The Yankification of Virginia: Exhibit A

A controversy is brewing over the annual celebration of “Dixie Days” in suburban Hanover County just north of Richmond. According to the Washington Times, an 18-member advisory panel has advised that:

“Dixie Days” is “problematic” and … calling a Civil War commemoration by that name “tends to represent the past.” If “Dixie” remains, the county schools shouldn’t promote or endorse it. … Some residents, county officials say, find “Dixie Days” offensive and a symbol of slavery and racism. [Said Ms. Jamelle Wilson, a member of the advisory panel:} “The Hanover County community is changing rapidly with many newcomers that may be offended by the name.”

… Grayson Jennings, commander of the Cold Harbor Guards Camp division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans of Virginia, would rather hold the commemoration on private property or even outside Hanover County, than change the name from Dixie Days. “It’s our event. We can call it what we want,” Mr. Jennings says. “This is our heritage. We are not changing the name.”

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  1. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    When I wrote the headline, I was thinking that that statement “many newcomers may be offended by the name” Dixie Days referred to Northerners. Upon reflection, I realize that it might well refer to middle class African-Americans moving to the suburbs. In either case, the controversy is a fascinating glimpse of social change in Virginia.

  2. Will Vehrs Avatar
    Will Vehrs

    People are free to be offended by whatever word, title, phrase, or image plucks at them.

    Luckily, I’m free to look away and either be pleased or outraged in my own little mind that others came into a locality to spend money, then left without having appreciably advanced the “cause” of the offending word, title, phrase, or image.

  3. Short Pump Shorty Avatar
    Short Pump Shorty

    Jim – My guess is that most native Hanovarians I know would be more offended by your characterization of thier conty as “suburban.”

  4. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Ok, Shorty, I’ll change my hastily penned characterization to “rapidly suburbanizing.”

  5. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Damn air conditioning! Damn, damn, damn air conditioning.

  6. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner

    We spent Saturday in Galax in the stands at the Old Time Fiddler’s Convention. It will be a while before the Stars and Bars are unwelcome there — it was happily displayed on hats, flags, shirts in profusion. Nobody actually played “Dixie” while we were there but if they had I’m willing to bet most folks would have stood, the way we did in my youth. Now the very reference to Dixie itself, a geographic name, is offensive?

  7. The Jaded JD Avatar
    The Jaded JD

    Well, I believe it’s ridiculous to think that Metro Richmonders need such an event to commemorate the Civil War, faced as we are almost inescapably with its quotidian remembrances; but, just as Mr. Vehrs points out people are entitled to be offended as they like, people are entitled to be as ridiculous as they like. Once one decides to have such an event anyway, for fear that someone, somewhere, might for a moment forget the Civil War, “Dixie Days” seems as good a name as any.

    As for the SCV and their “heritage,” I’ll just bite my tongue.

  8. Jim Hoeft Avatar
    Jim Hoeft

    I have not yet figured out Virginia.

    I have fallen in love with her traits: the sea, the bay, the mountains, the warmth, the traditions and the history.

    But, she continues to tell me that I’m not welcome, despite the fact that I have lived here for 11 years, have become a tax-paying citizen, vote and spend all my income in her economy.

    If you would really like me to go back to my economically distressed state of Michigan, I will. But I think you’ll miss my dollars.

  9. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    J.R., How does Virginia continue to tell you that you’re not welcome?

  10. Jim Hoeft Avatar
    Jim Hoeft

    Oh, I forgot to mention that this sterilization of the south’s history is pretty lame.

    This is Dixie and you can’t change that.

  11. Avatar

    I understand how some folks – Blacks, Northerners – could be offended by the notion of Dixie Days. But to me, if folks want to play dress-up in hot uniforms, glorify a heritage of massive loss of human life and catastrophic military defeats, and try to ignore the facts (codification of slavery in the CSA constitution, KKK originis, etc), then it’s fine with me. After all, it’s a free country, where the Union won, my slave ancestors were freed, and I have full rights to pester the hell out of the SCV types by pointing out the facts of history, not the emotions…

  12. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    J.R. I don’t get how you are unwelcome. One of the Virginians killed in Pickett’s charge died on his uncle’s farm in Gettysburg, PA. He had been in Virginia for only 10 years, but when Virginia voted – the second time after Lincoln ordered a levy for troops to attack SC – for Secession, he went with his neighbors to defend his home. You’ve lived in Virginia a year longer than this fellow who gave his life defending Virginia from invasion. Your loyalty would be welcomed.

    South of the James: Love your attitude. Live and let live. Maybe the SCV could put up photos of black Virginians given pensions by the Commonwealth for loyal service to Virginia during the War to make more folks feel at home. The first guy to shoot a Yankee in my g-g-grandfather’s regiment at Manassas was a black servant to the regimental colonel.

