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Casting stones into the void

So many Vermonters have made blanket statements that people in Alabama are ignorant or backwards. That’s its own flavor of prejudice.

Arianna Wolfe, a transplant from Windham County, is a student of history at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

Huntsville, Ala.

In 2018, I moved to Alabama to pursue my studies and, quite honestly, to escape the harshness of Vermont winters (to each their own).

I grew up in Vermont, in downtown Brattleboro for much of that time. I worked at a local bank, and before that I waited tables. I interacted with a lot of people every day, and as the time for me to leave drew near, word that I would be moving to Alabama had spread.

I quickly lost track of the number of times I was warned about the evils of Alabama, or how the people there were “all prejudiced; they just can’t help it.”

I would be told that a smart girl like me shouldn’t be moving to a place where people are so ignorant or backwards.

Eventually, I stopped telling people I was moving or, if I did, I avoided telling them where. How many times could I be expected to explain something that seemed as basic to me as empathy?

I didn’t understand then that I would be sitting in that same position repeatedly for years to come.

* * *

A year after I moved south, Alabama passed into law a bill aimed at dismantling abortion rights. I remember my reaction being visceral, physical.

I felt nauseous, but nothing hurt or scared me more than the reactions from my friends in New England. I sat later that night, with tears running down my face, reading the comments on Facebook by Vermonters suggesting ways of taking care of “the problem.”

One thread suggested the rest of the country send all the bigots to Alabama, build a wall, and set the whole place ablaze.

That is prejudice.

In the last couple of months, someone I consider a friend and ally stated that people in Alabama (and the rest of the South) deserved what they got — after all, they voted for the politicians that created the mess in the first place.

This individual is not alone. I see this sentiment echoed again and again.

* * *

Explaining what a diverse, gerrymandered-to-hell, crazy, beautiful, painful place Alabama is would be a whole other piece.

I will say this: The people here are the best I have ever known. To lean left here, you must become fierce — and, in Alabama, that includes protecting those you love.

So the next time you find yourself sitting with your fingers at the keys, ready to cast stones into the void, remember there are real people, doing real work, fighting real fights for the ones they love.

I suggest you look in the mirror. In what ways do you contribute to the system of White supremacy and Colonial ideology that underpins the institutions of this entire country?

In what ways do your words and actions belittle groups of people for traits they have no control over?

No state is immune to prejudice.

Vermont certainly is no exception.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #567 (Wednesday, June 24, 2020). This story appeared on page B3.

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