In my blog, I chose not to write about the Charlottesville incident because I’m not trying to inflame anyone. I’m simply looking at how people think. Some ways of thinking make sense. Others don’t. We all fail at this at some time. I hope we can learn from the stories I write about.
One thing I find interesting is how people who aren’t from the South think about the South. Having been raised in the South, I have had an affinity for many of its charms. One thing I especially like is how they have moved on from their past. Southerners do not want to go back to the plantation days and slavery. Slavery is wrong. That war was fought, and the South lost. They get it.
Today, the South often likes to poke fun at itself. Nowhere is it more in evidence than at Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede. I attended it recently, and thoroughly enjoyed myself, even the part about eating without utensils.
But there is an air of seriousness that seems to exist today with anything remotely or indirectly referring to the Confederacy, and that was on display in a recent Slate article about the Dixie Stampede. The author, Alisha Harris, went to the Dixie Stampede. She seemed curious about it and seemed to think that it would display all of the bad things people often assume about the South. Everything she saw at the Stampede went contrary to what she expected to see.
Her opening paragraph tells us that she thinks about the entire show: “It’s a lily-white kitsch extravaganza that play-acts the Civil War but never once mentions slavery.” This colors her entire evening. She expects to see the Civil War played again, with mistreatment and enslavement of blacks. She’s thinking too hard. Parton intended this entire show as a good-natured inclusive show that focuses on competition between the North and South. No one fires a shot. No one is whipped. It’s all fun competition.
When Harris arrived for the show, she expected to be ostracized because she was black:
I was surprised to see more people of color than I expected—an Asian family here, a Latino family there. There were smatterings of black people, though I didn’t spot any who appeared to be there by themselves. Some were one half of an interracial couple, while others appeared to be there with their white co-workers or friends.
Again, at the “saloon” (which sold no alcohol), she found: Somewhat to my surprise, a couple of black women were working behind the counter. How could someone who is black actually want to work here? Aren’t they all racists at this show? She ended up chatting with a few white couples near her. Wouldn’t that indicate that she could put down her defensive stance and just enjoy the evening? No. She’s here to prove a point.
Parton, “racist” that she is, even included a Native American segment. The segment emphasizes their place in American History and in no way degrades them, but Harris seems to ignore that.
When the show gets to the competition between the North and the South, they don’t mention the Civil War, but instead uses a horse race, pig race, and toilet seat horseshoes as competition. The competition is good-natured, with one side sometimes giving the other side a “do-over” to show it’s all in good fun. (I think they do that to prevent anyone from taking this too seriously.)
In the end, the announcer says that the score doesn’t matter because we are all Americans. It’s a unifying way to end the evening, since no one wants to actually return to those days. The show is trying to bring us all together at the end of the show.
Yet Harris is always trying to find a way to somehow be offended. When she went to the bathroom she found “‘Southerners Only’ on a light-colored placard and ‘Northerners Only’ on a dark-colored placard.” She calls this “horrifying tone-deaf“, yet goes in the Southern bathroom.
At the end of the show, she’s still working on finding that racism:
As the crowd began to disperse, I chatted up the white couple next to me. They happened to be from Staten Island, in my hometown New York City, and looked to be in their late 20s or early 30s. They were there as fans of Dolly. I asked, “What do you think of the fact that in the show they claim ‘we’re all winners’ and ‘there’s no North and South,’ considering everything that’s happening in the news lately?”
But the couple just says it’s really nothing. Harris is determined to get people riled up, but everyone is just there to have a good time. No one’s trying to stoke anger. Except perhaps Harris. She ends the story by comparing it to Springtime For Hitler. There’s nothing like playing the Nazi card to show your contempt.
The South buried the Civil War a long, long time ago. Certainly, there are white supremacists, but that small group of individuals is all over the country, and it’s not limited to the South. Most Southerners just want to live their lives and let everyone else do the same.
Lighten up, y’all.