On Being a Traveler From North Carolina

NC Flag set over the map

For most of my life, I have self-identified as a “North Carolinian.” There were a couple of years of my adult life that I lived in Louisiana, but even while I may have switched pro football alliances, I was always a North Carolinian. As a North Carolinian, I have traveled extensively.

But in all of my travels, I have never been ashamed, or afraid to admit, that I am from North Carolina, until very recently.

North Carolina got a good bit of public spotlight in 2012, with the passing of “Amendment One.” This amendment to the state constitution forbade gay marriage. At the time, several other states had constitutionally banned gay marriage, but when it happened in North Carolina, people all over the country heard about it. This wasn’t a coincidence – many North Carolinians were angry. The country heard us because we were shouting.

Therefore, I took pride that the country knew about what was happening in NC. Even though I wasn’t proud of the actions of our legislature, I was proud that we were shouting loud enough for the world to hear. I still feel like the anger that came out of North Carolina helped push things to the Supreme Court, leading to the national changes we see, today.

I tried to have the same mind-set as HB2 came along, but while Amendment One was a slow build-up to a big battle, HB2 came quickly, without a chance for those in opposition to speak their voices. This wasn’t a long-brewing issue culminating into one big vote, this was an emergency 12-hour legislative session that put North Carolina on the national stage, again, in a negative light.

Before my most recent trip to Kentucky, I was oddly nervous about telling folks where I was from. I don’t know what I expected – but for once, I sort of dreaded the question. I’m tired of defending my home state.

In the end, I really should have been worried about telling people where I’m from, but not for the reasons I expected. It seems that people in Kentucky really, truly, to the core, hate Duke University. I should have known. After all, my dad always warned me that folks in Houston still despise North Carolina State University (My Alma Mater) because of the 1983 NCAA Basketball Tournament.

Living in Durham, I don’t really associate the city with the University. Duke exists in Durham, but as I’m not affiliated with the University, I don’t consider myself tangentially affiliated because I live here. But people in Kentucky don’t care: Durham is Duke, and Duke is bad.

So the next time I travel to Kentucky, I won’t worry about the state of North Carolina’s reputation, but I might leave my “Durm” shirts at home. No changes in politics are going to make Duke, and therefore, Durham, look more favorable to folks there.

 

 

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