This past summer I went to California. Every Uber driver I rode with asked me where I was from. I’d say North Carolina and their face would drop. I knew the image that appeared in their heads: trans discrimination, gerrymandering, confederate flags and fields of tobacco. All of those, except for the last one, I feel didn’t represent our state right. I had to defend it, by explaining that we are one of the few hospitable places in the South, the huge growth happening in the major cities, and how we gave the world Pepsi and Krispy Kreme. Bottom line, we get a bad reputation from the Pat McCrorys and the Art Popes of North Carolina, but there is a beauty here that lives above the politics.
I was born in Apex, a suburb outside of Raleigh, and lived there my entire life. Raleigh has a southern charm but with the infrastructure of any northern city. It might not be the most spacious city but it’s wellkept, beautiful and wonderfully southern. Raleigh is surprisingly cultured as well. The art museum is one of the best I’ve been to. There are concerts and plays every week. I’ve spent so many summer days driving into Raleigh to buy records at the independent stores there. Raleigh should really be up there with Atlanta and the other big southern cities.
One of the biggest parts of my childhood is the state fair. Good lord, there is so much fried food. Anyone who has been there knows that there is no limit to what they are willing to deep fry. Candy, butter, cheese and kool-aid, they’ve got it all. It was a tradition to get in the car with the family and drive up to the fairgrounds every year and spend the day. Our state fair is a bigger deal than most states, which is something to be proud of.
North Carolina is surprisingly progressive. While in some parts there are more confederate flags than U.S. flags, the state is a lot more open-minded than the rest of the South. This is probably because of all the people who move to North Carolina from more liberal places. For this reason we are a swing state and a major target for political campaigns.
Growing up here has made me a barbecue purist. I found myself nearly screaming when a restaurant on the West Coast tried to serve me what they called barbecue. It was a weak pile of shredded pork. Carolina barbecue is the perfect barbecue, and that is not a biased statement. We’re known for having the best barbecue in the nation for a reason. Wanna know why? Two words: vinegar-based. However, this is the “Opinions” section for a reason.
North Carolina is all about rivalries – some friendly and some not so friendly. The rivalry between UNC and Duke has people fighting like cats and dogs with NC State also part of it sometimes. The previously mentioned barbecue sauce has people debating between tomato-based sauce or vinegar-based sauce. These competitions are generally friendly and are the embodiment of North Carolina culture.
North Carolina is better than how it’s perceived by other states. The city of Raleigh specifically is one of the more underrated cities in the south. I love the culture here, the fair, the food and everything. It’s all pretty great. North Carolina just gets a bad reputation because of what has been happening politically, but my boy Roy just got elected governor. So far his administration has made good progress in undoing the damage that has been done to our state’s name. With time we can redeem ourselves.