The New South

Think of [Icono Clast] as [our] Charles Kuralt — Ed Jay

Icono ClastMay 29, 1998
Newsgroups: rec.arts.dance, rec.roller-coaster, rec.travel.usa-canada
In the late '50s, I hitch-hiked from San Francisco to New Orleans via Saint Louis passing through, among others, the states of Kansas, Missouri, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, and Texas where I, just a tourist passing through, saw such horrors and heard such vile remarks that my shame that those people were citizens of the same nation as I was profoundly troubling.
 MMMMIn the late '60s I travelled via motorcycle through, among others, the states of Arkansas, Kentucky, and Tennessee where the changes, if any, eluded my notice. In the '70s I managed to avoid The South but in the '80s, travelling by air, I revisited New Orleans where change was apparent and spent a few 'tween-'plane hours in downtown Atlanta.
MMMMFollowing my '60s visit, I was interviewed by Dave McElhatton on radio station KCBS when I predicted that, when The South changed, it would be the best place in the US for Blacks to live. I  don't know whether that's come to be true, but I do know that Blacks are returning to The South.
MMMMOn this May 1998 visit to The South via automobile, I observed that there appears to be a truly New South. If my observation is correct, and I hope it is, the change is not merely significant, but absolutely incredible!
 MMMMOne sees these changes in the little things such as my overhearing a White food server's concern for the satisfaction of two Black women who could not hear her. Before, the women would not have even been in the restaurant unless they had minimum-wage jobs there;
 MMMMThe thickly-accented 70-ish White woman insisting that the young Black man had truly arrived at the line before she whereas in the past, had there been a line of a hundred Blacks, that same White woman would have walked directly to the front of the line.
MMMMThe proportion of inter-racial couples I saw was far greater than I've seen elsewhere and the apparent acceptance by society appears to be total; also well-mixed groups of people, obviously friends just hanging.
 MMMMSomewhere a Black man flipt me The Bird for what he perceived as some driving offense. In the past, he mighta wanted t'do dat but would have feared to.
MMMMIn the past, Black women consciously strived to not be attractive in the White parts of Southern towns because of the ever-present risk of rape and the knowledge that even a formal complaint to authorities would have great consequences for her with few-to-none for her attacker(s) if they were White. Today, Black women in The South seem to be as lovely as women elsewhere.
MMMMIn the past, Black men would usually walk with down-cast eyes, often not even standing up straight, in order to avoid inadvertent glances of White women and being accused of who-knows-what? with consequences ranging from the loss of a job to becoming, in Abel Meeropol's (aka Lewis Allan) words, “Strange Fruit  hanging from the poplar trees”. Today Black men seem to walk as normally as anyone else.
 MMMMBut there's an indication that not all's as well as I'd like to believe as Blacks are everywhere during the light of day but they weren't in the bars where I was at night.
 MMMMAlso, I spent no time in small towns where, I hear, things are much as they were decades ago.
The South has long been known for its politeness. Surrounded by a great many youths at amusement parks, I observed that the tradition continues. They were far better behaved, in every respect, than local youths.
 I have always had contradictory feelings about the Southern accents. On one hand they cause me to cringe in revulsion because they represent the home of slavery, separation, segregation, lynchings, unconvicting juries in the face of damning evidence, anti-unionism, hate, Right-To-Work-For-Less statutes, discrimination, Third World-like poverty, tax evasion (moonshine), ignorance, and initiator of the bloodiest of this nation's wars.
MMMMOn the other hand, those accents represent the distinctiveness that can be found within the borders of this great land and are, to my ear, lovely tones and rhythms. There are also fascinating phrasings and color carried with the sounds generated with those accents.
MMMMI have long feared that regional accents, regardless of where they be, would disappear within my lifetime. It appears that even a San Francisco accent isn't totally gone (heard spoken, in different versions, by my mother, and a co-worker) as a Texan enquired of my accent with words of keen observation that indicated to me he was hearing a San Francisco accent. What a nice thing to learn!
In San Francisco, as well as most other coastal cities, hearing languages other than English is an almost-constant occurrence when out in public. I'm seldom conscious of it. Hell, I even command one of 'em and have smatterings of several others. On this trip, on the rare occasions I heard a language other than English, it was like the refreshing caress of a moist zephyr on a hot day.
 I first drove across the United States of America in the early '60s. It seemed that the middle part of the country was from five to ten years behind San Francisco in all aspects of popular culture; hair styles, clothing, cosmetique, music, dancing, etc., and that New York was about three years behind us.
 MMMMOn this 1998 trip through The South, the differences 'tween our pop culture and theirs seem to have diminished to near-insignificance. I don't know whether that's good but it's unlikely to be bad.
 Not one person on any street anywhere hit me for money.
 MMMMGraffiti were so rare that I recall seeing none!
MMMMIn my youth, I'd almost daily heard tourists comment on how clean a city was San Francisco. That, sadly, is no longer true but it was pretty-much true of every town I visited.
 MMMMMy previous visits to The South included encountering the filthiest public facilities imaginable, comparable to the least educated and most economically deprived Third World countries I've ever visited. Further, the public plumbing rarely worked. The South has finally come up to the standards to which we in the rest of the USA have long been accustomed. What a relief (intended)!
 MMMMIn years past, Southern poverty was almost always within sight: ramshackle buildings; raggedly dressed people; adult manifestations of childhood diseases and mal-nutrition; junk cars on the roads. Where are those indications of poverty today? I don't know. I didn't see them whither I looked. Surely The South still has poor people. I wonder where they hide them.
Waiting in amusement park lines can be tedious and looking at others in the same situation is one of the most interesting things to do. It didn't take me long to notice how fat the people were, so fat in fact, that I often counted them. It seems that every time I counted, a third of the people I counted was fat. No, I don't mean merely overweight and I didn't count beer bellies, either, but real fat people, most of them quite young. Many of them also smoke cigarettes. It's sad. Their lives will probably be very short.
I was not surprised to find that the level of dancing in the places I managed to dance wasn't very high. At home in San Francisco, I am, at best, an average dancer but out there on The Road I'm pretty good. Too bad.
 MMMMIt's said that good instruction's hard to find out there. In Bakersfield I witnessed the worst dance instruction I've ever seen but in Nashville just about the best. David Wallace, assisted by partner Stephanie, taught the Nashville Swing Club's lesson at Silverado. The class was so large that, to do C/W TwoStep, we had to form three concentric circles. At all times the class was under David's full control; his instruction was exquisitely clear, simple, and precise. It was a great pleasure to participate in that class.
There seem to be fewer Yuppies in The South than elsewhere but I couldn't believe the ones I saw in amusement parks with telephones attached to their heads. In amusement parks?!? C'mon! Just how important can you possibly be (or think you are!)?
I was more amused by than fearful of the drafters on the highways. In no fewer than two
instances, those drafting me pulled over with me without even trying to pass.
– ———i————i— Icono Clast

