We heard an interesting comment the other day on public perception of our state, something somebody said to one of our reps while she was out in the field.
The gist of it: When people think of the residents of other states in the union, they generally think of the people in their cities. Ohio means Cincinnati or Cleveland. We tend to think of Californians in terms of their proximity to San Francisco or LA. And, in minds of the general public anyway, there is little more to New York State than New York City.
Mention North Carolina, though, and it’s hard for people on the outside to get past the rural stereotype. In the eyes of the national media, frankly, we look like a bunch of ignorant rubes.
But it just doesn’t ring true.
More than 7 million of the state’s 9 million or so people live in the five biggest metro areas. Hell, more than 15 percent of the residents of North Carolina live here, in the Triad, and we’re just the third-largest region with 1.6 million.
There’s a reason for that.
People want to live in or near big cities because that’s where everything happens. Sure, we can wax nostalgic over North Carolina’s picturesque small towns and vast expanses of tobacco farms, but most of us want to go to museums and galleries, see plays, eat something other than chain-restaurant fare, barbecue and Chinese food. We like local music and crafts, bountiful byproducts of city life, and big-time sports and the college lecture circuit. And when the circus passes through, we want it to stop in the place where we live.
We generally make more money than our rural neighbors, and have more education. We live longer and are less likely to be morbidly obese. And maybe you can’t see as many stars at night in downtown Winston-Salem as you can in Liberty, but you can take in more on a Friday night stroll down Trade Street than you can in a month out in the country.
Here in the cities, we’re more tolerant of those unlike ourselves — we have to be, because we live side by side. We have more resources for our children, more opportunity for our businesses. It’s easier to get around because we have more roads and easy access to highways and airports. And don’t get me started on the sushi.
It’s better in the city. If you’re reading this paper right now, no doubt you agree.