The All-American town of Brevard, NC has a seedy underbelly

People usually use articles of this nature to segue from how they disliked their hometown growing up, but subsequently, this dislike turned into love further down the road. With Brevard, this is not the case.

Keep in mind that I am not a negative person. On the contrary, I am a very positive person. But with Brevard, while there are positive aspects on the surface, it has a dark underbelly typical of the average American town.

Whenever I reluctantly have to hear people talk about how much they love Brevard, I try not to be patronizing, but I feel guilty about being negative and ruining their positive impression. Lately, however, I just don’t care.

It’s true. Brevard has waterfalls. Brevard has white squirrels. Brevard has mountains. All of these things are good and fine and jolly. It’s the reason so many elderly Northerners who moved to wealthy retirement communities in Palm Beach suddenly move there to escape the heat and high prices, rediscovering the happiness of youth as they whip out their binoculars to bird-watch and paint pictures of the mountains and white squirrels.

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Waterfalls: the picture perfect postcard image for which Brevard is known. Larisa Karr/The Blue Banner

That’s about as good as it gets.

What the tourism board and a majority of cemented middle-class families who work in the very corrupt city government fail to mention is that Brevard is a town rampant with racism, drug addiction and bigotry.

I will never forget the elderly black woman, Edna Glaze, who was murdered in the mid-’90s  by a member of one of the town’s most prevalent Southern families. He was released and not charged with the murder, according to a 2014 news release by District Attorney Greg Newman.

Recently, the FBI is investigating a case where three boys who attended the local high school went to a black classmate’s house with ski masks, a rope, knives and a stick, threatening to lynch him. In the later 2000s, a former classmate of mine from this high school showed up at a party in blackface, thinking that it was a genuinely funny joke.

Another incident that will never remove itself from my mind is when I was seated in a car, taking the test to get a local driving permit. I was sitting with two girls who attended the high school. One of them opened her geography book and said to me, “You seem smart. Could you show me where the United States is on the map?”

The methamphetamine, heroin and pill addictions prevalent in the town of Brevard have been a sustained aspect of the community. In my senior year of high school, the vice principal took the entire school into the auditorium, informing us of the latest phenomenon of 2009 —  Pharm Parties, where people emptied out the contents of their parents’ medicine cabinets and chased those jagged little pills down with liquor.

In the high school, students were subject to frequent drug raids where security guards essentially locked students in the classrooms they were currently in. They held onto tightly-roped German Shepherds, who scoured the classrooms for any trace of drugs. Such a regularized drill encouraged an environment of fear, paranoia and genuine lack of enthusiasm to go to school.

Another fucked-up facet of Brevard is the church culture, the good ol’ boy network who constantly humiliate and discourage women from wearing pants because they are part of the “lesbian movement.”

Women are made to feel inadequate, incapable and genuinely shamed for possessing the bodies that they do. The bigotry does not stop there. Nearly every sermon includes a heavily course, abrasive rant against the “damned homosexuals,” liberals and Muslims who are “destined to burn in the eternal damnation of hellfire.” Hearing these tyrannical and horrific diatribes instills a sense of mistrust, fear, anger and paranoia, which, when coupled with all the other horrible elements in the city, foster a brutal coldness to other members of the human race.

The people who attend these churches, of course, are the same people who drive around with huge polluting pick-up trucks and Confederate flags. They shoot animals with their beloved rifles and skin them after, load themselves up on Roxies and Klonopin, and slowly kill their brains and their genuine interest in life.

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A pedestrian strolls the streets of downtown Brevard. Larisa Karr/The Blue Banner

I’ll always remember sitting in a class at a local community college, which I was taking for dual credit in high school and college. The professor, a rare brave foreigner from Australia who for some reason decided to live there temporarily, was asking a woman from Rosman (a town that is 10 times worse than Brevard) what she wanted to do with her life. Her response? “Stay in Rosman.” “Don’t you ever want to leave?” he inquired. “Nah,” she replied.

It was at this moment that I knew beyond a measure of a doubt I had to leave. This despicable, disparaging black hole that sucked people up and made them completely ignorant was killing my spirit.

The depressing silence that I experienced each and every day in Brevard had taken its toll on my psyche. There was nothing there for me. Nothing inspired me. The backdrop of pristine nature felt hollow to me, especially in the context of just how ugly the people in the town could be.

When I was younger, if I went to some semblance of a place that had a city feel, especially near Asheville, my spirit was lifted and I became excited. A cluster of buildings where I smelled fried food, people walking inside and outside, and cars pulling up and backing out was thrilling to me. I just wanted to feel the world move, to experience the passing of time as I watched people move back and forth, to know that there were places, experiences and hopes that existed outside of the dead lull of the “city” I had grown up in.

Now, at 24, I have lived in other places, and I have realized that sadness and silence are not necessarily things that you can permanently get rid of. Still, whenever I go home and pass the border into Transylvania county, and roll past the gas stations with signs that say “all guns allowed” and the fake, middle-class suburbia centered in the middle of the city, I am immediately hit with a pang of sadness that multiplies itself as the journey continues to my house.

