Not in the clamor of the crowded street, not in the shouts and plaudits of the throng, but in ourselves, are triumph and defeat.--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

REDIRECT ALERT! (Scroll down past this mess if you're trying to read an archived post. Thanks. No, really, thanks.)

Due to my inability to control my temper and complacently accept continued silliness with not-quite-as-reliable-as-it-ought-to-be Blogger/Blogspot, your beloved Possumblog will now waddle across the Information Dirt Road and park its prehensile tail at http://possumblog.mu.nu.

This site will remain in place as a backup in case Munuvia gets hit by a bus or something, but I don't think they have as much trouble with this as some places do. ::cough::blogspot::cough:: So click here and adjust your links. I apologize for the inconvenience, but it's one of those things.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Well, I'll be...

Southern identity on decline, study says

The Associated Press
10/1/2003, 8:52 a.m. CT

FRANKLIN, Tenn. (AP) -- Relaxing on the verandah of a refurbished Victorian home turned tea room, Dot Fleming nibbled coconut pie and extolled the virtues of life in the South.

"It's just an easier, more relaxed lifestyle, with friendly people, home-cooking and big families," said the 55-year-old Fleming, whose family has lived in this affluent town south of Nashville since the early 1900s.

A new Vanderbilt University study found that the number of people like Fleming, who are fiercely proud to be called Southerners, is being noticeably diluted by newcomers and those who just plain reject the label.

From 1991 to 2001, the number of people living in the South who identified themselves as "Southerners" declined 7.4 percentage points, from about 78 percent to 70 percent.

The study found that only Republicans, political conservatives and the wealthy bucked this trend, keeping the same percentage of self-described "Southerners."
Is it just me, or does anyone else get the sense that the results of the study might indicate some sort of political bias on the part of the researchers, or is it just the way the article is written?
"As with other parts of the country, continuing urbanization and immigration have had an impact on the South," said sociology professor Larry Griffin, who headed the study.

The researchers analyzed data from 19 polls conducted by the University of North Carolina from 1991-2001 that asked respondents if they considered themselves Southerners. The findings will be included in the article "Enough About the Disappearing South — What About the Disappearing Southerner?" as part of the fall edition of Southern Cultures, the journal of UNC's Center for the Study of the American South.

The polls surveyed 17,600 people in 13 states — Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

The decline spanned all races, ethnic and age groups, researchers said. But Republicans held steady at about 74 percent, political conservatives at 78 percent and the rich at 69 percent.

"Though the South has changed (over the decade), those three groups still see themselves as in the South or of the South," Griffin said. "For persons of color, the poor, for political liberals or Democrats, it may be an image they reject."
It would have been nice to explore exactly WHAT it is that they are supposedly rejecting, rather than speculating. You could just as well say that people with brown hair living in those 13 states identify themselves as Southerners, and come up with equal results.
As for Fleming, she said she understands why conservatives continue to classify themselves as Southerners.

"In general, when you're conservative, you don't like change," said Fleming, who says she's probably in the upper middle class financially and neither conservative nor liberal.
Again, the test bias is that people are required to identify themselves as to their political affiliation--there is no objective standard. A person who is comfortable identifying himself as a liberal around here might be seen as a raging right-winger by someone in Berkley. And, there are PLENTY of liberals out there who don't like change, either--NO one, of any stripe, likes to change things they are comfortable with. It might make some folks feel better and superior to point and laugh about hide-bound, backward, hard-shell conservatives, but it really doesn't go very far in really explaining anything (other than that hypocrites come in all stripes, too).
Elouise North, a 79-year-old gift shop manager at Carter House, describes herself as both a Southerner and a conservative.

"It's a way of life," she said. "You don't rush things too much here. In my generation, you weren't rude, you had manners, you said 'Yes, ma'am' and 'No, ma'am.'"
And just because you're a liberal doesn't mean you would do anything any different from Miss Elouise. Being a liberal doesn't mean you have to be rude or pushy. (Yeah, I know--hard to believe but true.)
North was born in Gallatin, 25 miles northeast of Nashville, but moved to Franklin 44 years ago after she married. During that time, she says she's seen so many new people move here that "it's no wonder" the number of self-described Southerners has dropped.
Bingo. Give that lady a chaw--people tend to identify with their birthplace, regardless of where they move to. Remember, just 'cause the cat had kittens in the oven don't mean they're biscuits.

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