The surprisingly seedy underbelly of Brevard, North Carolina

A pristine, Southern, peaceful, all-American hometown – or so people think

Your typical college student’s reflections on their hometown usually go like this: Growing up, they hated their hometown and couldn’t wait to get out, but since going away to college, they’ve experienced homesickness and grown to love and appreciate where they’re from. For me, a resident of Brevard, North Carolina, this is not the case.

Keep in mind: I’m not a negative person. On the contrary, I’m a very positive person. But with Brevard, while there are positive aspects on the surface, it – like many quiet, American towns – has a dark underbelly.

Whenever I reluctantly 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 again to escape the heat and high prices. It gives them the chance to rediscover the happiness of their youth as they whip out binoculars to bird-watch and paint pictures of the mountains and white squirrels.

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, hard-drug addiction and bigotry.

I remember the time when a former classmate of mine from this high school showed up at a party in blackface, thinking it was a genuinely funny joke.

Recently, the FBI is investigating a case in which 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.

Another unforgettable incident occurred when I was taking the test to get a local driving permit. I was sitting with two girls from 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?”

Our town made the news in the mid-90s when an elderly black woman, Edna Glaze, was murdered. A member of one of the town’s most prevalent southern families allegedly confessed to the murder, but was never prosecuted.

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 high school, students were subject to frequent “drug raids” during which security guards essentially locked students in the classroom 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 shameful of possessing the bodies that they do.

Their bigotry does not stop there. Nearly every sermon includes an 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 instill 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 genuine interest in life.

I’ll always remember sitting in a class at a local community college which I was taking for dual credit. 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 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 shadow 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 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 nearby Asheville, my spirit was lifted. 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 there were places, experiences and hopes that existed outside of the dead hull of the “city” I had grown up in.

Now, at 24, I have lived in Berlin, Vancouver and upstate New York, and I have realized that sadness and silence are not necessarily things 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 taught me a lot about the sinister elements of human nature, and made me alert to characteristics of people I don’t want in my life.

Coming soon national-us