Beginning in the 1960s, most Southerners walked away from racism and embraced true equality.
A lot of things changed for us in the coming years. All over the South, people were making the choices that my father and community had made. It was one person at a time, family by family and town by town. We realized that much of what we believed was simply wrong. It was not what God wanted and it was not reasonable.
The political realignment was only a small part of this. The South has not become solidly Republican because of race. The move to Republicanism in the South is more about liberty. The Southern people tend to be fiercely freedom-loving people who want all people to share in the dream of the Declaration of Independence: Life, liberty, and freedom from government oversight as we pursue happiness. The free market is an integral part of this liberty.
My memory throws up one final, defining moment in my becoming “woke” before there was such a thing. One day there was an African-American lady visiting my mother in our home. (I am not using her real name.) A news program on TV was discussing the preferred words for the people we now call “African American” or, if we’re really progressive, “BIPOC.”
Back then, the discussion was whether we should change from the technically correct “Negro” to the coming-into-vogue “Black.” I embarrassed my mother by asking our guest what she wanted to be called. With great wisdom and seriousness, she said, “You can call me Mary, but your parents would probably prefer that you call me Mrs. Smith.”
I understood perfectly.