I'm not sure if I buy this, from Garry Wills (New York Review of Books):
[W]hen I went back to Atlanta to see my beloved grandmother ... [s]he told me not to hold change between my lips while groping for a pocket to put it in--"That might have been in a nigger’s mouth." Once, when she took me to Mass, she walked out of the church when a black priest came out to celebrate. I wondered why, since she would sit and eat with a black woman who helped her with housework. "It is the dignity--I would not let him take the Lord in his hands."
Tradition dies hard, hardest among those who cannot admit to the toll it has taken on them. That is why the worst aspects of the South are resurfacing under Obama’s presidency. It is the dignity. That a black should have not merely rights but prominence, authority, and even awe--that is what many Southerners cannot stomach. They would let him ride on the bus, or get into Ivy League schools. But he must be kept from the altar; he cannot perform the secular equivalent of taking the Lord in his hands. It is the dignity.
My skepticism arises from a Rumsfeldian known unknown: Had Hillary Clinton defeated Obama in the 2008 primaries and gone on, as she would have, to beat McCain in the general, the white South would have despised President H.R. Clinton with at least equal intensity. It's what the political South does. It hates with inextinguishable vengeance, one born, most likely, of its antebellum paranoia.
Carl Jung speculated about a collective unconscious--one buried deeper than the personal--and in the South we see evidence of such a universality, one steeped in circumscribed ignorance: Governor Rick Scott's rejection of $2 billion in federal money for a jobs-creating, high-speed rail system; Southerners "begging to secede again from the Union"; tepid tea partying elsewhere, but "fermenting to a more toxic brew in the South"; Southern governors rebuffing expanded Medicaid and refusing sex education ("though [the South's] rate of teenage pregnancies is double and in places triple that of New England"); and "fight[ing] federal help with education, preferring to inoculate its children against science by denying evolution."
In the 1830s the Southern slavocracy managed to impose "gag rules" on Congress--even discussions of slavery petitions were impermissble. The South as a whole also conspired to repel all unwanted written material from its borders: imposed, regulated ignorance became regional law. Assorted Northern conspiracies being hatched against the virtuous South were the currency of the latter's parlor rooms, and no molestation of Abe Lincoln's actual political beliefs could be too viciously distorted to go unbelieved. The South created its own, very unreal world, and in prolonging its antebellem delusions through the Jim Crow and Civil Rights eras, the South remained content in its impeccable, hateful ignorance.
Hate Obama because he's black and thus inherently undignified? No, there's hate there all right, but it's hate for hate's sake. The deep white South just has to hate something, or somebody. It's what it does, simply because it's done it for 200 years. It's tradition.