The Jackson Herald - July 21, 1999
- Latino culture rising
in the South
The South has always had the issue of race as an underlying factor
in its politics. That great debate reached a climax with the
onslaught of the Civil War, but for decades after the bloodshed
ended, race continued to be a dominate theme in Southern politics.
Even after the civil rights movement of the 1960s, race continued
to be an underlying force that affected the growth of suburbs,
the dynamics of public education and the culture in general.
But a new demographic trend may make these cultural shifts even
more complex in the decades ahead. A huge boom in immigrants
from Latin America and high birth rates project that Latino Americans
will be the dominate minority in the nation within six years.
Already in Florida, California and the Southwest, Hispanic immigrants
make up a large percentage of the population. That shift is beginning
to also be felt in Georgia where Latin American immigrants have
come for employment in the agriculture and poultry industries.
Although not strictly a racial issue, the growth in the Latino
population will have a profound influence on Southern politics
and culture during the coming decades. Already salsa has surpassed
ketchup on our tables and Latino music is reshaping our pop culture
the way African-American music did in the 1960s.
This cultural blending has always been a part of American history.
We're all the product of an immigrant from sometime in history.
But by far the dominate source of immigrants historically came
from Europe and with them came the dominate parameters of our
culture. The structure of our government came from British, French,
German and Italian roots and our general culture came from the
blending of those and other European backgrounds.
Although there were a large number of black Americans from Africa
all through American history, their cultural and political influences
remained largely suppressed until the 1960s. Although race was
an underlying factor in our politics, it was from a perspective
of separation and not integration. While white European cultures
intermingled, married and created new, blended generations, racial
differences isolated black and white cultures into their own
subcultures defined by skin colors.
But such distinctions may not be true with the influx of Latin
American ethnic groups. While there are a variety of distinct
Latino subcultures, those differences mean little in the larger
American society. And while there are distinct ethnic and cultural
differences between Latino and Americans of European origins,
there are few racial differences. There is the likelihood, then,
that within a few generations, those of Latino and European origins
will have married across ethnic lines, creating a blended culture
that is neither completely European or Hispanic.
While that is an obvious prediction, exactly what impact the
two cultures will have on each other is not so predictable. Will
successive generations of Latino offspring succumb to the more
shallow temptations of American pop culture, or will they preserve
their traditional cultural values of strong, extended families?
Will successive generations carry forward the strong work ethic
of their immigrant forefathers, or will that fade as it has within
the broader American culture?
On the political side, what impact will the Latino culture have
on state and national politics? While the Latino vote is now
majority Democratic, that is not a firm allegiance formed from
decades of political strife. Republicans view the Latino vote
as a potential swing vote for their party, given that much of
the Latino culture has the same conservative values as many Republicans
The Southwest and West have already been through much of this
transition since that area was largely Hispanic when settled
by European immigrants in the 19th century. But for the American
South, this rise of another ethnic minority is something new
and foreign. The cultural and political landscape in the South
has for so long been defined in terms of black and white that
for many it's impossible to adjust to any new balance of power.
But this is a shift that could, in the long run, have a profound
impact on our communities, on our cultural values and on our
politics. We are entering a new phase in Southern American history,
a phase that will be dominated by the assimilation of Latino
influences into the existing political and social cultures.
The landscape is changing and we should all be aware that our
traditional points of reference will change along with that.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.
The Jackson Herald
July 21, 1999
Wither the work?
That the Pendergrass city council voted Tuesday to pay its mayor's
position $400 per month is no surprise. That council attempted
to take that action last year, but learned later that it could
not institute such a payment for the current mayor.
But we continue to wonder just what a mayor of such a small town
does for that $400 per month? The town has no police department
(although some city leaders want to start one), no garbage system,
no water system and few streets to be maintained. In fact, like
several other small towns in the county, Pendergrass does very
little in the way of public service for its citizens.
The truth is that Pendergrass is a town in search of a mission.
It has bankrolled a fair amount of money, but it has no place
to spend those funds. Anything that municipality can do is already
being done by the county government.
If the citizens of Pendergrass are happy with such an arrangement,
then so be it. But we don't want to hear them complain about
government growth and duplication of services if they're content
to sit by and allow their own small town government to pay for
positions that have little work involved.
Government bureaucrats aren't just found in Washington D.C. or
Atlanta - they can be found even in Pendergrass.
to the Editor
The Jackson Herald
July 21, 1999
Upset with lights
turned off for race at Peach State
This evening (Saturday) I attended the racing program at Peach
State Speedway. The last race on the program was the "Cruiser
Class," and was one of the worst examples of bad judgment
that I have ever witnessed. I have been a racing fan for many
years and have been going to the Peach State track for over six
After many different classes of racing, the final class of 10
cars went on the track. Each week the promoters do something
different to this group of cars. This week, they chose to turn
off the lights on the track, 10:30 at night, high speeds and
no lights. This borders on some of the same types of stunts that
are pulled on WCW and WWF wrestling. Those events, of course,
are planned and staged, this wasn't.
To further compound a bad situation, the race announcer was telling
folks that the drivers could see just fine. This was an absolute
erroneous statement. One of the drivers that I spoke with after
the race said that he could see nothing coming out of turn three
to turn four, except a light at the bull-riding ring. Apparently
the idea was to kill the lights for a few moments. But the lights
must recycle before coming back on. So rather than stopping the
race, the promoters kept going. The vast majority of the fans
were calling for the lights to be turned back on. Several of
the fans, some of whom had family in the race, got very vocal
and were almost arrested. Rather than stop the race, confront
the situation and apologize to the fans, the promoters locked
themselves in the race headquarters.
The promoters at Peach State Speedway need to apologize to the
fans and, more importantly, to the drivers. I enjoy going to
Peach State Speedway and believe that their affiliation with
Senoia Speedway can only help to bring better racing. But I am
afraid that this exercise in bad judgment can only cost Peach
State valuable fans.
I stop short of asking for our county commissioners to investigate!
I believe that the fans will be tougher on the promoters than
the commissioners would. But there certainly should be pressure
brought on the promoters to keep this sort of thing from happening
again. Further, I hope that your newspaper will look into this
matter in hopes of preventing this from happening again. The
apology should be placed in the same publications as the advertisements
for the racing program.
Peach State has a nice facility with car racing, go carts and
bull riding. Let's not allow one night of bad judgment to ruin
many more nights of fun and excitement. Fellows, just to racing.
Long-time Peach State patron