Correct me if I'm wrong.
After my first article, "Downeasta in the Deep South"
, I got a lot of unpleasant reception from some of my friends down here in L.A. (lower Alabama). Instead of the usual greeting, I was frequently asked "So what else don't you like about the South?" I tried to explain that my article was not a critique of the cultural in the area, but a comparison of the differences with Maine. But, that still didn't seem to appease their indignity. Nor did asking them where I was wrong appear to help either. So I asked a friend who wasn't quite so offended what I had done wrong.
"Just because my grandma's crazy, and I tell people she is, doesn't mean I want you telling people she is."
Feeling like I'd been blindsided I bought a book on Alabama history and one on Maine. Granted Maine history is rather boring compared to Alabama. The political squabbles are mostly petty and money and power don't buy you much in Maine unless you do something benevolent like donate a state park. On the other hand, money and power can get you just about anything in Alabama. Including a "Get Out of Jail Free" card for murder.
Ironically, I also learned that slavery was fading out because it was too costly prior to arrival of the cotton gin It was a damn yankee from Massachusetts, Eli Whitney, who's invention turned cotton into a cash crop that brought it back.
I recently met a black man who'd worked for over 20 years at one of the local saw mills in the area. He told me he made $8.00 an hour and seemed rather proud of the fact. I suppose compared to what he was making 20 years ago it is quite a difference. Compared to what I was making in Maine before I moved to Alabama, it was really sad. In fact, I once told a co-worker what I earned for doing the same work I was doing down here, and he tried to tell me that it was because of unions. When I told him there were no unions in this business in Maine, he replied, "Well, the cost of livings higher." Twice as high? I don't think so.
Granted the income and property taxes are higher in Maine, but those with more pay more. Alabama is the only state in the union that taxes incomes under $5000. Maine property taxes are based on market value, compared to the property taxes in the area, which is based on use? Which means you can own a prime piece of real estate in the heart of town, but as long as it sits idle you pay very little while the value increases.
And let's not forget sales tax. In this area of Alabama, it's 8%. In Maine, it's 5%. I know, it's only a 3% difference, but Maine doesn't tax food, and that 8% can make a lot of difference on the dinner table. There's an interesting catch to that though - EBT, Electronic Benefits Transfer, or as they used to call it before the computer revolution, food stamps. The Federal government gives low-income people supplemental income from taxpayers dollars to buy food and the Alabama state government skims 8% off the top. Nice way to pad the state coffers.
As for education? I won't even go there. Last I knew Alabama was still running 49th out of 50.
And prejudice is still quite prevalent in this rural area of the Deep South. You won't see it in the tat a tat and pleasantries of everyday exchange. But, in the undertones and nuances it's there. The Whites expect little from the Blacks and the Blacks expect little from the Whites. And what you don't expect, you never get.