From an LA Times interview with author and professor Imani Perry on her new book South to America.
Wow. [laughs] I mean, there are many wonderful things about L.A., but having had family that moved from Alabama to L.A., that would be a huge mischaracterization. Everyone has gone back South. The promise of L.A. proved not to actually be as promising. I’ll say, having left Alabama young and spent most of my time coming of age in Massachusetts, one of the things that’s interesting for me is I experienced many more acts of racial aggression in Boston than in Alabama. Slurs, physical aggression of a sort I’d never experienced.
I think this is how people are socialized to think about racism, right? We are trained to think of racism as a Southern problem, as opposed to thinking the ways of the South shaped how we do race everywhere. The fact that the nation began there, built its prosperity off Southern land and unfree labor, and also the genocidal relationship to Indigenous people that becomes a way of doing things. So when we talk about gentrification, we need to think about that as rooted in the very beginning: Just move people out. When we talk about extreme poverty, children in cages, all those things come from this history; we have learned these habits. So to tell the story of the South as the story of the nation helps us all become more honest about what this nation is. That’s the precursor to really deep transformation.