Dixie Daily has raised the question:
“What is a Southerner really?
Are (white) Cubans Southerners?
Are Cajuns Southerners?
Are Yankees Southerners?
Suppose John E Reb is Anglo-Celtic descent from Virginia and Carolina colonies.
If Marco Rubio, a white Cuban of Iberian descent can be a Southerner just like John E Reb, then can John be a Cuban just like Marco? Do Cubans not already have their own ethnic identity anyway?
If Jubert Villefontaineroux, a Cajun, can be a Southerner just like John, then can John be a Cajun like Jubert? Do Cajuns not already have their own ethnic identity anyway? …”
Culturally speaking, my answer is that the South looks a lot like this:
Genetically speaking, the South looks a lot like this:
Religiously, the South looks like this:
As a bioregion, the South looks like this:
Geologically speaking, the South looks like this:
A few years ago, I took a deeper dive into the question in “Blood and Soil: How Southerners Became a Separate and Distinct People.”
My conclusion was that the South grew out of three cultural hearths: Jamestown and the Tidewater region in eastern Virginia, the Scots-Irish migration from Pennsylvania down the Great Valley into the Southern backcountry, and Charleston and the South Carolina Low Country, which was a product of the Barbadian led expansion of the plantation complex across the British West Indies. There were also a few minor cultural hearths like the Acadian migration to Southern Louisiana.
The “South” is the confluence of these cultures. They collided and mixed within our region. They were heavily influenced by the climate and geography of the South which is a major source of both our unity and most prominent divisions. The conflicts with the Indians and African slavery made race much more salient here than it was elsewhere. Southern identity was gradually built on a perception of difference with Indians, African slaves, the Yankee, Mexicans and the British.
As has been explained to death on this website, Southerners ARE NOT merely Anglos or Celts. On the contrary, our ancestors were not drawn randomly from the British Isles. The Deep South, Tidewater and the British West Indies drew lots of immigrants from Western England and Metropolitan London. Appalachia drew more Scots-Irish immigrants from the Borderlands. At the same time, the Scots-Irish also settled in the Lower South and English from coastal areas also migrated into Appalachia where they mixed. It is more of a difference of degree and predominance than anything else.
There have always been non-British minorities within the South: Germans and Swiss settled all over Appalachia and the Piedmont, they settled large parts of Missouri and Texas, and they were present in Kentucky. The Gulf Coast was once under the administration of Spain. Texas and Louisiana were part of New Spain. Florida was founded as a Spanish colony. The French settled in Louisiana and along the Mississippi and Alabama Gulf Coast. Cubans have been present in Florida in large numbers since the 19th century. French refugees from Saint-Domingue settled in New Orleans and Charleston which was founded in part by Huguenots. The Irish settled in Savannah, Charleston and New Orleans. Highland Scots settled in North Carolina. There were Italians who settled in New Orleans. There were Greeks who settled in Birmingham and Tampa. Yankees and Jews have always been present in our cities.
Ethnically speaking, the “South” has an Anglo-Protestant base. As far as I can tell, we’re probably about 3/4th British and 1/4 non-British European. The South is overwhelmingly Protestant, but there has always been a Catholic element in Maryland and along the Gulf Coast. Since men and women tend to breed with people in their immediate area, the result of generations of mixing on the genetic level are the clusters on display above. Whiteness is the category that traditionally mattered in law and there were never any legal impediments to mixing between Europeans.
The “South” is a product of our ancestry, but it is also a product of our culture, our politics and economy, our climate and geography, our religion, and our shared history and traditions. We branched off from the British centuries ago and have been evolving into our own unique ethnic group ever since. The War Between the States and the poverty of the Jim Crow era nurtured a common Southern White folk culture. The sheer passage of time and generations of intermarriage has made us more homogeneous than we were in the past. The same process created the nations of Europe over the course of several centuries.
Can Yankees become Southerners? Can Cubans become Southerners? Can Cajuns become Southerners? I will just note that the 19th century South was full of such people. They were absorbed along with Irish and Italian immigrants because they were present here in small numbers.
