White Southerners

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White Southerners
Regions with significant populations
Southern United States
Languages
Southern American English
Religion
Christianity

White Southerners, from the Southern United States, are considered an ethnic group by some historians, sociologists and journalists, although this categorization has proven controversial and other academics have argued that Southern identity does not meet the criteria for definition as an ethnicity.

Academic John Shelton Reed argues that "Southerners' differences from the American mainstream have been similar in kind, if not degree, to those of the immigrant ethnic groups".[1][2] Reed states that Southerners, as other ethnic groups, are marked by differences from the national norm, noting that they tend to be poorer, less well educated and more rural, as well as being "occupationally specialized". He argues that they differ in cultural and political terms, and that their accents serve as an ethnic marker.[3] According to the New York Times, a survey of ethnic images conducted by the University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Center in 1990 "found that Americans view Southerners almost like a separate ethnic group, and regard them as 'a little less intelligent, a little less hard-working' than whites in general".[4]

Sociologist William L. Smith argues that "regional identity and ethnic identity are often intertwined in a variety of interesting ways such that some scholars have viewed white southerners as an ethnic group".[5] In her book Southern Women, Caroline Matheny Dillman also documents a number of authors who posit that Southerners might constitute an ethnic group. She notes that the historian George Brown Tindall analyzed the persistence of the distinctiveness of Southern culture in The Ethnic Southerners (1976), "and referred to the South as a subculture, pointing out its ethnic and regional identity". The 1977 book The Ethnic Imperative, by Howard F. Stein and Robert F. Hill, "viewed Southerners as a special kind of white ethnicity". Dillman notes that these authors, and earlier work by John Shelton Reed, all refer to the earlier work of Lewis Killian, whose White Southerners, first published in 1970, introduced "the idea that Southerners can be viewed as an American ethnic group".[6] Killian does, however, note that: "Whatever claims to ethnicity or minority status ardent 'Southernists' may have advanced, white southerners are not counted as such in official enumerations".[7] Precursors to Killian include sociologist Erdman Beynon, who in 1938 made the observation that "there appears to be an emergent group consciousness among the southern white laborers", and economist Stuart Jamieson, who argued four years later that Oklahomans, Arkansans and Texans who were living in the valleys of California were starting to take on the "appearance of a distinct 'ethnic group'". Beynon saw this group consciousness as deriving partly from the tendency of northerners to consider them as a homogeneous group, and Jamieson saw it as a response to the label "Okie".[8] More recently, historian Clyde N. Wilson has argued that "In the North and West [white Southerners] were treated as and understood themselves to be a distinct ethnic group, referred to negatively as 'hillbillies' and 'Okies'".[9]

The Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups, published in 1980, includes a chapter on Southerners authored by Reed, alongside chapters by other contributors on Appalachians and Yankees. Writing in the journal Ethnic and Racial Studies, social anthropologist M. G. Smith argued that the entries do not satisfactorily indicate how these groups meet the criteria of ethnicity, and so justify inclusion in the encyclopedia.[10] Historian David L. Carlton, who argues that Killian, Reed and Tindall's "ethnic approach does provide a way to understand the South as part of a vast, patchwork America, the components of which have been loath to allow their particularities to be eaten away by the corrosions of a liberal-capitalist order", nonetheless notes problems with the approach. He argues that the South is home to two ethnic communities (white and black) as well as smaller, growing ethnic groups, not just one. He argues that: "Most important, though, and most troubling, is the peculiar relationship of white southerners to the nation's history". The view of the average white Southerner, Carlton argues, is that they are quintessential Americans, and their nationalism equates "America" with the South.[11]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Reed, John Shelton (1982). One South: An Ethnic Approach to Regional Culture. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press. p. 78. ISBN 978-0807110386.
  2. ^ Reed, John Shelton (1972). The Enduring South: Subcultural Persistence in Mass Society. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press. p. 11. ISBN 978-0669810837.
  3. ^ Reed, John Shelton (1993). My Tears Spoiled My Aim, and Other Reflections on Southern Culture. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press. p. 29. ISBN 978-0826208866.
  4. ^ Applebome, Peter (10 November 1992). "From Carter to Clinton, A South in Transition". New York Times. Retrieved 30 June 2015.
  5. ^ Smith, William L. (2009). "Southerner and Irish? Regional and Ethnic Consciousness in Savannah, Georgia" (PDF). Southern Rural Sociology. 24 (1): 223–239.
  6. ^ Dillman, Caroline Matheny (1988). "The Sparsity of Research and Publications on Southern Women: Definitional Complexities, Methodological Problems, and Other Impediments". In Dillman, Caroline Matheny (ed.). Southern Women (PDF). New York: Routledge. p. 6. ISBN 0-89116-838-9.
  7. ^ Killian, Lewis M. (1985). White Southerners (revised ed.). Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press. p. 169. ISBN 978-0870234880.
  8. ^ Gregory, James N. (2005). The Southern Diaspora: How the Great Migrations of Black and White Southerners Transformed America. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press. pp. 166–167. ISBN 978-0807829837.
  9. ^ Wilson, Clyde (13 August 2014). "What is a Southerner?". Abbeville Institute. Retrieved 24 June 2015.
  10. ^ Smith, M. G. (1982). "Ethnicity and ethnic groups in America: the view from Harvard" (PDF). Ethnic and Racial Studies. 5 (1): 1–22. doi:10.1080/01419870.1982.9993357.
  11. ^ Carlton, David L. (1995). "How American is the American South?". In Griffin, Larry J.; Doyle, Don H. (eds.). The South as an American Problem. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press. pp. 44–45. ISBN 978-0-8203-1752-6.

Further reading[edit]

  • Griffin, Larry J.; Evenson, Ranae Jo; Thompson, Ashley B. (2005). "Southerners, All?". Southern Cultures. 11 (1): 6–25. doi:10.1353/scu.2005.0005.
  • Lind, Michael (5 February 2013). "The white South's last defeat". Salon. Retrieved 24 June 2015.
  • Moltke-Hansen, David (2003). "The Rise of Southern Ethnicity". Historically Speaking. 4 (5): 36–38. doi:10.1353/hsp.2003.0034.
  • Reed, John Shelton (1980). "Southerners". In Thernstrom, Stephan; Orlov, Ann; Handlin, Oscar (eds.). Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University.
  • Tindall, George B. (1974). "Beyond the Mainstream: The Ethnic Southerners". The Journal of Southern History. 40 (1): 3–18. doi:10.2307/2206054. JSTOR 2206054.