Perhaps they know their audience best. Only the return numbers, after the commercial, will tell. Reply Kevin Levin December 17, 2013, 4:29 am On the other hand, I have little doubt that even images of fields would have brought on comments similar to those seen above. You are probably right. No doubt. This was not made for the Civil War memory crowd, but it’s perfect material for a Civil War Memory blog. 🙂 And you have to admit that this guy has an amazing television/radio voice. Reply Robert Moore December 17, 2013, 4:33 am Their target audience, by the way, is central Tennessee. Reply Kevin Levin December 17, 2013, 4:48 am Even more interesting. Reply D. Hill December 18, 2013, 6:09 am Paraphrasing here, but some writer (perhaps S. Foote?) said that presentism in the discussion of history is one of the greatest crimes to be committed against it. There’s enough of it in this thread to make one gag. I do suppose Shelby’s opinions are to be disqualified by his having been a backwards, ignorant, racist Mississippian. Probably a hater, too. Reply Kevin Levin December 18, 2013, 6:38 am Thanks for the comment. No one here called Foote a “backwards, ignorant, racist Mississippian.” Sounds like someone is a little insecure. Reply D. Hill December 18, 2013, 7:12 am Yeah, debilitated with insecurity. I did notice that no one here called him that; although the collective American psyche probably considers him such. A harmless, pitiable old man out of touch with the times; lived well past his usefulness, Oprah might say. None of that mindset dwells here, I’m certain. Reply Kevin Levin December 18, 2013, 7:14 am You are welcome to share your thoughts on this site, but I fail to see what any of this adds to the discussion. Reply Brad December 18, 2013, 6:13 am I think the whole attempt to make fun of this seems rather condescending. This financial advisor is targeting a certain audience and I think the ads are particularly effective and I don’t find them offensive. That’s what financial advisors do, try to get you to invest your funds with them. I’m sure if if they don’t have a good rate of return, people will go elsewhere. Reply Kevin Levin December 18, 2013, 6:37 am I don’t find them offensive either. I think it’s interesting how the company is attempting to wrap up the sale of insurance in an overly-simplistic narrative of Southern heritage. That narrative tells us quite a bit about their target audience. Reply Brad December 18, 2013, 7:53 am I agree with you there. It’s an interesting marketing campaign. Hopefully, anybody who checks them with out would be more interested in the return on their investments rather than the advertising, but I suppose it’s a way to get your foot in the door. Reply Leave a Comment Cancel Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email.