Why I’m ashamed to be from North Carolina
I never moved out of Asheville’s liberal bubble growing up, so I labeled everywhere else in North Carolina as progressive. While the state does not reflect each of its individual residents, as I got older, the childhood charm slowly wore off to expose the corrupt underbelly of the state I believed to know.
As time passes North Carolina remains in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. It becomes harder to be proud of my home state and I keep quiet about where I am from because I do not want North Carolina’s actions and beliefs to reflect my own.
I understand North Carolina’s southern heritage and how many from here possess far more conservative ideas than reflected in Asheville, but I fail to understand why it goes so far as to make regressive social movements only detrimental to itself. North Carolina does not seem like a state anymore, just an embarrassment.
The most offensive gesture being House Bill 2 — which was approved in March — obscenely discriminating against transgender people while also prohibiting local governments from affecting employment conditions in private companies.
I could barely comprehend its existence, let alone the fact it had support. According to Public Policy Polling, 35 percent of North Carolinians support the bill, which is not as much as the 44 percent who oppose it, but is enough to still be a problem.
The controversial nature of it, coupled with the fact it has not been repealed, sets North Carolina so far behind most of the U.S. in terms of social progression. If anything, the state regressed back to a point of ignorance. A point which seems to be celebrated by certain residents.
Similar residents advocate for more gun rights in a time where police shootings have become a common occurrence. In the wake of Keith Scott in Charlotte there are still those who want to add more guns to the equation in hopes more people can adequately protect themselves.
According to International Business Times in 2016, there have already been 708 documented deaths in police shootings.
It is sad to admit police shootings are becoming a daily part of life, yet gun rights activists clamour for those rights, which apparently stay under constant oppression by those who ask for more gun safety.
I also lament the idea of protecting people of color from the police who are supposed to be protecting them.
The irony is palpable, yet upsetting.
The problem with irony is when it goes unseen. When people combat “Black Lives Matter” with “All Lives Matter” they fail to understand what the actual movement represents. They wave Confederate flags in protest with no knowledge of the oppression it stands for. Discrimination in North Carolina has not gone away and I doubt it ever will.
This does not mean I pigeonhole all residents of North Carolina or the South as bigoted racists. Growing up in this type of environment my whole life shows how slow progress takes and how unwilling some are to change, even if it just involves asking them to respect their neighbors regardless of their skin color, religion or political beliefs.
As one can see from HB2 and the spike in shootings in North Carolina and the U.S., there exists an imbalance in the social structure. The idea we have to fight or kill for people to accept one another only shows how out of touch North Carolina really is within a country also resisting change. I refuse to be proud of where I am from because of what it stands for — I refuse to embrace ignorance.
In defense of the Old North State
Ah, North Carolina! The pride of 10 million people can be summed up in the opening lyrics of our state song, “The Old North State:”
“Carolina! Carolina! Heaven’s blessings attend her!
While we live we will cherish, protect and defend her;
Tho’ the scorner may sneer at and witlings defame her,
Still our hearts swell with gladness whenever we name her.”
From mountain to sea, the borders of the Tar Heel state contain everything desirable in a place someone could call home. We can marvel at the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains or, in less than a half-day drive, relax on the sandy beaches of the Outer Banks.
Honestly, there’s nothing better than whole-hog barbecue prepared in the Eastern North Carolina style. The vinegary spice of George’s BBQ Sauce combined with the coolness of coleslaw deserves to be experienced by every human being on earth.
Unfortunately, not every resident of our state views it from such a positive perspective. It’s possible to understand their reasoning, but a universe where being born in North Carolina is shameful is unfathomable.
Since the March 23 passage of House Bill 2, our state has worn a black eye. As a result of legislation attempting to restrict the expression of its residents’ gender identities, our state wears a proverbial scarlet letter.
Because of this much-maligned statute, North Carolina received plenty of unfavorable press. Even now, major news outlets still report on the status of HB2.
In a recent ESPN.com article, Charlotte native Stephen Curry recently commented on HB2’s effects on sports in our state. This sort of news coverage does a disservice to North Carolina as a whole, presenting a distorted view to the rest of the nation.
Pat McCrory may be a terrible person in the eyes of many, but he is nowhere near the level of bigoted hate mongering that George Wallace was. Nor do McCrory’s ideologies reflect those of all North Carolinians.
Despite North Carolina’s passage of HB2, I have not lost faith in our state. People from the Southern U.S. are not backwoods folks with archaic ideologies. Politically, most would assume we are strictly conservative and right-leaning, but that is not completely true.
POLITICO recently did a rundown of the 11 crucial swing states, the aptly named “battleground states,” presidential candidates must focus on. Based on the most reliable, up-to-date polling data, Clinton has an average 45.2 percent favorability rating. Trump is not far behind at 42.6 percent.
Aside from HB2, many conversations involving our state focus on the Sept. 20 death of Keith Lamont Scott at the hands of the Charlotte Police Department.
Instead of basing North Carolina’s character on the slaying of Scott, his death should be viewed through the same lens as other police shootings — as a symptom of under-trained and trigger-happy law enforcement officers.
Also, North Carolina only accounts for 3 percent of the 852 reported police shootings in 2016, based on data collected by killedbypolice.net. Compare that to our neighbors Virginia, Tennessee and South Carolina, who average around 2 percent, and it’s easy to see our state is not an outlier.
I am not downplaying the significance of North Carolina residents dying at the hands of police officers, but police violence is a nationwide epidemic and must be addressed as such.
There is no reason to label North Carolina as ignorant or behind the curve of social progression. Yes, our state government implements regressive legislation, but that does not reflect our state’s true nature.
Our state motto is “To be, rather than to seem,” and that is a fitting commentary on the current state of affairs here. Instead of focusing on what our state seems to represent, advocates for social and political change must actively seek to affect that change.
Those hesitant to fully embrace their home state and claim it proudly should make a rational assessment. What is currently happening in our state, however negative, should not overshadow all the great things North Carolina has to offer.