Alabama experience

I am an English business woman and used to own a successful Anglo-American company. An American client from Anniston, Alabama invited me to visit his home town. Whilst there I expressed a wish to visit a black church to hear gospel music, there was a shocked reaction from his friends. A woman asked me 'why would you want to do that? They've got no air conditioning and they smell'.

Later he took me to Birmingham and I asked to visit the site of the Baptist church immortalised in the Joan Baez song "Birmingham Sunday', as the story of the little girls killed at Sunday school by a KKK bomb was so moving. My client told me he didn't know where it was, but I had a suspicion he just didn't want to take me there.

Knowing Alabama's history I had asked him about race relations in this state prior to visiting and he told me he had 'black friends' but I never met them. When I asked about these black friends, it turned out he had no black friends, only black co-workers at the TV station where he worked. Both Alabama and Georgia are scenically beautiful and I love the Southern accent, but I did sense an undercurrent of racism. Also, I suspect that some people feel that they are regarded as inferior to the Northern States.

I have also visited the Northern States (Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York and Michigan) where the atmosphere is very different and attitudes are more like England. However, I did like the South and feel an element of sympathy for the people as attitudes are very ingrained and prejudice is often deep-rooted. The South should feel proud of its positive aspects. The past should be viewed within the context of the era within which events took place. For this reason I do not agree with the tearing down of the statue of a Confederate soldier in North Carolina, for during the civil war such soldiers were doing their duty and should be respected.

The United States is a wonderful amalgamation of people, all of whom were very welcoming to me as a visiter and I do hope 2018 is a positive year for the USA.