My family has laid claim to a variety of nationalities and regional affiliations, yet there are still questions I reflect on from time to time regarding my own claim to my current home. Am I a Southerner, and do I have a right to call myself a Southerner? Will others recognize me as a Southerner, despite my lack of accent and because of my Asian face? And what does it mean to take on this identity—what does it mean for me to claim Dixie?
In the evenings, after the day’s rain, my grandfather drove through Starke counting cars in the lots of other motels, doing the math and feeling like a winner. For guests visiting family members held in the nearby state prison, home of Florida’s electric chair, he offered a special rate, either out of sympathy or, envisioning the stream of customers who would return once a month, good business sense. (Probably both, my mother says.)
Once, in mixed company, another friend and I mentioned how pervasive lynching imagery was. A white friend admitted that she had never seen a single photo. I was shocked, but not surprised. A lynching was a warning. She didn’t need to be warned.