Since the election, and after our Jeff Sessions was offered the position of Attorney General, it has become increasingly clear that some portions of the nation aren’t all that crazy about the state of Alabama.
This attitude toward Alabama is not new. I was in a meeting of local artists, craftsmen, and writers from the Black Belt a couple of years back. One extremely talented man had just returned from New York City after basically giving up on getting a meaningful position in the field of art he was pursuing. He felt the number one hurdle keeping him from success was being from Alabama.
He had been born and raised here, and best I could tell without asking questions, it seemed he willingly and enthusiastically fled the state during his early adulthood. And granted, not too many people can be born and raised here without the roots eventually showing.
Oh you can try. You can learn to hide the accent. Make sure not to say y’all or pronounce the “er” at the end of words as “ah.” And you can also dress in such a way that no one would ever know.
And I think he had done just that during his time in New York City. Did it well. Did it so well he no longer blended in here, yet if he had not told us we would have all been left to wonder. But he was open. He shared his disappointment and regret. He felt he had missed out on several opportunities due to the truth his resume revealed about him being from the great state of Alabama.
He said Alabama has a bad reputation and people of here are thought to be a certain way. If not assumed to racist, then we are assumed redneck or backwards, or uneducated, or double relatives to our cousins, or a blend of it all. Country. Poor. Unrefined.
But the people of Alabama who have lived here generation after generation take a little exception with all of the negativity associated with us and our state. We are, as the kids today might say…offended. But only somewhat, because if you are from Alabama you are also pre-programmed not to care too much about what anybody thinks or says – especially anybody north of the Tennessee line.
They don’t call Alabama beautiful for nothing. We are rare in our terrain, having both mountains and beaches. We also have Huntsville and Fairhope. We have Mobile and Montgomery. But mostly, we have small towns connected by two-lane state highways and country county road. We are proud people working to make lives worth living for our families. We stitch into those lives love and goodwill for friends and neighbors and even strangers.
I’ve often said the best thing you can hope for if you have car trouble in some remote part of Alabama, is for a redneck to stop. They know how to fix most things and carry tools in their trucks. They may end up inviting you and your entire family over for supper and to watch the next football game, but they aren’t mean bullies. They are just equipped for self-defense.
All I can figure is that anybody who has bad things to say about Alabama…hasn’t visited long enough to know us.
Amanda Walker is a columnist with The West Alabama Watchman, Al.com, The Thomasville Times, and The Wilcox Progressive Era. For more information, visit her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AmandaWalker.Columnist.