American South can’t seem to shake off the Civil War.
Or Jim Crow. And
yet, that region of the U.S.
is undergoing some dramatic changes. How the South responds
to these changes will determine how easily it will enter
the modern world and usher out the racial demons of its
are on the rise in the new South, with the nation’s fastest
growing Hispanic populations in the states of the former
and North Carolina
are now among the ten largest Latino communities in the
are coming back home to the region, reflecting the nation’s
largest demographic shift. The South now has its highest
share of black folks in half a century. As northern states
and California have witnessed a loss
in their black populations, Atlanta
has gained half a million black people in a decade. The
largest black city after New York
is no longer Chicago, it is Atlanta.
migration of Latinos and the reverse migration of blacks
mean that people of color are poised to become a majority
in some areas of the South, as is the case in Texas. Add to that the influx of white professionals
and high-tech workers in states such as North
Carolina - a red state that Obama turned blue in 2008
- and you have the makings of noticeable change.
again, you have Alabama.
After the state enacted the harshest anti-immigration
law in the land, Latinos
are leaving Alabama. Now, farmers are hoping to replace
migrant workers with prisoners
to work the fields because, after all, we know how forced
agricultural labor worked out the first time around.
Alabama, as an aside, has a majority black
prison population. African-Americans are 27 percent of the population and 63 percent of the prisoners. The state is 23rd in the nation in population, but
in the number of executions in 2011. And
over the past decade, nearly two dozen death penalty cases
were overturned because prosecutors illegally struck black
year, like Alabama, South
Carolina also passed its own bad anti-immigration
law - modeled after Arizona’s SB
1070 - key parts of which were thrown out by a federal
judge in Charleston. And the U.S. Department of Justice blocked
the state’s new voter
ID law, which would require voters to
present a photo idea at the polls, and discriminate against
racial minorities in the process. Under the Voting Rights
Act, states such as South Carolina
and Texas, because of their history of racial discrimination,
require federal approval of any changes to their election
old South meets the new, as South
Carolina’s Governor Nikki
Haley signed both of these cruel, atrocious
pieces of legislation into law, and vows
to fight in court to have them upheld. Governor
Haley is the children of Sikh
immigrants from Punjab,
India. The Sikh-American community has endured
its share of discrimination in the post-911 era, branded
as terrorists and persecuted for the traditional turban
and beard worn by Sikh men.
so, a woman of South Asian ancestry, a person of color
and darling of the Tea Party, has chosen to channel the
angry white segregationist governors that came before
her. Some names that come to mind are George
Wallace of Alabama, who stood in the schoolhouse
door to block black students from enrolling at the University
of Alabama; Theodore
G. Bilbo of Mississippi, who kept blacks
from voting, and Ross
Barnett, who denied James Meredith, an
African-American, admission to the University of Mississippi.
policies, not unlike those of her predecessors, are the
unjust laws that Martin
Luther King discussed in Letter from Birmingham Jail. As King said, “Any law that
uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades
human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes
are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages
the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense
of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority.
… An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority
group compels a minority group to obey but does not make
binding on itself. This is difference made legal.”
today, such laws are designed to keep communities of color
isolated, scared and disempowered, down and out of the
process. That the dominant party in the South has changed
its affiliation from Democratic to Republican since the
Civil Rights era really is beside the point. The old mentality
remains. We’re talking old South vs. new South, a steadfast
resistance to civil rights, and clinging to a segregationist
mindset, even well into the twenty-first century.
a black man named Troy Davis was executed last year under
the rules of the old South - a justice system of mob rule,
in which racial vengeance and scapegoating take precedence
over guilt or innocence. In the end, what mattered was
not the evidence pointing to Davis’s
innocence, or the seven out of nine witnesses
who recanted or changed their testimony, but rather that the victim was a white police officer and Davis
was a black man.
I was born and raised in New York
and now live in Philadelphia,
I always regarded the South as a second home, if not something
of an ancestral homeland. My mother was born in Charleston,
South Carolina, and my late father was from Augusta, Georgia.
I have lots of family there, not to mention fond childhood
memories of visiting cousins. There are many good people
in the South, to be sure, but there’s a great deal of
ugly in the South. The problem arises when some people
can’t pick a century to live in and stick with it.
BlackCommentator.com Executive Editor, David
A. Love, JD is a journalist and human rights advocate
based in Philadelphia, is a graduate of Harvard College and the University of Pennsylvania
Law School. and a contributor to The Huffington
Post, the Grio, The Progressive
Media Project, McClatchy-Tribune News Service,
Times and Philadelphia
Independent Media Center. He also blogs at davidalove.com, NewsOne, Daily Kos, and Open Salon. Click here to contact Mr. Love.