Why is the South Villified?
By Robert Stacy McCain
Part of our continuing "What We Are Up Against" Series
Why has the South in recent years been vilified and stigmatized by our nation’s
cultural and political elites? Why have so many of the South’s newspapers begun
clamoring to ban the Confederate flag and remove Confederate monuments from
public display? Loyal Southerners have every right to be mystified by this vicious
campaign to eradicate their historical traditions and confer odium upon their
The notion that it is somehow "controversial" for states like Alabama,
Mississippi, South Carolina and Georgia to fly the banners of the Confederacy
is quite recent in origin. It was not until the early 1980s that, apparently
at the prompting of a scalawag faculty member, a small number of student miscreants
at Ole Miss made their first protest against that university’s use of venerable
A few years later, the NAACP convention passed a resolution declaring the Confederate
flag "an odious blight upon the universe," and by the early 1990s,
Southern heritage was under attack in other states. This monstrous crusade of
lies and hatred against the Southern people and their symbols reached a bloody
zenith in 1994 when a young Kentuckian, Michael Westerman, was murdered by a
gang of thugs because of the Confederate flag on his truck.
Still, the lies and hatred continue unabated. High-school students are expelled
or suspended for wearing Confederate t-shirts. The Cracker Barrel restaurant
chain has forbidden the sale of merchandise bearing Confederate symbols in its
gift shops. Perhaps most outrageous of all, a lawsuit has been filed which seeks
the removal of the Confederate monument from the town square in Franklin, Tenn.,
where the South had six generals killed in one of the bloodiest battles of the
If monuments to the courage of Confederate heroes are now deemed offensive,
surely Southern pride is on the verge of being forever extinguished. The question
A good answer was recently provided by essayist Fran Lebowitz in the October
1997 issue of Vanity Fair magazine. In an article addressing the current state
of American race relations, Ms. Lebowitz describes how she developed her attitudes
about race while growing up in New Jersey in the 1950s and ’60s.
"I had a very strong association, an exclusive association, of racism
with Southerners," she writes. "To me as a child, it was a southern
Make no mistake — Southerners were dreaded villains in Ms. Lebowitz’s youthful
"It was the height of the Cold War. … We were steeped in anti-Communist
lore and so the worst people I could think of were Communists. They were the
people I was scared of. Next were southerners — not as bad as Communists, because
I couldn’t imagine anything as bad as Communists, except, of course, Nazis ….
"Nazis were the worst, then Communists, then southerners. Although I had
every belief that the Russians were plotting night and day to bomb Thomas Jefferson
School in Morristown, New Jersey … I had no notion that southerners or racism
could be in my life. In other words, I had more expectation of having contact
with Russian Communists, who were on the wrong side of the Cold War, than I
did with southern racists, who were on the wrong side of the Civil War."
Considering how many Southern men fought against Nazis in World War II and
against Communism in Korea and Vietnam, it must come as a shock to Southerners
to learn that — in the eyes of at least one young New Jerseyite of that era
— they were considered villains on the order of Hitler and Stalin.
How was such a hateful view of the South and her people instilled in Ms. Lebowitz’s
young mind? Whence this "exclusive association" between the South
and racism? Well, "seeing the sit-ins in the South on television"
was one influence, Ms. Lebowitz writes, but then explains: "I think it
also had to do with the way they taught the Civil War to us in my northern grammar
schools." [Emphasis added.]
There it is, at last: an admission from a bona-fide Yankee that Northern schools
employed children’s history classes as a weapon in their propaganda campaign
against the South. Although she provides no details of her indoctrination, Ms.
Lebowitz was undoubtedly taught that the "Civil War" was a noble humanitarian
Northern crusade launched by the saintly Abraham Lincoln to liberate black slaves
from the fiendish clutches of their treasonous Southern masters.
This bogus historical mythology — "the Big Lie" as Hitler would
have recognized — has been used by Yankees for more than a century to impugn
Southern honor and to justify the unconstitutional aggression perpetrated by
Lincoln and his villainous henchmen. However subtly or openly it manifests itself,
this mendacious Yankee propaganda is intended to reduce a complex saga into
a simple stock formula: North good, South bad.
So it was that, in the wake of the revolutionary 1960s, as air-conditioning
and interstate highways brought wave after wave of Northern immigrants into
the "Sunbelt," this insidious Yankee lie came along for the ride.
Southern universities hired Yankee professors and Southern newspapers hired
Yankee editors, and soon the Northern view of history began to take hold in
the erstwhile "land o’ cotton."
Inevitably, this has resulted in a generation of young Southerners being raised
with the same attitudes which Ms. Lebowitz was once taught in New Jersey: "Nazis
were the worst, then Communists, then southerners." The descendants of
Confederate heroes now learn in school that their ancestors "were on the
wrong side of the Civil War." Youth in Georgia and Virginia are taught
to worship at the altar of "Honest Abe" and to celebrate the conquests
of Grant and Sherman. Such honorable men as Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis
are portrayed as misguided, at best, if they are not indeed thoroughly disparaged
Ironically, these lessons in self-loathing are being taught to Southern children
in an era when professional educators claim that their most important duty is
to instill "self-esteem" in young minds. How are Southern youth to
develop self-esteem, when they are taught history from Yankee textbooks? What
grounds for self-esteem can such a people possess, whose forebears are repeatedly
maligned as ignorant, brutal, hateful traitors? How can we expect our young
people to maintain a healthy sense of personal pride, when they are routinely
demoralized in schools which prohibit all expressions of Southern pride?
These questions go unanswered by our region’s leading educators, who continue
to subscribe to the Northern propaganda they learned from Northern professors
and Northern texts. And so the morale of an entire generation of Southern youth
is being destroyed by Yankee myths imposed upon them in tax-supported public
In a very real sense, these young Southerners are now lost, for as Robert E.
Lee once wrote, "A nation which does not remember what it was yesterday
does not know where it is today."
If we find that youth in Tennessee, Texas and the Carolinas no longer revere
their Confederate heritage, then, it may be because they don’t know where they
are. As far as their schools are concerned, they might as well be in New Jersey,
where Southerners are ranked as a menace comparable to Communists and Nazis