Everyone knows about the racial and class divides that plague
My vantage point on this is actually better than most. In the circles I run in, I’m almost always the only native Savannahian in the conversation. It’s been this way for years, so much so that it hardly even registers anymore.
But I’ve noticed an unmistakable change lately. It used to be whenever a non-native found out I’m from here, I always — and by always, I mean 100 percent of the time — got the same response: A smile followed by the statement, “You don’t have an accent!”
(A variation, favored by New Yorkers, is the more accusatory interrogative, “Where’s your accent?”)
I’ve never once been offended by this, even though the not-so-subtle inference is that as a native I’m expected to behave like a cast member from Hee-Haw.
But now things are different. The past few times I’ve told someone I’m a native Savannahian, two new things have happened:
First, their facial expression instantly falls to the floor, as if I’ve said I was dying from a terminal disease.
Then — and this is the kicker — they take a step back. Almost as if they’re afraid it’ll rub off.
What does this mean? I’m pretty sure there are no personal hygiene issues involved. Whatever it is, one has to take it seriously.
Is it politics? Are these just transplants from more liberal areas who actually believe all the “red-state, blue-state” claptrap?
Is it prejudice? Do these recent arrivals think all Southerners are shoeless, drooling extras from the Deliverance shoot?
Or are they finally onto something?
Let me explain:
Ever since Richard Florida’s appearance here, and his talk of the importance of encouraging open-mindedness despite the “squelchers” in the community, my eyes have really opened to the entrenched, defeatist attitudes that new arrivals to Savannah often have to overcome in their efforts to make things happen here.
In the old days, disappointed and frustrated transplants either left town — or just figured if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.
(Indeed, some of the worst squelchers I’ve met aren’t locals at all, but transplants who’ve “gone native,” in the old British phrase. They now routinely school the locals at that favorite
But nowadays, maybe recent arrivals to our area have become less willing to go native, less willing to turn the other cheek — hence their new, zero-tolerance attitude towards us locals.
Maybe they’ve gotten tired of being squelched.
Maybe we should say, “it’s about time.”
It’s a point to ponder. I’d be interested in your thoughts. You can e-mail me from a safe, noncontagious distance at
On to other issues: This week Kathleen Graham — a fellow native, ironically enough — is back, with her report from last week’s screening of Kilowatt Ours, part of the ‘Creative Minds’ symposium put on by Savannah Country Day.
I wasn’t able to attend every event, but if Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s appearance Saturday at the Trustees was any indication, it was a great success. With about three-quarters of the orchestra level seated, turnout perhaps wasn’t what one ideally would have liked. On the other hand, at $50 a pop on a Saturday morning, maybe that’s a pretty good turnout after all.
Whether or not the numbers worked out is debatable, but what isn’t debatable is the very high level of interest the event generated among local opinion leaders (both local and non-local, I must say!).
Kudos to Country Day Headmaster Tom Bonnell for sticking to his guns despite what I understand was a firestorm of criticism from some of the more conservative parents, i.e., “squelchers,” at the school.
Longtime contributor Robin Wright Gunn (fancy that, another native!) returns to our pages with a look at four decidedly non-stereotypical local couples in this week’s Lead Story, “My Funny Valentine.”
St. Patrick’s Day is a month away, but this weekend you can get your Irish up early at the annual Savannah Irish Festival. Check out Jim Reed’s overview this week.
Moreso than other Irish-themed events around town, the Irish Festival focuses on music. This year’s guests include Chulrua, The Kildares, The McKrells, Roger Drawdy and the Firestarters (my own faves) and local troubadours Frank Emerson and Harry O’Donoghue.
A particularly worthy free event happens Saturday and Sunday nights at AASU’s Fine Arts Auditorium, as Ballet Savannah combines with Sankofa Dance Theatre for a high-energy, high-quality performance to commemorate Black History Month.
Check out the preview by Linda Sickler this week. (Yours truly took the photo — I’m gradually getting better at the camera thing.)