I’ve been reading what people have said elsewhere lately about who’s entitled to celebrate southern heritage and Confederate heritage. Apparently one need not have had Confederate ancestors (military or civilian), and when it comes to southern heritage one need not have lived in the South very much and perhaps not at all.
This set me to thinking. I lived in the South(east) for ten years … four years in Virginia, three years in Tennessee, and three years in South Carolina. Moreover, I’ve lived in Arizona for nearly twenty-two years, and, as we all know, the Confederacy claimed Arizona for its own, although it was never able to control parts of it for very long. That means I’ve lived in areas claimed by the Confederacy for thirty-two years, far longer than my initial residency in New York. Moreover, I’m married to a direct descendant of Confederate military personnel, and our daughter Olivia can claim Confederate ancestry. Hey, if some people can claim a connection to Confederate heritage by biological chance, then it seems to me that one has a stronger claim to Confederate heritage if one married into it with eyes wide open. Moreover, my great-grandfather lived in Florida after the end of Reconstruction, and attended military school there (that’s right, part of my family actually lived in the South for some time in the nineteenth century, and not as Reconstruction carpetbaggers).
And, as someone who claims to be a strong advocate of Confederate heritage has said, “To say Southerners with no Confederate ancestors cannot claim and celebrate their Confederate heritage is like saying immigrants to the US with no colonial/revolution era ancestors cannot claim and celebrate their American heritage.” I’d say the same goes for southern heritage. And this fellow agrees: “I’ve always thought the Southerness you are referring to as more a matter of mind and heart more than physical location or descendancy.” Let’s take these good folks at their word.
In short, given my life experience, I’m as entitled as anyone else to have a right to define, commemorate, and celebrate southern heritage, including Confederate heritage. After all, there are no gatekeepers. Nor does recognizing that I have the right (as defined by others) to indulge myself as a southerner in any way lead me to refute my American heritage or my New York roots (after all, I grew up on the South Shore of Long Island, right?).
And so there we have it. After all, no one’s authorized to say who’s in and who’s out.
Now, I’m sure this announcement will come as a shock to some people, especially those folks who think I hate southern heritage and evilize white southerners. That’s their problem. I count a good number of white southerners among my friends and in-laws. Many of my students from Wofford are good southerners, and they stay in touch. Sure, there are some folks who I could care less about who boast about being southerners, but I don’t care about some folks who boast about being northerners (especially a few select Red Sox/Patriots fans). I tend to judge people by who they are, not where they come from. So I expect a few people to squeal like pigs. Let ’em. I like BBQ. I like it pulled.
So, now that I’ve been made aware that I’m allowed to embrace the southerner in me, I’ll do some serious pondering on what the South (and the Confederacy) mean to me. Y’all are welcome to tag along on my journey.