BRIEFS: Again with this “New South” thing?

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How many times can people use the term “New South” in a new way?

Georgia editor Henry W. Grady started using the term in 1886 to highlight the region’s need to reinvigorate itself with more manufacturing, in part with northern investment. Editor W.J. Cash dusted off the term during the Depression and bandied it about in his “The Mind of the South,” an exploration of Southern culture. And then came waves of politicians and political wannabes who kept the term alive, each iteration causing the real meaning to become less focused and more innocuous.

Gov. Nikki Haley signs a bill into law that removed the Confederate flag from Statehouse grounds.  Looking on in the background are three former governors (l-r):   Dick Riley, Jim Hodges and David Beasley.

Gov. Nikki Haley signs a bill into law that removed the Confederate flag from Statehouse grounds. Looking on in the background are three former governors (l-r): Dick Riley, Jim Hodges and David Beasley.

So now comes hyper-ambitious S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley in a much-publicized speech on, yet again, the new South. The speech, however, seemed to be more of an appetizer for what Haley’s team really wanted to be the main course — serious consideration of the governor as a possible vice presidential candidate. (Note, for example, the low number of stories that focused on the guts of the speech, compared to the many on the presidential political horse race.)

Nevertheless, Haley’s speech, titled “Lessons from the New South,” focused on race and touting South Carolina’s economic and cultural successes. Racial progress, she said, comes from listening, not shouting. Some snippets from the speech:

  • “My family and I have faced discrimination in the past.  My mother always taught me not to talk about the things that are obvious. It is to make this clear: a lot of people make the mistake of thinking the South is still like that today.  It’s not. I know. I lived through it.”
  • “Today there truly is a New South.  It is different in many ways, perhaps most especially in its attitudes toward race.  We are still far from perfect.  We still have our problems.  There’s still a lot more to do.  But the New South, in many ways, is a place to look toward, rather than away from, when it comes to race relations.”
  • ‘Black lives do matter, and they have been disgracefully jeopardized by the movement that has laid waste to Ferguson and Baltimore. In South Carolina we did things differently. After the horrendous death of Walter Scott, we didn’t have violence.  As a state, we came together, black and white, Republican and Democrat.’

Haley didn’t, however, forget to inject a little conservative politics into the conversation, as she supportedvoter ID laws, often considered controversial. Many see them as a way to chill voting because they erect barriers. Read the speech.

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