What defines “The South”?

When putting together BETTER OFF WITHOUT ‘EM, I gave a lot of thought to accurately presenting “The South” in terms of its most significant cultural totems.

In the end, I decided on chapters critiquing the region’s six most important societal pillars: religion, politics, race, education, economics and SEC football.

Football was in some ways the trickiest inclusion.

I’m feeling somewhat vindicated about the selections, however, after reading a definition of southerndom from Oxford American founder and editor Marc Smirnoff.

In a recent essay in which he harshes on fellow iconic southern mag Garden & Gun for its misguided view of southern culture, Smirnoff writes:

 

“In a recent segment on CBS This Morning, the current editor of Garden & Gun, David DiBenedetto, was asked if “any subjects [were] off-limits” to the magazine.

DiBenedetto: “Yeah. Politics, religion, and SEC football.”

This produced a chortle from the segment’s correspondent, Jeff Glor: “No way! No how!”

You could tell Glor thought that the juxtaposing of SEC football with politics and religion was precious. (So precious, in fact, that it allowed him not to question what it means to ban politics and religion from a portrayal of a people and region.)

G&G falsifies the South it purports to cover, because a South without SEC football, politics, and religion is a false South. How can one miss this?

Speaking of misses, there is one more subject that seems just as off-limits in the pages of Garden & Gun as SEC football, politics, and religion, but it is not mentioned by G&G editors or noticed by media reporters.

I refer, of course, to race.”

 

I’m not sure Smirnoff will care any more for my book than he does for G&G, but it’s nice to know we agree on at least a few big points.

Smirnoff’s article is called “G&G Me With a Buccelatti Silver Spoon! The OA Editor Objects to Media-Falsifications of the South” and you can read it here.

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