“God isn’t real.”
Now, before you go down this road, know that there aren’t a ton of good things that can come out of a conversation like this. At best, you’ll have a multitude of people promising to pray for your and keep you in their thoughts in the same breath that they invite you to church. At worst, you’ll have people telling you to burn in hell and that the devil will get you if you don’t get your life straight.
Most Alabamians believe very strongly in a higher power, and because religion is so embedded in Southern culture, you can expect an earful if you’re cutting against the grain on one of the most fundamental topics of the region. Religion is a recursive part of childhood (even for the nonreligious folks), because you can’t escape its influence.
“Bigger government is the answer.”
You’ll rarely find a conservative Republican who believes this, and even less so in Alabama. It’s not that people in the state hate the government. Most simply believe that government should take a smaller role in free market economics and stop taking half a decade to finish basic roadwork. It’s not uncommon to hear problems blamed on the government that aren’t even related to government enterprises because it fits the narrative of a smaller, more streamlined operation that most conservatives are looking for.
So, unless you want your ear talked off about how Obamacare is a sham and how government-backed unions are making “simple” jobs like roadwork far too complicated, don’t bring it up.
Alabama can be kind of a mixed bag. If you’re talking to a younger generation, you might skate by on potentially incendiary topics. But if you’re talking to a more traditional deep-South Alabamian, be ready for the whole spiel about how you and people like you are ruining the country by trying to change the definition of marriage and relationships. You’ll know you’ve hit critical mass when someone comes out with the “it’s a slippery slope” line.
Thankfully, this is a critique that’s fading with a generation. Young folks, even in Alabama, are more likely to accept positivity at face value, but you should approach with caution. Choosing who you disclose this one to can be the difference between civil conversation between friends and losing a friendship.
This one isn’t a generational thing (although the nation is becoming more liberal, as a whole).
You’re likely to touch off a very strongly-worded conversation about conservatism in Alabama, which consistently vies for the title of Most Conservative State in the Union. Given that it’s a hardline red state, this is another minefield to tread carefully if you don’t want to risk friendships or potentially isolate yourself from a particular social group.
“Eh, I like baseball better.”
It might not sit easy with the Alabamian you’re talking to if they’re a diehard football fan, but most will give it a pass with little more than a bristle. Unless you start talking about how much better baseball is than football. It’s easy to inflame this topic to the point of sacrilege by trashing Alabama’s (and the Southeast’s) favorite sport by trying to tear it down for the sake of another franchise.
“You’re all just southern hicks.”
“Hicks” can be a derogatory statement in the South. It’s probably one of those things that should be put to bed — along with the “redneck / hillbilly” stereotype being a Southern-only thing, or judging people by their accents.
There are some really smart people in Alabama, from college professors to environmental and atmospheric scientists. It’s true that you’ve also got your standard, backcountry-livin’, mud-lovin’ country boys, but most Alabama natives aren’t a bunch of uncivilized hill folk.
“Two words: Gun Control!”
Between hunting and an insane news media that likes to lead with bleeds, talking about gun control in Alabama can easily be interpreted as the antithesis of American southern culture. People love their guns across the state — and this is in a state surrounded by other gun-loving states. Even people who don’t own guns are pro-gun in the South, and Alabama is a strong supporter of all things firearm from top to bottom.
If you’re not from around these parts, the gun culture craze can seem a little off-putting. However, don’t expect a ton of answers about it. This is something of a shutdown topic, because the overwhelming majority believe that gun control won’t solve the issues our nation faces.
“Y’all isn’t a word.”
It is, actually. This is one of the only times you’ll get people to whip out a dictionary in the middle of a conversation — so you’d be wrong on that count. But if you’re just trying to stir up trouble, keep insisting that it’s wrong. Alabamians will lose their mind over this one, sometimes, just because of the time it took for the word to gain legitimacy.
“Racism isn’t a big deal.”
America has a pretty big racism problem. It’s something that stares the nation in the face at every turn, whether we’re talking about police brutality or poverty. The truth of it is, Alabamians have some pretty strong opinions on race and racism, and your mileage will vary depending on who you talk to and what part of the state you’re in.
Some pockets have a minimal black community, or have witnessed firsthand a group of hispanic workers constructing houses and helping out as farmhands. In smalltown Alabama, other races are often seen as threats to livelihoods, whether that belief is true or not. Head into Montgomery or Birmingham, where the black-white ratio is a little more even, and you’ve got a whole other set of problems. Many well-to-do whites have dodged segregation by putting their kids into private schools or magnet schools where money or access to resource is a factor. What you end up with is a racially divided (read: segregated) school system that shouldn’t exist — but does.
So yes, even at the epicenter of the Civil Rights movement, racism is still a thing. A great many people have hard feelings about it, and it’s easy to rub someone the wrong way.