As community after community across the South opened its arms to the displaced, small-town papers were awash in stories about middle-class whites who had obviously made homeless and penniless evacuees the first black guests ever to sit at their tables and sleep on their sheets. These breakthroughs might seem especially emblematic of change in Southern white racial attitudes, but my guess is that there were a lot of these “firsts” registered as well in homes above the Mason-Dixon line where Hurricane Katrina victims found shelter.
Hurricane Katrina should also have demonstrated to skeptical blue-staters that the South’s vaunted religiosity amounts to more than a convenient vehicle for political manipulation of the ignorant, unthinking masses. Black and white survivors told story after story of reciting the Lord’s Prayer or the 23rd Psalm as the storm raged around them, and though left penniless, homeless and uninsured, they expressed both gratitude and absolute confidence that the Lord would protect and provide.
If the Hurricane Katrina experience reveals that the South remains in many ways what Mr. Zinn described as a “marvelously useful” mirror where other Americans can see some of their nation’s most egregious flaws magnified, it also suggests that in looking southward these days they should recognize some of its most admirable virtues writ large as well.
Read the whole thing here. Via T19.