North Carolina | Esse quam videri!

By now you have undoubtedly heard of the repulsive North Carolina House Bill 2, read a myriad of commentaries both in praise of and also deriding its passage, and – because you read The Ruggist, wondered: What does this mean to the rug and broader design industry? Well let me tell you.

First though, we should thank the Government of North Carolina for upholding, if nothing else, the state’s motto; though given it’s in latin I find it doubtful anyone in Government there possesses the ability to read it. ‘Esse quam videri’, in English: To be, rather than to seem [to be]. How apropos! As a proud Yankee (read: intelligent and compassionate human being) I’ve always assumed the South retained a certain je ne sais quoi from its antebellum past. Fearful not only of the zero incidents of violence committed by transgendered people whilst using the washroom but also of making an ass out of you and me, North Carolina decided to legislate into being a law that codifies and permits the bigotry and hatred we had only assumed ‘to be’. Congratulations.

Furthermore, this new law strips from the citizenry of North Carolina the ability to sue if you are the victim of discrimination, redeclaring – all in the name of religion – that the ‘We the people…’ of 1776 really only means White Men, even today. As a White Man of current vintage, I find this reprehensible, incongruous with our time, and I encourage everyone to do within their power everything possible to wipe this kind of bigotry and hatred from the face of civilized society, not just in North Carolina but the world over. This includes boycotting North Carolina.

‘But boycotts impact ordinary people and hurt business!’ Yes they do. But in the land of the dollar bill, money seems to be the last weapon against an oppressive Government, and so we as the rug and carpet industry must wield that weapon and we must wield it swiftly. Many have already voiced their opposition to the law, while still pandering to the the broad business interests of the High Point Market claiming, and I quote anonymously: ‘They can not just up and move or shut down because of the passage of HB2.’

Bull. Shit. Humans can do anything they put their mind to, and in this case those claiming the inability to act are actually saying, as I believe the jocular and condescending vernacular of the region to be, ‘Isn’t that nice?’

In fairness to the sentiment of that anonymous comment, there is a degree of truth in the relative inability of a business to ‘just up and move or shut down.’ Take for example Capel Rugs; a true shining gem of what remains of American manufacturing. They are based in Troy, NC and still produce the braided rugs for which they gained renown in North Carolina. I am not saying don’t buy from them, but in this day and age there is zero reason (other than to indulge oneself in gluttony and excess at market) to travel to North Carolina to see their wares. They can come to us, or we can conduct business via the internet.

We should also support every rug company (and business) that has previously exhibited at High Point, but lets be frank. Just as there is zero need to travel to North Carolina to see Capel’s wares, there is zero need in order to see other’s as well. They are virtually all based elsewhere and exhibit at a plethora of other shows in, how do we say politely, more welcoming places. In short, we will buy your stuff, but we don’t need to go to North Carolina to do it. In a competitive business environment, plenty of opportunity exists for other places to foster an inclusive and welcoming trade show environment, and I encourage every rug company who exhibits at High Point to abandon it prior to the next show unless House Bill 2 is repealed.

As for other members of the rug industry and broader design industry press I challenge your commitment to supporting the rights of those affected by this law (and it’s a big Gee Dee group) if you choose to travel to North Carolina to cover the event. While we may be serious, we aren’t reporting on war, or childhood hunger, or poverty. We are talking about pretty things affluent and wealthy people buy. Things that can be found elsewhere, things designed by very creative and often very gay, or black, or female, or transgendered, or it doesn’t matter people. Don’t be duplicitous.

For anyone (including businesspeople) in North Carolina who agree with me, I encourage all of you to engage in civil disobedience to the best of your respective abilities. Withhold payment to the Government of North Carolina in any form and to refrain from doing business with the State. Stop paying taxes, stop garbage collection from the Government, so on and so forth. If one person does it, the State can wield its power, if many do it, the people wield their power.

It is somewhat sad and bitterly ironic we’ve come to this point. Descendants of those who fought the North because of slavery (it was not about State’s rights no matter what anyone tells you) now find themselves in much the same situation as their forebears did so long ago. In a divided, if not now smaller more localized house.

‘A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved – I do not expect the house to fall – but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.’ – Abraham Lincoln.

In the fight for true equality, we must be vigilant in defending the rights of the minority against the majority, lest we one day find ourselves a member of a different minority being repressed by a different majority. If the United States is to promote haughty morals and standards the world over, it must lead by example. Hatred and fear are not good examples.