50 I CHRONICLESnbut now he lives in upstate New York.nHe clearly wants us to recognize thatnhe’s come a long way from his Mississippinroots, and, for better or for worse,nhe obviously has. But origins will telln—he writes like an angel. I just wish Inagreed with more of what he has tonsay.nHarkness went back to his hometownnfor a visit and was apparentlynticked off to discover that Mississippi isnnot an equitable, color-blind society.nLike (one might ask) where? He doesnnot vouchsafe to us what part of thenU.S. he would have Greenwood emulate,nand I doubt very much that hencould be pleased by the white attitudesnto be found in any American townnwith a significant black presencen(much less any, like Greenwood, withna substantial black majority).nNow I’ve never been to Greenwood.nI’ve never done more than briefly visitnthe Deep South. Maybe Harkness isnright and things in the MississippinDelta are pretty much what they alwaysnhave been. Maybe race relationsnand conditions for blacks arc better innupstate New York or in Chicago ornDetroit or the other cities to whichnblack Mississippians have historicallynmigrated. Maybe so.nBut you wouldn’t know to read hisnarticles that for the past decade and anhalf more blacks have been moving tonthe South (in most cases, probably.nOn ‘ConspiraciesnAgainst the Nation’nThomas Fleming’s broad-brushed editorialn”Conspiracies Against the Nation”n{Chronicles, April ’86) has lednme to conclude that Mr. Fleming’snreturning there) than have been leavingnit. You wouldn’t know from hisnarticle that the South is the only part ofnthe country where the percentage ofnblack families living in poverty hasndecreased in the past few years, or thatnthat percentage is lower now than innthe Midwest. You wouldn’t know thatnMississippi now has more black electednofficials than any other state in thencountry, or that a higher proportion ofnblacks hold public office in the Southnthan in any other region. Younwouldn’t know that an increasingnnumber of Southern politicians, blacknand white, have been elected by biracialncoalitions. You wouldn’t knownthat a majority of Southern whites nowntell the Gallup Poll that they’d vote forna black for President. (OK, so some ofnthem are lying, but what they thinknthey ought to say is important, too.)nNo, the South isn’t a color-blindnsociety. What some of us hope it isnbecoming is a working and relativelyndecent biracial society—a rather differentnthing. (If it can be done, it willnbe no small accomplishment; I rememberna college political sciencencourse that held up as examples ofnsuccessful multiethnic societies Switzerlandnand . . , Lebanon.) Not allnwhites share that goal. Not all arenhappy about the prospect. But a goodnmany of us arc. Harkness has little usenfor what he calls the “old, humorous,nPOLEMICS & EXCHANGESn^S”^nown political philosophy lies precariouslynclose to the extremism of libertarianismn(one of many “extremisms”nhe cautions against), insofar as henseems unwilling to grant any legitimatengovernment intervention into thenprivate lives of individuals.nMr. Fleming’s fear of conservativennnrelentlessly superficial affability” of mynregion, but I suggest that it’s close kinnto the quality known elsewhere asncivility, and that it will get us throughnthis if anything can.nI’m not one of those who feels thatnSouthern whites are uniquely fitted toninstruct the world on race relations.nHarkness makes fun of those who seensomething of value in the South’snunhappy history on this score, and henmay be right to do so. But for whatevernreason — luck has something to donwith it, and so do the goodwill andnpolitical skills of black Southernersn—things are looking up in those partsnof the South that I know best. Andnthey may even be looking up innGreenwood.nThere’s no evidence in his articlenthat Harkness talked to any blacks at allnduring his short visit, much less to anynwho had come back from the cities ofnthe upper Midwest. On his next visit,nhe might try that. He could ask themnwhether they think anything of importancenhas changed.nIt’s OK to talk to black folks now,nJames. They’ll even tell you what theynthink. And maybe that’s the most importantnchange of all.n]ohn Shelton Reed’s latest book,nSouthern Folk, Plain and Fancy, willnbe published this fall by the Universitynof Georgia Press.nstatism is misplaced as he warnsnagainst the dangers of “Baby DoenSquads,” whose only purpose is tonprotect newborns from being deniednlife-saving medical treatment. Parentalnprivacy, and all claims to a “right ofnprivacy,” do not legitimize the willfulntaking of an innocent life for whatevern