There is, however, one positive aspect to living in Brevard: It teaches you a lot about the sinister elements of human nature, and makes me alert to characteristics of people I don’t want in my life.

20 thoughts on “The All-American town of Brevard, NC has a seedy underbelly

  • April 7, 2016 at 6:49 pm
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    lol why are you so mad though

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  • April 7, 2016 at 7:07 pm
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    Wow….I am a little speechless. If you look you can find all those things in every city and town. Seems to me you should run not walk away as fast as you can and not come back to Brevard….ever. The town will thank you.

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  • April 7, 2016 at 8:44 pm
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    Dear Ms. Karr,

    It is very unfortunate that you have chosen to disparage an entire town in this manner. The “facts” you use to make your case are nothing more than rumors and personal antecdotes.
    I can assure your readers that there are indeed many very good people in Brevard. People who are kind, generous and decent. Folks, who for example, have busted their rear ends to establish and sustain one of the most active and effective Boys and Girls Clubs in NC- a place that is absolutely essential in the lives of hundreds of minority children in “racist” Brevard. There are countless other examples of similar efforts in Brevard. I won’t waste anymore time addressing what is nothing more than an obviously disturbed individual’s unfiltered stream of consciousness. Shame on UNCA for allowing such drivel to be printed in its student newspaper.

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  • April 8, 2016 at 12:42 am
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    Brevard does contain wonderful people, but I think this author is addressing the issues and not writing an all-encompassing biography on the town. Until we as a town are willing to openly accept this kind of criticism and recognize that problems do exist, our efforts to better the community are lacking. To claim that Brevard is the one place where racism does not exist is an atrocious oversight.

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  • April 8, 2016 at 5:27 pm
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    Wow. I wonder if the writer has noticed the drugs, violent crime, decay and malaise to be found in Asheville – or any other town for that matter. Grow up. You can make a difference by changing yourself first. Life is full of things that need fixing. Prepare yourself with an education, life experience, and get a job…and get about it.

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  • April 8, 2016 at 8:04 pm
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    Oh my god, people, stop being such children. I grew up in Brevard and couldn’t leave fast enough- maybe it was the fact that I had white men constantly calling me a “nigger bitch” on the streets, or the fact that wearing jeans was considered “dyke-ish” but the childhood that I had there was nothing short of horrific. Just because y’all personally dislike reading the truth about the town doesn’t mean that you can censor it.

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    • April 29, 2017 at 10:54 am
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      So what your saying is theres not much crime or gang activity or fatherless children problems, theres not much welfare and high taxes to pay for all the entitlement programs that come with the black community. Sounds like a good law abiding safe place with good people living there, sounds like a great place to move to.

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  • April 8, 2016 at 8:57 pm
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    Just because you cannot see it, does not mean it doesn’t exists. I mean, you do believe in God don’t you.

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  • April 9, 2016 at 9:11 am
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    I thought this was going to be interesting or even satire. But no. It’s actually what someone thinks of our town. Life is what you make it. You can make a difference or you can complain about it. Our town is great for the most part. Filled with caring people who spend much of their time volunteering and helping others. I’m sad that the writer grew up here but can’t see it.

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  • April 9, 2016 at 9:22 pm
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    This is the dumbest thing I’ve read in a while . You need to take your opinions and exaggerated ideas and look at the bigger picture. Your own entitlement and privileged nature must realize you are no better than the problem you are stating. I understand your points but your narrow-minded views make you little better than the people you are criticizing. I wish you’d take a moment to understand the world around you and the other people who live there. Think about the other cities with true crisis like baltimore or even Charlotte. REALIZE

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  • April 12, 2016 at 2:06 pm
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    I have lived in Brevard for 17 years now, a transplant from the northern midwest large city. I see all that is described in this article as true. Yes, some good things exist in Brevard but believe it to be true that the “Good Ol’ Boys” still run Brevard and there are many bigoted people among us. I have close black friends in this community that do concur with the drug issue, esp. in the black neighborhood, like Brevard Housing Authority or Silversteen.

    I personally witnessed people from NY, NJ, MS and FL raise their racial ugly bigotry with millions of dollars of assets for them to count when done.

    Brevard is part of the “South” with all its problems, just covered up by a small American town facade. It is NOT Asheville or even Hendersonville. We love to talk about White Squirrels, Broad and Main streets, the restaurants, how the mayor owns the hardware store, etc. Little Mayberry, but the truth hurts.

    Just outside of town in Rosman where the KKK held meetings back in the day, I know for a fact that a Maytag repair-man said he would not go into that town after dark and his white partner advised him that was a good idea. There are no black people in Rosman or near it.

    Guns are paramount, everyone has one and a NRA sticker to boot. Guns don’t kill people, people do. Driven by hatred, bigotry and ignorance.

    There are great things about Brevard, the Brevard College, Porter Center, the Brevard Music programs but mostly for white people.

    Yes, there are other facts missing form this article but the points made are unfortunately true.

