Ah, sweet Charleston.
Travel & Leisure’s 2016 “Best City in the World.” Condé Nast Traveler’s No. 1 Friendliest City in the United States (and the world) in 2016.
Waitresses are kind, business is booming and global warming has the sun shining brighter than ever. What a joy it is to live in our lively, friendly, holy city.
On the surface, sure. Everything seems great. The sidewalks are bustling with people wearing pastels and carrying shopping bags. The beaches are speckled with vacationers and their Coppertone babies. The same white tablecloth restaurants are always booked with reservations months in advance. Oh, what “Stepford Wives” wonder.
But being the Queen of Unpopular Opinions on this campus, I am going to implore you to dig a little deeper.
Charleston does not deserve to be the No. 1 city in the world.
Exhibit A: Charlestonians were ecstatic when their hometown paper, The Post and Courier, won the Pulitzer Prize in 2015. But amid the celebration, everyone forgot to mention that the publication won for a series on the severe rates of domestic violence and murder in South Carolina. There’s another ranking we could talk about. For the past 15 years, South Carolina has placed among the top ten states in the rate of women killed by men.
The categories by which the 15 “Best Cities” were judged were sights and landmarks, culture, food, friendliness, shopping and value. That’s all fine and dandy, but when some of Charleston’s major tourist attractions include plantation tours and slavery museums, do you not wonder who is voting for Charleston to be number one?
According to Condé Nast Traveler, roughly 128,000 readers took the survey in 2015 to determine Charleston as the friendliest city in the country and the world. Great. But South Carolina didn’t even land on their list of the 20 happiest states. Where does this discrepancy come from? Well, the happiness rankings were judged by 28 key “metrics of happiness” — several of which included emotional health, income level, social connectivity and sports participation rates.
A.K.A., the “Best City” was selected by readers submitting opinions to an online survery, while the “happiest states” were determined by professional researchers.
South Carolina. Friendly? Sure. Happy? Not so much.
I do not know how many more times I can listen to someone claim to be awed by the fact that people actually say “hello” to them on the street. As if it is some sort of unheard of gem of the South, that people actually acknowledge the presence of other people.
If those are the standards of being the nation’s friendliest city, this country has a lot of work to do.
Outside of the United States, there are so many other cities that have their ducks in a row.
Take, for example, any of the 27 cities on Business Insider’s “Best Quality of Life” ranking. Spoiler: every city on that list is outside of the United States. Those qualifications come from Mercer’s extensive Quality of Life Index, which uses data from socioeconomic and cultural environments, healthcare, education and other public services.
So, yeah. Maybe our “sights and landmarks, culture, food, friendliness, shopping and value” give us the illusion of a city that has it together. The illusion that tourists see when they only stop by for a weekend at a time. But as far as happiness, progress, development and overall well being goes, we don’t even compare.
Come on, you guys. Or, rather: come on, “y’all.” Don’t contribute to the complacency of a friendly city full of quasi-happy people.
Don’t just accept the No. 1 title.
Work for it.
Charleston has the potential, but this ranking needs to be earned, not just given. Let’s join hands — like the “friendly” city we are — and Make Charleston Great Again.
*This article first appeared in the October 2016 issue of The Yard.