[From "Southern History Series: The Rise of Modernism"]
If you want to understand how and why the South is the way it is today, you won’t find the answer in the distant past. The roots of the present crisis trace back to the Second World War and the Cold War, begin in the North and overwhelm the South during the Civil Rights Movement.
The South as it existed from Redemption through the Great Depression was a totally different world. It was becoming more homogeneous, not heterogeneous. It was poor, not wealthy and bourgeois. It had a colonial extractive economy based on agriculture and mining, not on services and commerce. It was overwhelmingly rural, not urban and suburban. It was highly personal and deeply rooted, not anonymous and alienated. It was segregated, not integrated. It was strongly Protestant, not agnostic, atheist or apathetic. It had a rural elite that celebrated traditional values based in the county seats, not a metropolitan middle class animated by economic growth. The Solid South was Democratic, not Republican. It was racially conscious, not racially masochistic. It built monuments to the Confederate dead as opposed to tearing them down. Its people got their news from other people at the country store or through the editor of their local segregationist newspaper, not through television.
The following excerpts come from Numan V. Bartley’s book The New South: 1945-1980:
The southern white-collar legions were a rising force in society and politics. Despite the frequent references to a “new middle class,” its membership, aside from being overwhelmingly white in racial composition, was a more diverse aggregation than some contemporary accounts implied …
They were better educated and more widely informed on public issues than southerners generally and, according to opinion polls, were more tolerant on racial matters. Their families were in the vanguard of the stampede to suburbia and of the introduction of far-reaching changes in southern lifestyles. They formed the base for the open-schools movement and for the moderate position in southern politics.”
Let’s stop here for a moment and think about the consequences of the technological revolution that swept the South between 1940 and 1970. The tractor and mechanical cotton picker destroyed sharecropping which unsettled millions of people in the lowland South. Similarly, the mechanization of coal mining led to an exodus out of Appalachia in the 1950s. The television transformed Southern politics by making local racial conflicts – things like the lynching of Emmett Till or the rebuff of John Lewis on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma – into narratives of international significance in the Cold War.
The invention and spread of the air conditioner homogenized the Southern climate and made it attractive to transplants. Florida went from being the smallest Southern state to one of the largest states in the country because of the air conditioner. The bulldozer began to level the areas around our major cities which is where suburbia was created and millions of people moved from rural areas into the suburbs of the new ballooning metropolitan areas where the Baby Boomers were raised on the television.
There was a shift in power from the rapidly depopulating Black Belt, which had been the historical stronghold of white supremacy and segregation, to the metropolitan areas and their suburbs. After the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Black Belt was placed under black majority rule. The White middle class of the suburbs and the metropolitan elites became the dominant class in the South after 1970.
“Some academics and progressives bemoaned the materialism and shallowness of urban middle-class lief. Robert J. Steamer wrote in 1963 that a typical member was a “rootless nomad whose primary, and sometimes, only loyalty is to business. His political ideas are substantially barren, because at bottom, materialism is his life philosophy, but translating his thought into political maxims we get free enterprise, fiscal sanity, balanced budgets,” and certainly it was true that the South’s uptown business leadership frequently equated sensible social policy with what best served the exigencies of the real estate market. …
A South Carolina observer remarked about moderates, “I don’t think they take the Negroes seriously as people … They look at it as something … that doesn’t really have much to do with them.” Middle-class metropolitan southerners threatened the paternal order because of their commitment to atomistic individualism, consumer materialism, upward mobility, and unfettered economic development.”
This would be me … not a deracinated ideologue or a fanatic, but someone who clings to the old ways, values, traditions and sense of identity of the Black Belt, someone who values my roots, ancestors and social stability as opposed to chasing after social status or worshiping the GDP. I despise mainstream conservatism because I am a Southern conservative populist. We’re not retreating from mainstream conservatism anymore though. We’re going on the offensive.
This is an interesting passage.
The most striking thing about the “white supremacy” and mass shootings narrative is that under actual white supremacy in the Jim Crow South we didn’t have mass shootings. We had plenty of guns, but none of this nihilistic anti-social rage and alienation which is at bottom an attempt to escape from the sick anti-culture that we live under in our own times. The people who engage in mass shootings want to draw attention to their profound psychological angst and pain.
The American dream of living in a nice little house in an artificial community with “good schools” adjacent to big box stores was a nursery of countless social and psychological problems. In hindsight, it was probably healthier to live in a shack with no electricity or an indoor toilet. In those days, you inherited your beliefs, values and politics from granddaddy who sat on the front porch and told you who you were and where you come from. Now, you absorb all the Jewish poison that is pulsating through the “mainstream” culture around you while in college or through being immersed in the mass media.
What’s the solution? Think of it as a great catastrophe that we have lived through. The old organic culture has to resprout from its roots in much the same way that a clearcut forest grows back.