The Guardian

The white southerners who changed their views on racism

In a follow-up to our piece on US southerners’ views on race, we talk to people about their racial miseducation
Bartender Krista Hinman grew up a racist, she now admits openly. But she now speaks out loudly in Mississippi against white supremacy. Photograph: Delreco Harris for the Guardian

The first song Krista Hinman learned to play on the piano was Dixie, the de facto battle hymn of the Confederate States of America. She learned the minstrel-song-turned-slavery-anthem growing up in Southaven, Mississippi, a predominantly white suburb of Memphis, Tennessee.

“Everything I ever did was white,” Hinman, now 44 and a professional bartender, says on a southern-hot afternoon in the courtyard behind her apartment in Jackson, Mississippi’s majority-black capital city.

The Ku Klux Klan, the white gang that rose again to terrorize black residents during the civil rights movement, had mostly died down by the time of Hinman’s childhood – yet her neighbor in the 1970s had remained a member.

Was she racist herself?

“Oh yeah,” Hinman says. Born in 1974, she admits to regularly dropping the N-word and delighting in racist jokes with friends. “I was all in. I believed every single bit of it … all the ‘heritage’ stuff.”

She often regurgitated revisionist civil war tropes long embedded in southern textbooks: that secession wasn’t over slavery; that the war was a glorious uprising against federal tyranny; that slaves were happy and adored their masters until the Yankees up north riled them up. She also defended the Confederate flag and monuments.

In his country home in Mississippi, Bob Fuller shows a history textbook he studied from as a teenager.
In his country home in Mississippi, Bob Fuller shows a history textbook he studied from as a teenager. Photograph: Delreco Harris for the Guardian

Hinman’s parents did not want racist jokes and the N-word inside their home. Still, while watching the TV show In the Heat of the Night when she was a kid, she quipped that she might bring home a black boyfriend, angering her father.

“I would beat your ass to New York and back,” he said.

Many white southerners had adopted an uneven racial code since violent

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Guardian

The Guardian3 min read
How Wonderful To Watch Simone Biles' Defiant Joy In Our Dark Times | Candice Frederick
Amid depressing news these days such as abortion bans, mass shootings and rampant Hollywood sexual assault cases, it can be easy to overlook an event so uplifting that it almost sounds like science fiction. Just a few days ago the gymnast Simone Bile
The Guardian16 min readPolitics
The Myth Of Eurabia: How A Far-right Conspiracy Theory Went Mainstream
Once an obscure idea confined to the darker corners of the internet, the anti-Islam ideology is now visible in the everyday politics of the west. How did this happen? By Andrew Brown
The Guardian4 min read
New Museum Tells Gripping Story Of Liberation Of Paris 75 Years On
Basement used by resistance as control centre transformed ahead of anniversary of Nazis surrender