On April 21, the eyes of America were on the city of Newnan, where the region held its breath while Neo-Nazis threatened a Charlottesville-style demonstration.
This time they targeted immigrants instead of making Confederate monuments the issue. But the National Socialist turnout was pathetic.
There’s a reason: Southerners aren’t who the neo-Nazis think they are.
When Neo-Nazis sought to make their anti-immigration rally, they chose a town not far from Atlanta, in the Deep South, hoping to pick up a lot of recruits, expecting a lot of angry Southerners to show up to wave a swastika or march with some racist banners. And sure, you can find someone in any region who might do that, even here.
Perhaps the Neo-Nazis assumed that because of the Confederate history, or the Jim Crow legacy or the KKK marches, that the South would be ripe for recruiting. But it’s a new South as a new NBC News poll from 2018 reveals.
On that subject of immigration, the issue that Neo-Nazis hoped to ride on through the region, the NBC poll showed that 69 percent of Southern respondents said undocumented immigrants working in the United States should be offered a chance for legal status. Only 28 percent want those undocumented workers be deported to the country that they came from.
Just so you know, that’s only a point or two off of the national average when gauging how Americans respond to the same options.
The region’s states have different responses to the question, with Georgians being among the more supportive of undocumented immigrant opportunities, while Mississippi, Tennessee and Alabama had lower scores, but all were above 60 percent in support of immigrants, with a third of respondents backing deportation.
Southerners are also more tolerant of LGBT rights than they used to be – a majority say gay marriage should be legal – though a poll of Mississippians don’t think a cake business should have to make a cake for them.
They still want their Confederate monuments up, at least 61 percent do, with states like Alabama wanting to defend their statues by even higher margin.
Even the Sons of Confederate Veterans position refused to join in the march. Churches, businesses and other locals actually conducted a highly successful counter rally. Why?
Southerners are known for wanting a “live-and- let-live” strategy. Perhaps many have come to the realization that freedom and rights that Southerners claim to cherish are incompatible with slavery and restricting the rights of others. They still want their monuments to remember the heroic struggles of the past, while proving a desire to make amends by letting hard-working immigrants stay.
Many seem less enamored with the old racial restrictions, as Georgia removed so many with an afternoon legislative session. Rights for the region mean you can get married, but not all have to pitch in to the process, even if not everyone else in the USA agrees.
Just because the region once supported slavery and unconstitutional restrictions, that’s not the case for most Southerners today. They’ve realized that unless freedom applies to all, it applies to none. They’ve begun to resolve the contradictions of the past, and have shown with a growing, vibrant economy, that the region never needed slavery, or economic oppression, to succeed.
John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Georgia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org His Twitter account is JohnTures2