I moved to South Carolina, about 3 years ago, to attend grad school at Clemson University. I was born and raised north of the Mason-Dixon, in Toledo, Ohio. I was, by all relevant standards, a Yankee in Dixieland.
And, as a Yankee with no personal experience living in the South, I grew up with the impression that all the South had to offer was a love of guns, the Confederate flag, and nostalgic longing for the days of slavery and plantation money (and, to be fair, awesome weather).
After living in the South, I realized that’s not totally true. The Southeast is awash in surprisingly hip culture, and it forced this Yankee to change his tune.
Asheville is home to some of the best food I’ve ever eaten, with natural ingredients grown locally. Greenville is home to some amazing local musicians and artists, and hosts frequent art shows and festivals (including a take on Burning Man). Atlanta is home to some unrivaled nightlife, and the largest public aquarium in the western hemisphere (which makes a great date, just FYI). And one trip to New Orleans will make you want to buy up a patch of swamp and start hunting nutra.
Which is why I don’t understand the Southern notion that removing statues of Robert E. Lee, or renaming roads named after slavers, is an assault on Southern heritage. What about the parts of Southern culture and history that are not intimately tied to racism?
It blows my mind, that a region of our country that can take credit for the birth of Martin Luther King Jr., Helen Keller, Jackie Robinson, and Harper Lee (to name a tiny fraction), is adamant about holding onto the memory of residents who played a role in creating one of the darkest periods of US history.
Honestly, it has made me change my tune, again.
Not only are the heritage-not-hate-ers reinforcing everything I thought as a young Yankee, they are doing a huge disservice to the South.