Whenever someone asks me, “Where are you from?” My response is rarely ‘the United States of America.’ More often than not, I will quickly answer ‘North Carolina’, assuming that whoever has asked will know that NC is part of the USA. This is a strange habit, though – when asked where they are from, most people will normally respond with the country, not the state or city in which they live(d). Any people who know me will also know: I often have to explain the strange behaviors United States citizens have. This is one of them.
SHORT HISTORY LESSON: When the US was formed, there was a large debate between two factions – the federalists and the anti-federalists. The federalists believed there should be a Federal government which is responsible for many things – like what you see in Canada. On the other hand, the anti-federalists believed the federal government should be kept as small as possible and regulations should be left up to the state governments with little or no federal interference. This is ultimately where the bill of rights came from – it was a compromise between the federalists and anti-federalists for how the US government would work (specifically note Amendment 10 – “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”) [If you want more of a history lesson, more information can be found here.]
So this leads me to my point. Why do I always answer ‘North Carolina’ first? In short – the struggle between the federalists and anti-federalists has left a lasting impression on the American people (especially the South, where most of the anti-federalists were from – ask me about it if you want another history lesson). So now: first and foremost, I see myself as a North Carolina native, born and bred within driving distance of both the breathtaking Appalachian mountains (Canadians – APP-AH-LATCH-EN, not that stupid/wrong way you pronounce it!), and the awe-inspiring Outer Banks.
Moreover, my mother’s family, the Scott Family, was one of the first to settle in NC, and established themselves as one of the most prominent families in NC. In edition to owning huge farms in Alamance County, the Scotts established schools across NC (my name sake, Elizabeth Scott Carrington, helped raise the funds for UNC’s Nursing School, which is why there is Carrington Hall at UNC-Chapel Hill). The Scotts were also pillars in the Medical Community (my grandfather was in the first graduating class at UNC’s Dental school, and my great-grandfather delivered over 6,000 babies in his lifetime – including my childhood best friend’s mother) and devoted themselves to public service (my great-uncle Kerr Scott and his son Robert Scott both served as governors of NC). Robert (Bob) Scott was the governor who “oversaw the creation of the 16-campus University of North Carolina system” and worked heavily to make post-secondary education accessible for all in NC. The Scott family were also huge into religion – Samuel Scott and his wife Nancy Bryan Scott helped start the Hawfields Presbyterian Church in 1755, a church which is still in existence today (it is where all the Scott Family is buried). So, as you can see, my family has a ton of history in North Carolina. No wonder I recognize myself as a North Carolinian first, right?
Fast forward to nowadays. Seeing NC struggling as it is – our representatives have specifically refused to attend town hall meetings and have claimed the constituents who are constantly calling, trying to get the representatives to listen to the people who they are suppose to represent, are paid and are bots trying to create ‘denial of services’ for ‘real’ constituents. Our education system is devolving, with NC’s public education failing (in 2016, in a ranking of the best High Schools in the country, NC was ranked 38th out of 51 states [because DC counts a state in this ranking, even though it is really a district]; we also have one of the lowests pay rates in the US for our teachers). Higher education is no longer easily accessible in NC – I attended university at UBC over an in-state school because I could receive a better education for less money by attending school internationally instead (which I am sure caused my great uncle, Bob Scott, to roll over in his grave). The icing on the cake: after this recent election (and years of shady politics), NC is no longer considered a democracy – with our “overall electoral integrity score of 58/100 for the 2016 election, which places us alongside authoritarian states and pseudo-democracies like Cuba, Indonesia and Sierra Leone.”
All of these horrible things happening to the state my family helped create truly breaks my heart… So, over the summer, I made a choice. It became a reality to me that I would not be returning home, because – to be honest – this current North Carolina does not feel like home. But the current North Carolina is not the real North Carolina, in my opinion. The real North Carolina is the 250 years of progressive history that the Scott family helped contributed to. The real North Carolina is the one whose government representatives value its people over the representative’s party politics. The real North Carolina fights for democracy, and sets examples for the rest of the nation on how to prevent discrimination – not how to implement it (I don’t like cursing in blogs but I’mma say it – fuck HB2 and NC’s extremely unconstitutional voter ID laws.) The real North Carolina believes in accessible, quality education for all. Because education is not a privilege of the elite, it is a necessity for a country to succeed. The real North Carolina understands this – the current North Carolina does not.
So in September of this year, I decided to get a tattoo: my North Carolina, the real North Carolina, on my side by my heart, as a symbol of my love for the state and my hope that one day the real North Carolina will return.
Now, to be honest, after the past few months, I really question whether the real NC can return. But I am sure of two things – James Taylor’s song ‘Carolina In My Mind’ will always remind me of home, and my tattoo will always remind me that NC once was a progressive state, and maybe, one day, we can be one again (electing Roy Cooper was a great start! Attempting to remove his ability to govern, on the other hand, not so much…)