Food is the one benefit of “diversity”. Thanks to diversity, wherever you are in this country, you can now enjoy Indian, Chinese, Italian, Greek, Ethiopian, and Vietnamese food prepared at low prices by Mexicans of dubious legality.
Unfortunately, it also means the end of any authentic American regional or national cultures. It means getting a confused and hostile look from some Somali waiter when you ask for sweet tea in Virginia. And, beyond culinary idiosyncrasies, it also means the loss of the traditions and ways of life that define a place.
New York Times food critic Kim Severson just wrote on the decline of the civility and manners that once defined the American South. [A Last Bastion of Civility, the South, Sees Manners Decline, November 1, 2011]
As an example, she cites the lawsuit filed by former NBA player Joe Barry Carroll and Joseph Shaw against the Tavern at Phipps in the Buckhead area of Atlanta.
Carroll and Shaw were asked to relinquish their seats to two white women, and refused, citing their own elevated status. As a result, the Tavern ejected them and they sued it for racism. In a verdict that will surely be as infamous as the Dred Scott decision, a jury ruled that they did not suffer racial discrimination. [Jury to former NBA star: No discrimination]
Severson picked an unfortunate example. Buckhead is the “Beverly Hills of the South” and the bar is typical of Buckhead establishments in discouraging a certain clientele. As Severson uncharitably phrases it, “rules regarding courtesy and deference to others have historically been used as a way to enforce a social order in which women and blacks were considered less than full citizens.”
Much to the relief of the Great and the Good, such times are behind us, and Atlanta is now the City Too Busy Too Hate. Of course, now that this social order has been dismantled, Atlanta features a huge cheating scandal that encompassed the entire public school system and the Chamber of Commerce, flash mobs attacking whites, financial crisis, Section 8 riots, demagogic racial appeals (the good kind, by blacks), and an almost wholly monochromatic crime rate, with a healthy amount of black on white crime to add to the cultural enrichment.
Buckhead is a wealthy, white redoubt in this black run city, but rather than holding it up as a model of Southern chivalry, it is more accurate to say that Buckhead drinking establishments try to encourage skimpily dressed white girls to dance to hip hop while not having to encounter the trouble-making progenitors of that particular musical tradition. After all, they might bring the vibrant practices of the rest of the city with them.
In the words of John Shelton Reed, "Atlanta represents what a quarter of a million Confederate soldiers died to .prevent."
Nonetheless, Severson has a point. One of the things that made the South “the South” were the manners, refinement, and civility impressed upon all of its citizens, black and white. Even if they were not consistently practiced, the ideal had a certain value in itself.
The South is the most distinctive of the American sub-nations and if every nation is a facet of God’s design, than surely Dixie has inherent worth. Literature, language, the military tradition, religion, and all the other aspects of the Southern culture are in some ways a reflection of the agrarian, traditionalist ideal reflected in the writing of Faulkner or the authors of I’ll Take My Stand.
However, the survival of any culture necessitates the value of certain ideals, customs, and loyalties above others, and so inherently contradicts the one world, egalitarian ideal of liberalism. Just as America is now nonsensically defined as a “nation of immigrants” so Southern culture must be deconstructed and explained away into nothingness.
Therefore, Southern manners may have arisen to “smooth the edges of a harsh racial system.” They are also “a way of distancing and maintaining space” and concealing dishonesty. As Southern cooking expert (born in New Jersey) Nathalie Dupree puts it, “As a whole, we are now more willing to say what we think, and that is a good thing for the South.”
But that it depends on who you define by “we”—and on what they say. When Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott wished his colleague Strom Thurmond a happy birthday, he unwittingly unleashed a storm of controversy which even the most emasculating displays of groveling failed to subdue. Haley Barbour’s mild recollection of the Citizens Councils of the South led to similar condemnation.
The truth is that only certain people in the South (and America) are allowed to say what they think without a furious or even violent reaction.
