As one who is quite proud of my “Southern heritage,” let me be clear. Racism is not and has never been part of that heritage. No, “Southern heritage” is far from being racist and doesn’t involve Rebel flags and Nazi salutes.
It involves sitting in the back of grandma’s old Mercury Sable eating a BBQ sandwich from Skylight Inn, spending long summer nights gazing at the stars, catching lightning bugs in mason jars, sleeping with the windows open at night and leaving the doors unlocked, being part of a community where everybody knew everybody. And the color of your skin not really mattering much.
Growing up in the South is a young boy spending afternoons with grandpa fishing or spending Saturdays running dogs, hunting for deer and stopping at an old country store to savor a warm biscuit. Listening to your hunting buddies chatter on the CB radio.
Spending time at grandma’s house watching Saturday morning cartoons and picking tomatoes and cucumbers out of the garden. Sitting on a bucket shucking corn and waving at cars passing by.
Not parading around in a jacked-up truck with the Confederate battle flag. Heritage should mean something you wish to preserve, something you’re proud of, not contributing to the subjugation of others.
Shame on those who seek to pervert my Southern Heritage with such bigotry and violence against people of color, while they claim to promote history and southern values. It goes without saying that what happened in Charlottesville is beyond the pale.
Did all the sermons we heard from the good ole book go over our head? After all, we are commanded to love our neighbor as ourselves and to love the Lord our God with all our might and strength.
That old-time religion is one of getting right with God and having our sins washed away. Yet, racism has left a crimson stain. And we can only ask for forgiveness and mercy and hope that this poison goes away.
What makes us Southern is celebrating the good ole days of front-porch sitting, enjoying the simple things in life, while also enjoying the rich blessing of being surrounded by family and friends. Living in a community where we all help one another and seek to drive out those who wish to tear us apart.
God help us all during these tumultuous times and may we seek the middle way instead of taking sides politically. It’s imperative that we remember what makes the South our home sweet home.
Enjoying sweet tea not made with Splenda. Enjoying BBQ cooked with real wood. Catching lightning bugs in mason jars. Staring at the beautiful stars and laying out on a pallet. Or simply just “chewing the fat” with loved ones and remembering how important family is.
Let’s all gather round the table and enjoy supper again.
Hold the door open and say Ma’am and Sir.
Greet one another with a firm handshake and mean what we say.
Bring back our small-town values in the big cities. Where everybody knows everybody. And “Ya’ll” means “all are welcome.”
Tyler Stocks lives in Greenville.