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Don't Underestimate South's Potential



I found it enlightening to hear from David W. Brown that only the South is capable of outrageous racism. Obviously, he did not read Joshua Kaufman's editorial on Pat Buchanan's popularity in Massachusetts that appeared next to his own.

Brown's editorial displays the same prejudice and lack of perspective with which he credits the "traitors, miscreants and goons" of the South. Yes, the confederate flag is an inappropriate symbol for the Georgia state flag. Gov. Zell Miller, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the majority of those whom I know in Atlanta area all agree with this portion of Brown's tirade. His broad generalizations and prejudicial attacks, however, undermine his argument. Claiming that "the crimes of the Nazi state were perhaps more shocking than those of the Confederacy" (italics mine), and even then only because the Germans were more educated and enlightened than those backward Southerners, Brown shows a stunning incomprehension of the cause of slavery in the South and its absence in the North: economics.

Even ignoring his ridiculous statement that slavery was the primary cause of the war and that economics had nothing to do with it, one cannot accept the hateful and malicious attacks on an entire region of the country. Too often Southerners are painted as ignorant, backward "goons" who must be guided and taught by their sophisticated, progressive Northern compatriots. Left to itself, the South would revert to a mob of tobaccy-chewin', black-lynchin', shotgun-carrying' rednecks. This patronizing attitude does nothing but further convince Southerners that we actually might be better off alone.

The city of Atlanta proves the folly of underestimating the potential of the South. The capital of this region of "abject backwardness" refuses to fit the stereotype. The Olympics are coming. Conventions continue to pour in, and companies such as Coca-Cola ad IBM continue to locate their headquarters in this booming city. Atlanta's regional theater, under the artistic direction of an African-American, was recently hailed nationally as the model for diversifying its audience. The Symphony is first-rate, the film and music industries are growing and the theatrical production is explosive. Historically, the South has produced such artists as Eudora Welty, William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, Flannery O'Connor and Truman Capote. Not bad for a population "so crippled by inbred cultural racism that they could barely demonstrate that they were morally or intellectually superior to brute beasts."

Obviously, there are race-relation problems in Atlanta, as there are everywhere. The South did not invent racism. Take one look at the number of tenured minority professors at any Ivy League school and you'll see that we're not even the only ones who institutionalized it. But railing against the "craven degenerates" who owned slaves 130 years ago will not change our problems now. We must stop taking pot-shots at historical targets and begin to examine more deeply the roots of our problems. Only then will we be able to solve them. Blaming Bubba won't change a thing. --Lisa Nosal '98 Roswell, Georgia

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