Today we honor the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. There are many obvious reasons to raise up his name in tribute and praise. But there’s another less obvious reason – the civil rights leader understood southern politics.
Much of our discourse treats southern politics as if it were just another regional bloc. Or the region and its history are whitewashed in ways similar to slavery being whitewashed from US history. I think King knew better. If you don’t understand southern politics, you don’t understand politics, period.
I’m not a scholar, but I lived in the south for nearly a decade. I was a reporter and editor at small newspapers. I’m here to tell you, things are different.
Speaking truthfully is not a civic virtue. Free speech is not valued. The common good is not recognized. There is no such thing as “the public.” Equality is paid lip service. The rights of property are unquestioned.
Meanwhile, conformity is enforced, gender roles policed, the racial hierarchy maintained unto death. To call southern politics the politics of a rightwing authoritarian collective is not too much. Everything is us against them. We talk about fascism as if it’s modern. The American sort goes back to 1619.
In a very real sense, the white south is like a mini-Russia – one-party control, endemic corruption, no concern for governance and constant appeals to the very worst in humanity for the sake of restricting liberty to the master race. The line connecting Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump runs through Dixie. Read more…