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What Is It about Savannah?

2009.February.18

[apologies for the delays in getting the last few out... they're just as important, I assure you!]

I had been to Savannah once before, on a business trip with the now-defunct Leadership for a Changing World program. I remember being sucked in because it was my first Southern city to explore as an adult and by that time, I was already beginning to miss my roots (non-progressive though they were). We had stayed in a supposedly four-star hotel downtown, where the garish decorations could not disguise a bug problem and blatant segregation on the staff. I got the feeling on that first trip that Savannah was a beautiful town in its own right but that it had a bit of an identity crisis going on. It was hung (possibly for a long time) on the precipice of choosing an identity, like a beautiful cheerleader who is too compassionate to let the jocks pick on the nerds, but too popular to intervene. At one time, Savannah was one of the richest cities in the world, but of course with that wealth came the injustice and indignities of slavery. Especially after I took a ghost tour, which (White-) washed all of Savannah’s rougher history in favor of stories of lost (White) love and bitter (White) family disputes, I got the sense that Savannah was in denial of a history they could not ignore. That first visit was in 2005, and I hadn’t even seen Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil yet.

Sights: Tybee Island Lighthouse, exhibits at the Savannah College of Art and Design (including a graphic narrative display that featured The Devil’s Panties among others), Gallery Espresso Coffee Shop.

Topics: lots of picture-taking, love of lighthouses, the ill-likelihood of finding the perfect book for my research in a lighthouse gift shop, that book when I found it, the exhilaration of being around artists, how segregated River Street seemed, how un-segregated everywhere else seemed (compared to 2005 especially), getting lost on the two US80’s, art in the bathroom, was mayonnaise crossing the line in the sexy-woman-objectifies-self-with-food paintings for sale, the concept of “meta” and the likelihood of its inherent pretentiousness, how well we do or do not learn American History in school and elsewhere, Whiteness of SCAD, Jennifer Leigh Dunlap.

Soundtrack: just talking, navigating, and the radio.

We got around to watching Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (thank you Netflix) that night, which just confused us all the more…

2 comments

  1. the reason you don’t get it: Are white people in the south not allowed to look back to history and stories of the past that pertain to white people? If the story is interesting why not? Why does everything have to be race related?

    You are just another person trying to make everyone in the south a racist. I have lived in the south for over 40 years, people just don’t think that way. I have met more racist black people in this town. If you lived here you would understand.


    • It’s true, I can’t know the heart of a city where I do not live, but I was born and raised White in a Southern city with race issues of its own and I have yet to meet one person here, there, or anywhere else, White, Black, or “other”, who is completely without racism.
      Frankly, I love Savannah, I find its conflicts and idiosyncrasies just as fascinating as those in my home town. All I am trying to do is ask some questions, not the least of which would be why my visit in 2005 seemed so much more segregated than my 2009 visit.
      There is a second part to this visit yet to be posted. I hope you will read it and give me your honest opinion, whether or not we agree about anything.



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