    The War was an exercise in complexity. Cartoon characterizations are one-dimensional.

    The underlying issue of culture is important. Only one culture can define a civilization at time. And culture commands much in human endeavors.

    Consider James Webb’s “Born-Fighting” saying the Scot-Irish culture defines the South, except for Tidewater Virginia. Thomas Sowell’s “Black Rednecks and White Liberals” traces how the lowest strata of that culture created the social pathologies in the Black sub-culture. And to put it all together in history and across the board issues, check out U Va’s own James Davison Hunter’s Culture Wars, the Struggle to Define America (so prescient for 1990!)

    So, will the South become Yankee or will our Yankees become Southerners in culture? I tell political buddies that we tend to get the best Yankees – those who are military retirees, devout Christians and anti-tax, anti-socialist.

  13. Avatar

    J.A.B: I guess my attitude was formed at an early age by my parents and their insistance on our equality with Whites (note: I tend not to use African-American because my Daddy always said “I ain’t lose nothing in Africa.”). Our family focused on successful living regardless of how we were treated. I’ve always felt a sense of deep-rootedness as a Virginian (esp. after spending 2 years in Chapel Hill), and I’m very comfortable with the darker/tragic elements of American and Southern history.

    Your comments about culture & civilization ring true, and I have looked at the reviews/abstracts of Sowell’s work on Black Rednecks. His hypothesis is really intriguing, and I have plenty of my own anecdotes to support it.The real problem is that in America and the South, the only time that we can honestly discuss culture & race is on Comedy Central or an HBO special. The Southern-ness issue shouldn’t be about who fought for/against whom – proud Virginian & Lee/Jackson mentor Gen. Wingfield Scott created the Union’s “Anaconda Plan” and Andrew Jackson battled John Calhoun over secession in the generation prior – but whether the diversity of Southern culture can truly be acknowledged and appreciated by all. American culture at-large fees on the notion of assimilation, but Southern culture has always been one of cultural integration (How do you think White Evangelicals got rhythm & Hank Williams got the Blues?). The biggest battle is over who gets to determine someone else’s Southern-ness. Go ask Karl Malone, Aaron Neville or Morgan Freeman about how Southern they feel and you’d be surprised.

    As I tell my Yankee friends all the time, the beauty of the South is that it is one glorious contradiction. That makes life down here a lot more fun, and it explains why I just popped a Kenny Chesney CD in after finishing up an OutKast song.

    — Conaway Haskins

  14. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Conaway, You are a breath of fresh air. You say that Comedy Central and HBO are the only places that can honestly discuss race and culture. I hope we can add the Bacon’s Rebellion blog to that list.

    What fascinates me is the way Southern blacks and whites seem to be discovering more and more common ground on cultural issues. As the culture wars dominate the political discourse on the national scene — as issues are framed increasingly as secular vs. religious — Southern blacks and whites, both with strong religious traditions, find themselves on the same side of more and more issues.

    Increasingly, I hear culturally conservative whites like J.A.B. declare that race doesn’t matter to them, and I see them reaching out over the racial divide. It will be interesting to see how the black community responds to this olive branch. Given the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow, I would expect blacks to be wary. Still, I would not be shocked to see a major political realignment over the next 20 to 30 years.

    I can’t speak to the black experience, but I can speak to the white experience, and I’ve seen amazing changes in the attitudes of white conservatives towards blacks in my lifetime.

  15. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Conaway: We can have a cordial discussion anytime you come to my part of Tidewater.

    There are several stories that need to be told.

    There are three sins staining the flag of Virginia. Sins against God. Slavery, segregation and racism. The first two stains have been cleaned out at great suffering and expense. The third is still there and, unfortunately, as often as not is from a minority as much as majority ethnicity (person).

    Conservatives believe in preserving the best of the past and shoving it into the future. Dump the bad. Learn and improve. Be children of the Enlightenment.

    The story from the War is not the racial politics of the war – but the courage, devotion to principles, and tenacity of Southern arms and the Southern People – all of them.

    The other story worth telling, is in the history of humankind, no people or tribe came as far, as fast, over such hurdles with such dignity and success as the Black Americans from 1865 to 1964. None.

    Another story is the power of Jesus Christ to transform the heart of men. Southern white Christians have, overwhelmingly, had a transformation of the heart from the rainbow of prejudice that ran from paternalism to hate to a colorblind agape love. The morally ascendant, Christian message of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr is accepted as much as Martin Luther for earlier generations who reformed their thinking in profound ways.

    ‘Nuff said for now. I wrote an op ed some time ago that lists some of what is neither white nor black, but Southern.

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