Purity spiraling is ridiculous on so many levels. Should we rename Alabama, Mississippi and Arkansas for being Indian place names? Was P.G.T. Beauregard a Southerner? Should we rename Louisiana and Texas (Tejas) for not being properly Anglo? What should we do about our neoclassical architecture inspired by Greece and Rome? Should we stop growing corn or tobacco because these were Indian crops? The log cabins built by Scots-Irish frontiersmen were borrowed from the Swedes and Finns in Pennsylvania. Germans introduced Conestoga wagons. And so on.
The Lower South was the spawn of the West Indies:
“Given the way history is taught, few educated Americans realize that when the English were beginning to grow tobacco in Jamestown and Pilgrims were imposing order at Plymouth by cutting down a Maypole, other Englishmen were beginning to settle in St. Christopher (St. Kitts) (1624), Barbados (1627), Nevis (1628), and Montserrat and Antigua (1630s). They were closely followed by the French, who actually joined the English on St. Christopher in a surprise night attack on native Indians. The French proved more willing than the English to combat and push back the fierce Carib Indians on Guadeloupe and Martinique, though they took somewhat longer to turn to sugar. By 1655 England was ruled by Oliver Cromwell, who sent a large army to join pirates in seizing Jamaica from the Spaniards. A few years later the French occupied the western third of Santo Domingo, now named Saint-Domingue (later Haiti) Cromwell’s expedition had tried but failed to capture any part of Santo Domingo.”
“English adventurers established colonies on the Lesser Antilles islands of St. Christopher, Barbados, and Nevis during the 1620s. While St. Christopher, which England shared with France, was settled first, (1624), Barbados (1627) would become the cultural hearth, the model for the rest of the English West Indies – and South Carolina.
On Barbados between 1640 and 1670 there evolved a powerful local culture whose institutions, with some slight alteration, would be re-created throughout the English-speaking Caribbean and along the South Carolina coast. “South Carolina and the Lower South culture that developed out of those small beginnings,” writes a modern historian, “was as much the offspring of Barbados as was Jamaica or the other English Caribbean colonies.” South Carolina, then, arose from a different cultural tradition than the colonies of New England and the Chesapeake …”
I’ve spent countless hours on this website explaining our kinship with the British West Indies. The American Revolution artificially sundered the Deep South from the British West Indies. In 1776, there were 26 British colonies in the Americas, and we had far more in common with the ones which remained loyal to the Crown. We shared a common civilization with Barbados, the Leeward and Windward Islands, and Jamaica. Louisiana shared a common civilization with Saint-Domingue, Guadeloupe and Martinique. Florida shared a common civilization with Cuba.
Are we Anglo-Saxons or Normans as our ancestors thought? The answer is probably a bit of both. We’ve been heavily influenced by both the Caribbean and the North. The “South” is best properly seen as a transition zone between the pure slave societies of the Caribbean and the pure settler societies of North America. We managed to be both a slave society and a settler society. As it happens, the one country in the world with which we have this in common is Cuba.
Anyway, the point is that purity spiraling is based on a false image of our past and is a distraction from what we need to focus on in the present. European immigration only grazed the South in the 20th century. In the 21st century of low birthrates and dying populations, it is a moot issue and the small differences that do exist between us will be erased by time. We have much more important things to do like defending our monuments which are under assault, repulsing the Third World invasion and nurturing a discourse online that will stimulate and revive Southern national consciousness.
A serious movement doesn’t have time to debate inane questions like “should slavery be restored in the 21st century” or “should non-Anglos be sterilized” or “should all the non-Whites be exterminated” or “should abortion be legalized to cull the black population,” etc., etc. Every single one of these red herrings drives a wedge and would contribute to our stigmatization and marginalization.
At its core, the South is White and Anglo-Protestant. It can and should remain that way. At the same time, we should acknowledge that we have always had Christian and non-British minorities, as well as ties to the rest of the wider world. There is no such thing as a “pure” culture. It is a mistake to base our identity on the idealization of a “pure” culture that never has or ever will exist.