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Returning to the South

I didn’t want to go to the recent East Coast North America Owning-Class Workshop in Boston (Massachusetts, USA). In the thirty-two years I’d been in RC, and attended workshops all over the United States, Canada, and Mexico, only two times had I gone to the northeast for a workshop, and both times had been so difficult that afterward I’d intentionally avoided going there. I am a Southern1 USer, born and raised in North Carolina,2 and my family goes back for many generations (to the 1600s) in North Carolina.

When Betsy Beach3 asked me last fall at the West Coast North America Owning-Class Workshop if I would be attending the East Coast one, I said no, that I didn’t go to the northeast for workshops.

Then I received a letter from Jo Saunders.4 When I read the paragraph specifically asking Southerners to attend the East Coast workshop and saying that Southern oppression was a key issue we needed to face in our owning-class work and in our work as USers, I burst into tears and immediately wrote to Betsy and Jo and said that I’d go.

The leaders’ workshop preceeding the general workshop was not hard for me, because I knew the majority of the people there. Then the weekend workshop began, I didn’t know most of the people, and the familiar bad feelings started coming up. When on Saturday morning Jo asked me whom I would like to see in a demonstration on Northerners’5 oppression of Southerners, I knew I had to trust my gut6 and within a short period gave her three names.

That evening Jo did a demonstration with X—, a Northerner, on Southern oppression. I was elated to see the two of them doing this work. Later, after a break, I re-entered the meeting room to find X— sitting by herself. I sat down with her, and we talked. X— said that she still didn’t understand Southern oppression. I said why I felt that working on it was important—both in general and in personal ways. Then X— said that what she did understand was that she and I had never before talked as we were talking then. I nodded, as I knew it was true, and realized that I hadn’t ever been comfortable enough around her to talk to her as an equal.

As I continue to reflect on the workshop, I think that Southern oppression is more subtle, and has affected my relationships—inside and outside of RC—more than I had previously realized.

Southern oppression is at the heart of my life story. I left North Carolina at age eighteen to go “up north” to college—to, in my pre-RC mind, “escape racism.”  I was quickly horrified to find racism alive and well “up north”—in a different, more insidious form. Then at age twenty-one I married a man from Mexico and left the United States for good7 (I thought). When that marriage ended after three years, I moved back to the United States. I knew then that I didn’t want to live in either the South or the North, so I relocated in the west in Denver, Colorado.

I had run into8 RC in North Carolina in 1973, re-found it in Denver in 1975, and have been Co-Counseling ever since. Re-evaluation Counseling has been a lifeline for me—a wonderful contradiction to all my hurts.

Twenty-three years ago I had a daughter, and while she was growing up we visited my mom and siblings, every year, in North Carolina. Because of that, and learning in RC about all the oppressions—especially racism, classism, and Southerners’ oppression—I began to realize that I could go back to North Carolina, that I now understood and knew how to deal with the oppressions that had caused me to leave, and that I would be able to love the rich white people there, meaning the Southern white owning class.  I longed to go back, and in 2004 I moved back to North Carolina. 

I can’t tell you how happy I was9 to be there. I was more myself than I had been since my childhood. After only six months, however, I returned to Denver to help my daughter who’d had a baby. This summer I am moving back to North Carolina for good, and my daughter and granddaughter are also coming, as is my daughter’s dad. I’m looking forward to the work I can do to eliminate oppression from my beloved home state, my wonderful country, and this beautiful world we live in.

Margie Venning
Denver, Colorado, USA
(soon to be Greensboro, North Carolina, USA)

1 Southern refers to the states (in the southeastern part of the United States) that seceded from the United States in 1860 and 1861, leading to the U.S. Civil War—a war fought in part over whether or not slavery should be legal. The Southern states made up the Confederate side in the Civil War.
2 North Carolina is a state in the southeastern United States
3 Betsy Beach is the Area Reference Person for Rhode Island, USA.
4 Jo Saunders is the International Liberation Reference Person for Owning-Class People and was the leader of the East Coast North America Owning-Class Workshop.
5 Northerners are people from the states (in the northeastern United States) that made up the Union side in the U.S. Civil War.
6 Trust my gut means trust my intuition.
7 For good means permanently.
8 Run into means encountered.
9 I can’t tell you how happy I was means I was extremely happy.

Last modified: 2015-01-24 05:29:01+00