Ed Jay responded to Bill Buxton (coryav@*.net)   1998/06/05
. . . you will note that Icono has for the past few years blessed the group with the impressions he develops through his travel to other dance venues. I for one appreciate his taking the time to do so.
 > 1.  The issues discussed are only vaguely associated with the newsgroup
But they are related.
> 2.  The posting is clearly inflamatory to insite angry retorical comments from all sides, with no
> benifit to dancing — the purpose of this news group.
I think you're confusing the idiot's (Swingpoop) inflammatory response [below] with the original post.
> Please respect the purpose of this valuable and respected newsgroup and take your comments
> to the appropriate sites IE alt.trash.etc
Are you aware of the condition called 'Transference Syndrome?'
> The participant, Icono Clast has been involved in this group in the past. I hope this is not
> that individual.
It was, and we still appreciate his most recent travel report. Think of him as r.a.d.'s Charles Kuralt(sp?). We do, and we appreciate his taking the time to enlighten us. Shall we take a straw vote among the members hereof to determine how many of us appreciate your pale attempt to police the group for us?
Ed Jay
From: SwingPoop (SwingPoop@*.net) to Bill Buxton
    Some of us enjoyed IC's views of his dance trip across the US. He told us he was going, reported while enroute and after his trip. Trolling he was not, driving he was. IC has contributed to the rad many times in the past. How about you? Are you the newest rad policeman.


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