A Flag Is Not Worth a Job

June 29, 2015
That’s the money quote from Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, describing the tension between an American South steeped in the traditions of the Confederacy and a region that is working hard to attract businesses and jobs for its residents.
After a ten day period beginning with a 21 year old racist murdering black worshipers in an historic Charleston church, and ending with a Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage that led to Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal lamenting the loss of states’ rights, many publications authored essays portraying the region at a tipping point.

One such story was on page A1 of Sunday’s New York Times, which contained the quote from Governor Bentley. It also contained this:

Shannon Byrne, 39, a literary public relations consultant in Atlanta, recently started a website to show the world who visits Stone Mountain Park these days. The leafy, popular park is a few miles east of the city, and its eponymous featured attraction, a massive granite outcropping that is carved with a monumental bas-relief of Confederate heroes, has been a focal point of white supremacist sentiment. The visitors hail from everywhere: Mexico, Ethiopia, Cambodia, Sudan.

“It shows the cognitive dissonance between this old bastion of white supremacy and this new multicultural mountain,” Ms. Byrne said. “I see beauty, I see poetic justice, I see Dr. King’s dream being realized.”

Since the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, hundreds of blacks have been elected to Southern state legislative bodies. At the same time, politics has become racially polarized, with blacks in the South voting overwhelmingly as Democrats and whites overwhelmingly as Republicans. And in every Southern state there are more whites than blacks.

Every state south of Kentucky and Virginia has a Republican governor and a Republican-controlled legislature, and all run on the fuel of small government and some version of the tetrad touted by Arkansas’ onetime governor, Mike Huckabee: God, guns, grits and gravy.

The story focuses on the dichotomy between the Old South and the nation’s fastest growing region, one that is rapidly becoming more culturally diverse, with Asians and Hispanics becoming an increasing part of the region’s commerce. Yet, as the story points out, we are a region with some of the poorest states in the country, with a thin safety net, especially in the area of health care, where most states have stringent requirements for its residents to be on Medicaid.

Despite the speed of last week’s events, the changes that will be made as a result will happen more slowly. Will history look at June 2015 as a significant milestone in the South’s evolution? Only time will tell.

Peach Pundit-GA Politics

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