I wish I were in…Dixie?

What do you think when you hear the word “dixie?” What associations come to mind? Do you find it derogatory? Is it racist? Or is it just a simple-minded reminiscence of a time long past never to return?
This has been an issue on the diversity committee this week. A diversity colleague likened the word “dixie” to the “n” word. Is that taking it too far?

Here’s the sitch: Last week at our Choral concert, a group of students performed the song “Sons of Dixie” 

To prepare, students did research on the song and many local Civil War battles often overlooked in US History survey courses. In the song, there is a Confederate and a Northern side, and to the best of my knowledge, there is a call and response element to the song. The only black student in the class was singing on the Confederate side. Several parents and teachers felt the performance was racially insensitive. Right now we are trying to make the situation right. At first, I immediately thought, “of course we shouldn’t preform songs with such titles.” But now, my thoughts are less clear.

Of course, we care about the students the most. We want them to have a deeper understanding, and we don’t want to let the situation pass by without a “teachable moment.” But what should our reaction be?

Here are my questions.

Would the song ever be appropriate given context and background?

The nature of theater and performance is to be provocative, not safe. But how provocative? At what risk? At what cost?

Would it be appropriate to sing a song between gay lovers such as Rent’s “Take me or Leave me?” (How fun would that be to preform, BTW?)

Why has no one mentioned the gender issues with the title “Sons of Dixie?”

How have I never realized that the name “Dixie Chicks” is a double whammy?

Does “dixie” always have to be reminiscent of slavery, or can it mean something else?

What do you think?

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3 responses to “I wish I were in…Dixie?

  1. excuse my ‘polyanna’ notion, but what happened to the days of ‘whistiling Dixie’? those connotate halcyon days to me.

  2. Great questions, Moxie. Did these same teachers and parents applaud your school’s production of Les Mis, which has scenes of prostitution, misogynistic lines, and battlefield cries?

    I understand the concerns of parents but we also can’t ignore history. I do not support the Confederate flag as a “display of southern pride” but this song seems different, and not as offensive to me. I’m not in the midst of the heated debate on your campus, but if you discuss the background of this term and the history of this time period, the argument can be made, that it is part of the overall learning experience for the child. I’m SURE the teacher was not trying to be racist in having students perform this song.

    The situation brings to light a lot of interesting issues though. Thanks for sharing with your readers!

  3. Mox, I find it interesting that this song came out in 1998 as a compilation CD on which Dr. Maya Angelou offered readings and narrated “the voice of slavery.” I’d love to hear her thoughts…

    We have similar discussions in English class regarding some of the literature we teach/read in 7th grade. For example, while Of Mice and Men continues to rank as one of the top ten most frequently banned books because it is loaded with racist, feminist, and violent language, we read it. We not only read it, but together uncover the power of language, words, and our history.

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