Everybody wants to be proud of where they’re from. For Southerners, that’s not always so easy.
We do have much to be proud of — biscuits, Booker T & the MG’s, barbecue, Zora Neale Hurston, boiled peanuts, second lines in New Orleans, Otis Redding, Gregg Allman, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., President Jimmy Carter, ghost stories, old country stores, Flannery O’Connor, Outkast, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the rich soil of Alabama’s Black Belt, the hill country blues of Mississippi, Wendell Berry, the collards-and-cornbread sandwiches of the Lumbee tribe, the Sazerac cocktail, and …
Got another week? We could keep going. All those things and hundreds more are worthy of celebration.
Still, we all live with these facts:
Our ancestors fought a war to maintain an economy built on the labor of slaves. In turn, their descendants invented the Ku Klux Klan. Then, their descendents brutally enforced unjust Jim Crow laws. And today, some segregationists’ descendants (and wannabes) have decided to pull their hoods out of the closet and walk through town waving the stars-and-bars.
How can one be a proud Southerner in the face of such foolishness? Well, it’ll take work. While some folks will keep right on believing they need to preserve and act on Lost Cause myths, the rest of us will have to persist in the work of building a better South. The Lost Causers will not do it, so the rest of us must.
It’s our job, at The Bitter Southerner, to tell stories about folks who want better — and what happens when they come up against folks who don’t. We’ve worked now for almost five years to build up a publication that serves as a home for the voices of the ones who want better. Around that publication, a community of people has risen.
So, how can we keep this community alive to shine the spotlights on Southerners whose work deserves attention? By supporting it — not only with your good words in social media and the real world, but also with a little money.
That’s why we are back, for the fifth year in a row, to ask your help — because we could never maintain The Bitter Southerner without your financial help. If you’d like to hit the “Join the Family” button right now, we ain’t gonna stop you.
But in case you need a little more convincing, read on to see what we mean when we keep talking about a “better South.”
In a Better South, every child would learn the true story of the American Civil War, unlike their ancestors. They would know our region fought to maintain one of the foulest, most unjust practices ever to pollute God’s earth. They would see no nobility in an ignoble fight. And they would know, consequently, the work of reconciliation must continue through their generation and beyond.
In a Better South, every person would respect the individuality of every other person. We said it this way when we wrote our vision statement four years ago: “The Bitter Southerner exists to support anyone who yearns to claim their Southern identity proudly and without shame — regardless of their age, race, gender, ethnic background, place of origin, politics, sexual orientation, creed, religion, or lack of religion.”
In a Better South, people of different colors and cultures would be unafraid to have difficult conversations, because they would know the bond of friendship requires true understanding — and some risk-taking to get there.
In a Better South, no credence would go to anyone who comes from a place of racism, homophobia, transphobia, or gender discrimination. An intolerant South, one that does not accept the basic equality of all people, can never be a Better South. Nor can it be a prosperous South — not when the fastest growing parts of its economy depend on a generation of young people who refuse to countenance intolerance.
A Better South would give no quarter to anyone who believes others — simply by nature of who they are — are inferior. We would see every human as equal in God’s eyes.
In a Better South, religious intolerance would have no place. No one ever wins when we fight about which God to pray to, or whether to pray to none at all.
In a Better South, our greatest celebrations would be reserved for the people who crossed old barriers to create the South’s greatest contributions to American culture. Folks like the black and white kids who mixed it up to invent soul music in Memphis and Muscle Shoals. Folks like the ones who first threw the okra into the gumbo.
We would be grandiose and stupid to believe The Bitter Southerner alone can bring a Better South into being. That takes all y'all. At the end of the day, we are only storytellers. What we can do is focus our storytelling on people building a Better South — and reserve our wrath for those who stand in its way.
We believe this work is worth doing. We hope you do, too, and we hope you prove it by joining The Bitter Southerner Family today.