Honor - a double-edged sword: An examination of the South's "culture of honor" wounding of two races
Degree Granting Department
Hunt Hawkins, Ph.D.
Southern honor, Southern family life, Southern violence, Black manhood, Southern studies
This work expands the understanding of the "culture of honor" that social psychologists maintain exists in the American South. Social psychologists attribute the higher incidence of violent crimes, especially murder committed by white men in the South as compared to Northern white men, to this "culture of honor." While social psychologists have restricted their work to white men, this work explores how this distinct culture has impacted the Southern black community while uncovering deeper ways in which the culture has affected the Southern white community. Using historically-based literature and film by African Americans, the work provides a more comprehensive look at the Southern "culture of honor." In the "culture of honor" notions of honor involve the entire community, with the family as the central unit of honor. Male and female family members possess significant responsibilities in regards to carrying and protecting family honor. Once familial honor is compromised or
lost, a violent retaliation occurs. Legal and social institutions support the culture by assuming an apathetic attitude towards violent acts committed in defense of honor. The four works selected for this study allow for an insightful look into the Southern "culture of honor." While each work presents various aspects of the "culture of honor," they all contribute to a unique understanding of the culture. In Your Blues Ain't Like Mine, Bebe Moore Campbell illustrates the damaging affects the culture has on black and white families in the South. Ernest Gaines's A Gathering of Old Men depicts how Southern black men who, for decades, have been victims of violence at the hands of white men choose to assert their own toughness. The film Rosewood by John Singleton represents the film industry's contemporary depiction of strong, black male figures in the South. Finally, Michael Schultz's made for television film For Us, The Living celebrates the passion behind black men like Civil Rights'
champion Medgar Evers, who refused to accept the violent "rule of retaliation" adhered to by Southern white men. From this study, the Southern "culture of honor" emerges as a much more complex institution than originally presented by social psychologists.
Scholar Commons Citation
Williams, Vernetta K., "Honor - a double-edged sword: An examination of the South's "culture of honor" wounding of two races" (2007). USF Tampa Graduate Theses and Dissertations.