Before we came being southern wasn't something to claim
That flag wasn't something to fly it was something to blame
Smilin' and shuckin' and jivin' I was so ashamed
They did us dirty, apparently an appropriate name
Before Southern Rap there were very few positive attributes associated with the South. Slavery and Jim Crow was the lens through which the South and southern people were viewed.
The flag (Confederate) was the embodiment of this view of the South, a representation of slavery and Jim Crow. The Confederate flag was a part of the state flag of many southern states, including Georgia, the state Cee-Lo is from.
Although the State of Georgia removed the Confederate flag from its state flag in 2001, the fact that it remained for as long as it did spoke to the way the state, and the dominant culture, viewed its black citizens.
Blacks, during slavery and Jim Crow, were expected to shuck and jive to entertain white people and to make themselves seem less threatening to the dominant white culture. Cee-Lo is saying that to be raised under such expectations is shameful (and if one internalizes that shame, the cycle will continue and society will never change [a reference to the line “But you can’t break the molding by holding your breath]).
Thus, the nickname The Dirty South was appropriately given as the dual meaning of dirty (as in to be done dirty) is to be mistreated. The Dirty South is a term of endearment that belies the gruesome past of the South.
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