The whole point of manners is to reduce the chance of conflict in social interaction. While the South’s Cavalier and aristocratic aspirations were undoubtedly responsible for at least part of Dixie’s cult of chivalry, manners were also important in the racially mixed South to maintain social peace. After all, as modern research tells us, diversity destroys social cohesion. The ever increasing contemporary diversity may make it possible to dine on Lamb Rogan Josh in Charleston, but it has also made it impossible to have an intelligent public debate or even state simple facts on immigration, education, crime, or health care.
The loss of civility has not been replaced by honesty, but simply more hypocrisy.
Severson is as guilty of this as anyone. She writes: “In May, [Charlotte, NC] called out its Civil Emergency Unit and arrested 70 people who rioted two hours after the end of a Nascar event” and points to this as an example of declining civility.
Of course, the perpetrators were gang members of a ethnicity not typically associated with NASCAR.. [Uptown chaos leaves 1 dead, CharlotteObserver.com, May 20, 2011] However, since we do not talk about this, we simply move away from the problems of diversity in bastions like Buckhead. Severson gloats: “Many believe that busting through a system that has been used to keep power in the hands of a few and limit public debate is not necessarily a bad thing.” We might agree, if such a thing had actually occurred.
The rise of Political Correctness in the South and the decline of older standards of civility is not simply inevitable. The New York Times’ extreme liberalism hardly endears it to the most conservative region of the country. Its shrill campaigns against the Confederate flag or even the all-male Augusta Country Club show that the Grey Lady is hardly ready to heed Jefferson Davis’s admonition to be left alone.
Nor has the larger delegitimization of Southern symbols been some kind of accident. Whereas the Confederate flag was once used by left wing rock stars as a symbol of rebellion and even as a banal symbol of “country” by Johnny Cash on The Muppet Show, now “arch conservatives” like Governor Rick Perry hurry to scrape before their media masters in New York. While it is allegedly offensive to American Indians to use them as football mascots, somehow it is offensive to blacks to use Southern whites as mascots, and Southern colleges are racing to scrap mascots, monuments, or music that might offend their prized “student-athletes.”
Just as contemporary debate holds all of pre-1965 America is worthless and racist, so is the entirety of Southern history a product of darkness and bigotry. The result will be a more sterile, impoverished, and—in the only way that really matters—non-diverse world, as relationships are stripped of sentiment and reduced to the purely economic.
As Severson notes, Southern identity is fading because of a global media culture and the demands of capitalism but also because of the dispossession of actual Southerners.
Immigration from outside the United States is swamping the Southland. Reprising a familiar theme, the South has tried to stand up for itself—but the Obama Justice Department took a break from sending guns to Mexican cartels to sue the Southern states that passed sensible immigration laws.
Additionally, another Yankee invasion has swarmed Dixie. Severson reports that parents moving down have no patience for “demeaning” customs such as addressing teachers as “sir” or “ma’am.”
Kim Severson herself is part of this Southern dispossession. A non-Southerner, lesbian, and former vice-President of the National Gay and Lesbian Journalists Association, Severson serves as the Atlanta bureau chief of the New York Times and promoted the campaign against the Southern company Chick-fil-a, a rare privately owned chain restaurant that closes on Sundays and promotes Christian values in line with Southern beliefs.
Needless to say, Severson is hardly “assimilating” to Dixie’s socially conservative values. Instead, she uses her privileged position to lecture Southerners on what they should be doing—including pursuing open borders.
Foodies like Kim Severson would rightly regard it as a tragedy if the diverse culinary traditions of the world were homogenized and commercialized into one vast McWorld. But at the same time, the New York media cannot help but crusade against any culture, value system, or tradition that would seem out of place at a faculty luncheon at the New School.
They want it both ways—to enjoy “authentic” local culture while making sure that no high school in Alabama mentions Jesus.
Southern civility, Southern language, and even Southern cuisine cannot exist without a Southern people. As Sam Francis famously stated there is not “any reason to believe that [a] civilization can be successfully transmitted to a different people.”
This goes beyond the South—because all of America is facing the same question.
James Kirkpatrick [Email him] travels around the United States looking for a waiter who can speak English.