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Things that no one tells you about going to Gettysburg College for the Civil War when you’re from the South

  1. There’s no sweet tea.
    It seems like an obvious thing that should not have to be said but in the excitement of going to college little details are lost. Bottles will say “sweet tea”, do not listen, it is fake. Remember real sweet tea gives you diabetes on the first sip.
  2. There’s no Chick-fil-A either.
  3. You’re not ready for snow.
    All you’ll get the Christmas before college are coats, boots, snowshoes, snowpants, snow everything. People will constantly joke about how you’ll “enjoy” the snow. You think it’s like that soft, fluffy powder like in Christmas movies. It’s not. It’s cold. It’s wet. It’s everywhere and it’s at least a foot or so deep (my first winter I got three feet). You think you’re ready and no matter how much you prepare physically for the snow, nothing will mentally prepare you for trudging miserably while ice bites your face. Even so, this cold is nothing compared to the people you meet.
  4. No one else is from the South.
    When I entered Gettysburg, there were two others from the “South” a.k.a. Kentucky and Virginia. If you’re from the Deep South, don’t expect anyone you know from home. This leads you to feel isolated but worry not, because you’ll make friends with your Yankee peers (after they berate you about being from the South, of course).
  5. Everyone will assume you’re a Lost Causer.
    The moment you say you’re from a Southern state and interested in the Civil War, you are already labeled. Some of your peers will cautiously ask you questions about what caused the Civil War (slavery not states rights), others will just automatically assume you’re a Lost Causer and avoid you altogether. It will take you concentrated effort, outspokenness, and condemnation of your home if you want to fit in.
  6. Even your teachers.
    Unlike your Northern and Western peers, you do not have the luxury of having an academic identity that isn’t based on your region. Anything you do will be associated with your “southerness”.
  7. Jokes will be made at your expense.
    This could just be me, being from Atlanta and all, but I haven’t gone a single week on this campus without jokes being made about me, my home, or my family. The jokes will be frequent and a hobby of your especially clever peers. It gets old after the first joke. If you ask them to desist, some will. Others will decide that their adeptness at making clever historical jabs is more important than your dignity.
  8. The Treasury of Virtue is strong.

    “If the Southerner, with his Great Alibi, feels trapped by history, the Northerner, with his Treasury of Virtue, feels redeemed by history, automatically redeemed.  He has in his pocket, not a Papal indulgence peddled by some wandering pardoner of the Middle Ages, but an indulgence, a plenary indulgence, for all sins past, present, and future, freely given by the hand of history.” -Robert Penn Warren, The Legacy of the Civil War (59)

    The Treasury of Virtue is strong at Gettysburg, a stronghold of the idea, if you will. Your Northern peers feel righteous in their state and region while having no shame and no shame in bashing yours. There is reason to be ashamed of the Confederacy and the South’s history of racial brutality, but the South is not its past. Southern pride does not mean Confederate Pride because the Confederacy is not something to be proud of. Not to discount the brutality and horror of slavery that prevailed in the South, but according to your Northern peers  you might as well be personally responsible for those horrors and that brutality.

  9. You miss home.
    Isolation, exclusion, the lack of Chick-fil-A, it all contributes to your homesickness. You miss the heat and humidity, you miss the greasy food and barbecue, you miss the azaleas blooming in the spring. You miss all the little details about your home, everyone does, but you also miss your people and you miss the South.

Heritage of Hate

I grew up in Georgia, to a very southern family. I grew up wanting to be Scarlett O’Hara and taught that the Yankees took everything not tied down, and everything they didn’t take was burned to the ground. I grew up hearing about the “War of Northern Aggression” and how Marse Robert (E. Lee), was a god among men.

I often find myself wondering, considering my background, how I am not a Lost Causer.

And then I remember it is because I think that PoC deserve equal rights, that slavery was wrong, and a society built on racial hierarchy should not exist.

“Heritage not Hates”, is the most common argument defending the Confederacy and the Battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia. And to anyone and everyone who says this, I say to you:

It’s my heritage too. My ancestors were Louisiana planters and slave owners from Baton Rouge and Colfax. They fought and some died for the Confederacy. It is my heritage. But I recognize my heritage is full of hate. Slavery started as an economic institution, but in the Southern United States it quickly became a social and cultural institution that built a racial hierarchy that benefited from the suffering, labor, submission, and oppression of blacks. The Confederacy fought and died to keep that institution alive, even after the end of the Civil War white Southerners did everything in their power to keep blacks from gaining basic freedoms and rights. White supremacy groups like the KKK fly this flag with the knowledge that it means racial hierarchy through oppression and violence of minorities, so don’t you dare tell me that the Confederacy or any other confederate symbol is justified because of your heritage.