I wasn’t fortunate enough to have been born in the South, but it has definitely become my home. Having the opportunity to live in Texas and Alabama, I would like to say that I have become a Southerner by choice. Spending the majority of my 22 years in New England, I frequently heard stories of how racist the South is, and stuck in its bigoted ways. Having travelled throughout what was once the Confederate States and meeting many people from all colors and backgrounds, I can’t accept this as fact.
Racism is not a uniquely Southern thing. Racism is a perverse system that permeates all walks of life, from the poor to the rich. I can freely admit that I know people that are racist, which I’m sure almost everyone can attest to. But what speaks above racism is the kindness displayed by Southerners. There has never been a moment when I have witnessed someone blatantly speaking down or uttering a derogatory slur towards someone of a different color. While a person may think something that is deemed as racist, they don’t say it because of mutual respect for one another.
This respect for others transcends the racism that I previously heard so much about. I’m not implying that racism doesn’t exist, but I would like to think that the good majority of Southerners have left that part of history behind and are looking ahead to a brighter future. These virtues of respect, kindness, and fellowship are more permeable and powerful than racism.
When I saw the news breaking about the Charleston shooting, I began to cry. What kind of monster would murder innocent people in a house of worship, simply because of the color of their skin? What I did know was that the good people of Charleston and the rest of the South would stand together. In such a fast-paced world, who has time to hate others because of a different skin color?
I certainly have never seen open racism displayed in Auburn since I have lived here. When Judge John J. Harper settled the area, he intended it to be a center of religious temperance and education. I firmly believe that this idea he had sticks with us today; Auburn is a center of tolerance and a place where people from all over the world come to gain a world-class education.
What I would like for those not from the South to understand, is that racism is not particular to one region of the United States. Maybe we’re sheltered here in Auburn, but I believe that we hold ourselves to a higher standard. We take it serious to be members of the Auburn Family and hold fast to sixth line of our creed: I believe in the human touch, which cultivates sympathy with my fellow men and mutual helpfulness and brings happiness for all.
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