Is "Southern Culture" inherently racist?

Is “Southern Culture” inherently racist?

I live there.
Yes it is.
Except for the food.

Hi @Martin_Hyde: Thanks for the Atlantic articles (paywalled btw - I have no more free articles now).

Criticisms put focus on the one disputed claim that the Revolutionary War was primarily driven by a desire to preserve slavery, and say that it’s too ideologically driven. I don’t think history can avoid ideology, though. It needs to have some meaningful impact. Otherwise why are you telling the story?

I think if anybody’s actually saying that the defense of slavery was the motivation for the American Revolution, they’re overstating it. But is anybody really saying that? Other respected historians, such as Indiana University’s Alex Lichtenstein, seem to find Wilentz’s criticisms misleading:

I gotta admit that one of the weirdest aspects of this is seeing many conservatives line up next to Trotskyists to complain that the 1619 Project presents American history with too much emphasis on race. I can see why each of the groups has its objection to that emphasis, but I don’t find either of their objections that persuasive.

Oh right, we were talking about Southern culture here, weren’t we? Sorry for ramble.

Keep in mind I specifically said I was mostly a fan of the 1619 Project, but that I did take some issue with its historicity in a few points. I think they went quite a bit outside the bounds of what has ever been demonstrated with any kind of scholarly historical evidence by ascribing preservation of slavery as a significant cause for the Revolution–that was also as noted, just one example since my understanding is we weren’t looking to make this thread about the 1619 project.

It’s been awhile since all this controversy went on, it should be noted by the way the Wilentz letter and the four other historians who signed it, are basically the epitome of progressive elite. These aren’t Breitbart guys or Victor Davis Hanson types. It’s very much an argument between two entities that very much agree actually with most of the same core conclusions–that slavery was very important to American colonial life from the very beginning, and that the practice of chattel slavery tinges the entirety of American history from beginning to end. That core ideological conclusion is not contested by the five professional historians.

The right wing critique of the 1619 project is much less honest, and much less frankly defensible as anything other than just partisanship fueled racial bigotry.

That being said I do think the response of some of Wilentz’s peers who declined to sign the letter was instructive. Several of them basically said “I don’t want to be on record as being oppositional to the 1619 Project because I think it makes good points, and for a journalistic approach is serving a really good purpose” even using the term as viewing it not so much as history but as a “cultural expression.” That’s kind of a nice way of saying they don’t really dispute Wilentz’s assertion that the 1619 Project’s articles contain a few rough historical inaccuracies and make a few claims that really are well outside the historical mainstream. There is absolutely nothing wrong with saying something outside the historical mainstream, history strives to be an objective science but it’s a field where interpretation has to occur, done by humans. That being said when something is very powerfully established with tons of primary source materials (like the motivations for the American Revolution) if you say something that is well outside any of the documentary evidence, and do not have any form of support in terms of verifiable facts…well, that wouldn’t stand up to the rigor of professional historians and probably shouldn’t be taught as history in a school setting. Wilentz made the point that part of his motivation in his objection was the pending development (at the time) of the 1619 school curriculum.

Silverstein’s response and Hannah-Jones’ response didn’t even entirely disagree they had made at the very least some assertion from authority that were too strongly worded, albeit they don’t quite agree they got the facts wrong. Hannah-Jones makes the point that the core articles published in the New York Times are journalist’s essays, and the curriculum being developed for schools would be “cleaned up.” Which…if so, fair enough, but it doesn’t really undermine Wilentz’s core point.

MrDibble wrote:

And … 1985? Current, much? But reach for whatever whataboutery you feel you need to, I’m out.

1985 occurred within my adult lifetime, and southern culture has been around for centuries. Why exclude 1985? If 1985 were a painting, it would go in a “modern art” museum.

Good point. They can edit the 1619 project or include a new document called Revision History like in a technical document. If they thoughtfully acknowledge and address the major criticisms, it will make the project stronger.

I’m not saying to react to every right-wing troll. But if Ms Hannah-Jones really did go overboard on this one assertion, or one of the other authors did so, why can’t they revise their essay, say it’s a revision, and discreetly link to the original but make it so that most of the time people find the “latest” version?

I had the same experience only in reverse. My dad is a jew from Brooklyn, my mom was the offspring of German-Swiss dairy farmers from Wisconsin. When I visited my husband-to-be’s family in North Carolina (his mother was a Tidewater debutante), I could not understand what they meant when they talked. I’m not talking about accents here. Everything the women, especially, said, had a hidden subtext I was just supposed to know. But I hadn’t a clue what it was.

When my mother-in-law regaled us with darkie jokes after a few toddies, I knew I was in a foreign land.