Contemporary Southern Identity: Community through by Rebecca Bridges Watts

By Rebecca Bridges Watts

In modern Southern identification Rebecca Bridges Watts explores the consequences of 4 public controversies approximately Southern identity--debates concerning the accomplice flag in South Carolina, the gender integration of the Virginia army Institute, the show of public paintings in Richmond, and Trent Lott's debatable reviews concerning Strom Thurmond's 1948 segregationist presidential bid. whereas such debates may well function proof of the South's "battle over the past," they could then again be noticeable as harbingers of a altering South. those controversies spotlight the variety of voices within the dialog of what it capacity to be a Southerner. The contributors in those conflicts may well disagree approximately what Southern id might be, yet all of them agree that such discussions are a vital a part of being Southern. contemporary debates as to where of outdated South symbols and associations within the South of the hot millennium are proof of a altering order. yet a altering South isn't any much less detailed. If Southerners can locate solidarity and uniqueness of their identity, they could also be in a position to function a version for the more and more divided usa. The very debates portrayed within the mass media as facts of an "Unfinished Civil conflict" can as an alternative be interpreted as evidence that the South has stepped forward and is having a standard discussion as to what its varied participants wish it to be.

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VMI’s board of visitors then had to decide whether the institute should remain public (and therefore admit women) or become private (and retain its all-male tradition). Going private was within the realm of possibility because VMI’s exceedingly strong alumni support had given the school an $185 million endowment (the largest per capita endowment of any public college and an amount that grew during the court battle). At the time, the State of Virginia provided VMI with $10 million per year, a third of its operating budget (and, interestingly, the same amount the school spent on its legal defense).

Sleep on thin mattresses on wooden racks, but the spartan surroundings, lack of privacy, and physical and psychological hazing of first-year students have a purpose: to create total equality, discipline, and lifelong bonding. It was this vaunted “VMI experience” that school officials anticipated women would shatter—and they deeply resented being forced to change by outsiders. . But the new cadets . . complied. . Even the assumption that women would interfere with the bonding process turned out to be somewhat exaggerated.

But the lack of amenities is not the only difficult aspect of barracks life. Prior to 1997, cadets’ rooms lacked window shades and door locks. Rosen examined a thought-provoking parallel between Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon and the complete lack of privacy in the VMI barracks. The VMI barracks form a quad with a guard tower in the center. Before the admission of women, all barracks activities were visible from the tower through the unobstructed windows in each barracks room door. ”33 Opponents of women’s admission to VMI saw the potential changes to the barracks—the addition of window shades and door locks as well as of private bathroom stalls and showers—as in themselves meaning an end to VMI as they knew and loved it.

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