And no a moment too soon either: this, another journey of the genre:
My education required a metaphysical moving away, I learned. A professor who could see me struggling through change asked me what scared me about it. I told her that I worried I would lose something, and she reassured me that I would be OK. But she is a brutally honest New Yorker, so she added, “Besides, you can’t unlearn what you now know.” Her words stung.
Having come from Palm Beach and lived in this part of Tennessee for forty years, I can assure Dr. Wilkerson that this place exhibits a complexity that rivals the island’s. I can also assure her that her beloved trade unions were alive and well in Chattanooga, if she had bothered to come this far down and take a look. But the elites which engendered the hostility that made this place fertile ground for unions are trying their own burying of the past by going progressive, perhaps for some it will make up for what’s gone before.
The serious sign of initial delusion on her part, however, was this:
Like Dolly Parton’s defenders, I grew up learning the myth that Appalachia was the home of white settlers who weren’t marked by the sin of slavery and thus were not responsible for America’s racism and, conversely, that the Civil War had nothing to do with slavery in the first place. My ancestors worked hard as farmers. They built grist mills and lived in log cabins. They are the Appalachians of the American imagination — pure Anglo-Saxon. Dolly Parton rehearses this myth, and I imagine she was raised on it. Her Appalachia is pure and white and heroic; her Appalachia is drained of white America’s sins.
If there’s one thing East Tennessee is not, it’s Anglo-Saxon. Other than the black people and more recent immigrants, it’s mostly Scots-Irish with a healthy dose of the Cherokee, something Elizabeth Warren’s attempt to claim has fallen desperately flat. Getting past that myth-making and realising that, like the Asians on the other end, the Scots-Irish put the lie to the whole racial paradigm being promoted these days, is liberating, but I’ll bet that Dr. Wilkerson’s moving to town won’t let her see that for what it is.
I’ll be glad when the last hick moves to town, it will be liberating for me.