North Carolina, my home state,represents a microcosm of the nation.
How does it do that? Land use,economic development patterns, and population.
Within a 7 hour drive, one could be at the peak of a mountain or digging their feet under sea level. In between there are rivers, lakes, swamps, hills of red clay and sand and even a bit of desert. Both the Piedmont Triad(Greensboro and vicinity) and the Research Triangle have suffered from droughts, rendering many areas barren and some lakes empty. Contrary to popular belief, we also get snow. The mountains see it every year and in the Piedmont it’s been a welcome suprise roughly every other year. Even the coast has seen snow in my lifetime.
Economic Development and Patterns
Secondly, our cities and towns reflect all the major industry patterns of America. We have a finance capital (Charlotte), which has now staged a major international event in hosting the Democratic Convention. We have a Silicon Valley(Raleigh, Durham and the surrounding town/suburbs) which has created a major international network of technology and scientific innovation. It has also hosted an international event, the 2010 NHL All-Star Game. The midwestern former milltowns are evident in Greensboro. It struggles to recreate new industry, but has seen seeds of light, much like Detroit and Cleveland have. It also struggles with some sense of direction, much as Chicago is right now. Hollywood can be found down on the coast in Wilmington, which is also our state’s major port town. Some could bill Asheville as Portland, with slightly more mountain terrain and a little bit of bad racial history. Throughout the state major agricultural activity continues to occur, through traditional farms, organic farms and processing facilities.
Population numbers tell us immediately we are All-American and all-global. Greensboro and Durham are one of the largest refugee resettlement areas in the United States. For many years, migrant workers have filled our remaining farms, processing centers and mills with cheap labor. According to Hannah Gill, a Research Associate at the Center for Global Initiatives and Assistant Director at the Institute of Latin American Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the Latino population of North Carolina has doubled since 2000 and it’s not all from migrants or from births. Black roots in North Carolina stretch from all over the state. I’ve not known of a place where we do not exist. I have country relatives and I’m not my family’s only urbanist. The Lumbee, the Cherokee and other native tribes have a rich history here, which cannot be ignored or erased. Indus Region natives are congregating around the technology firms of the Research Triangle. I could go on and on about all the people from different places, but I would be going on for hours. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that there is someone in this state, either temporarily or permanently, from every nation on this planet. If they aren’t here now, then they’ve been here at one point.
One moment to address the The South’s ugly head. It lives in places throughout the state, places that industry left years ago, that poverty has ravaged and that leaders seem to believe don’t need help at all (at least not publlicly). There’s still our purple politics (blue in the major cities, red elsewhere).Lastly, it’s seen in our tenuous relationship with race as it comes to who who deserves opportunities to grow. Oh and let’s not mention school funding and redistricting and the continuous practices of sprawl. Amendment One. That bit of the Old South still makes us southern.
Which comes to my wrap-up here. North Carolina may be south of the Mason-Dixon line, but we are not ambiguous or limitless or lifeless, or all bad. We may not have Major League Baseball, but all the other professional sports are here and there’s always the Durham Bulls, they were famous, right? Rail transit’s on it’s way. The option to live, work and play in a dense area is alive, especially in Charlotte with it’s mainstream, full service grocery and downtown Target. I can always go down to my grandparents and plant a garden and get a feel of the land. I’ve not been mistreated and when I am, I keep on walking down the street. My job, my home, my degrees and my family are not harmed by one person’s act of hate. Yes, there are still folks that can say that, but so can folks in a lot of other states. We are not alone in needing to address residual race, class and sexual orientation issues.
At the end of the day, I hope all of you got a good taste of why I like calling North Carolina home. Also I hope you have seen why you may also be calling North Carolina home, no matter where you live.