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  • March 11, 2017 at 3:58 pm
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    You sound like a very angry hateful person. Actually, you sound like the bigoted, racist, ignorant person you try to make these people out to be. I was born near there. Never have I witnessed anything like you say. There are good people that live there. They could care less about the color of someone’s skin. They do not think about it. Those who cry racism are actually the racist. You should apologize to these people. How can anyone take you seriously? You really need to see someone for help.

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  • April 8, 2017 at 4:53 am
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    I’ve lived in a lot of places and in each place there was an opportunity for someone to feel this way. In Brevard there are fewer who have this sort of sophomoric “chip on their shoulder” attitude, than there are in most other places.

    There are so many people moving to Brevard because they want to be here. They aren’t moving here for the factory or government jobs, it is simply because they want to be here.

    As for seedy underbelly, that is ridiculous. The worst part of town isn’t even all that bad.

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  • May 11, 2017 at 7:17 am
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    Thank you very much for this insightful article. My wife and I were looking for a nice, quiet place where we could retire after raising our two children in the heart of Charlotte. We have been looking at property around Brevard and thought the town to be very cultured and civilized. When the realtor brought us to Rosman, we were horrified. The two towns are like night and day and yet so close to one another. We are both of caucasian ethnicity but would not be caught dead in Rosman after dark (I’m with Dan on that one). After reading this article, I think my wife and I will be looking elsewhere. We like to see what the locals have to say about the towns they live in but there were too many threads on this line describing the bigotry in this town for us to ignore. Both of us are native North Carolinians but the last thing we want to experience is racial dischord and a city drug problem.

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  • May 26, 2017 at 10:50 am
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    So now gun owners and/or truck owners are drug addicts killing animals. What a bunch of bull—-!
    A lot of small-town communities started out as quiet, rural places; once “discovered” that very quality has undergone changes and now begin to resemble the places where some folks have fled. If you want small-town, then you have to accept the small-town way of life– warts and all.

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  • May 29, 2017 at 1:22 pm
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    I’m glad I read this article. I’m about to retire and read good things about Brevard but I’m getting a bad feeling and it doesn’t make me feel confident that Brevard is the right place so I think I’ll pass.. Bad vibes – bigotry, negativity, good ole boy attitude. Also my fiancé is Black – I’m white – and I know racism exist.. No thanks. If anyone can recommend another place in the Carolinas where they are opened minded and good people, please let me know.

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  • May 30, 2017 at 10:16 am
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    I was born in Brevard but moved away by the time I was two. Where I did grow up was in a small town in East Tennessee. I can understand the anger and resentment coming from Larisa. I too spent my teenage years surrounded by racist, sexist, homophobic good ole boys and it’s not much fun if you don’t share in those attitudes. It’s scary. It’s disheartening. It’s lonely. It stinks. At 24 I felt a lot like Larisa. I had escaped that town but I was still angry and had knots in my stomach every time I had to go back for a visit. Now that I’m much older, I know that yes, there were some big problems with the town I grew up in, but if I had tried a little harder, I would have seen that there were lots of things to love about that town as well, including plenty of lovely people.

    It’s funny because my happiest times growing up were summers when I would escape the East Tennesse town where I felt like an outsider, for my peaceful paradise, Brevard. My recollection of Brevard is much different than Larisa’s. My summers in Brevard were spent exploring waterfalls and hunting for newts with people who were artists, hippies, and adventurers. They were open-minded and loving. My grandmother who lived in Brevard for 70 years, was a strong independent woman who loved animals and nature. She raised her five strong independent daughters in Brevard with values of respecting and helping all people no matter how different they were from you. When my grandmother died not long ago, several local families offered their homes to members of my large family who were returning to Brevard for the services.

    So when I read this description of Brevard by Larisa, I was surprised. I don’t doubt her experience though. Luckily for me, the circles of people around me in Brevard were warm but it’s not hard to believe that outside of my little summer circles, that there were also circles of people who were turning their own hurt into hatred. This exists in all towns and unfortunately can be more concentrated in smaller more isolated towns. It’s not hard to believe that the colorful mountains that provide Brevard with waterfalls and protect its charm have also protected some outdated and ugly ways of thinking in some of Brevard’s residents. I’m sad that Larisa was surrounded by that during her time in Brevard and wasn’t able to connect with the loving people that I know to live there.

    I’m guessing Larisa’s emphatic language dripping with resentment isn’t helping her cause but those of us who love Brevard should look past that and not be too quick to dismiss her account. We should take it as a call to reach out to people in Brevard who may not have supportive circles around them. I know there are plenty of people in the land of waterfalls who do that daily but I’m sure as a whole we can do more.

    Larisa, I’m genuinely sorry for your rough experiences that have obviously had a big effect on you. I think as you grow and have more life experiences in more towns and cities and countries, you’ll realize that some of the things that hurt you in Brevard were a result of living in a small town and some of them had less to do with your location and more to do with your individual circumstances and dynamics. I hope the next time you cross the border into Transylvania County, you are lucky enough to have more positive experiences interacting with some of the friendly, genuine, and generous people who live there. No matter what town you are in, sometimes you have to make the effort to find those people. Sometimes being a little more open-minded yourself will make those people come jumping out of the woodwork.

    Reply

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