There are many things that I thought I’d never see happen, or that I’d be quite elderly before they did. Aside from the obvious and much-talked about one, I also never envisioned gay marriage being legal (although in precious few places, but still…). And as a native North Carolinian, I never thought I’d see the day when smoking was banned in public places in my home state.
During my childhood, tobacco was king. My high school is named after a tobacco baron. My grandfather, uncles, cousins, and stepfather all worked in the local tobacco company. It was steady agri-industrial work for high school grads with limited opportunities in the newly integrated/de facto segregated south. I spent a summer sweeping the floors of a cigarette factory after my first year of college. And one of the nation’s fiercest basketball rivalries (go ‘heels!) plays out along the folksy-named Tobacco Road.
While North Carolina started to diversify its economic offerings in the 1980s, the tobacco industry still exerts a strong presence in the state. So imagine my surprise when I saw that, as of the beginning of this year, North Carolina restaurants and bars can no longer allow smoking (California fully enacted similar legislation in 1998).
This was a nice affirmation that change does come. And to paraphrase my grandmother, it “may not come when you want it, but it’s always right on time.” Let’s keep that in mind as we continue to work for equity, justice, and access during the coming year.