Bele Chere Setup to Music of Paper Tiger*
As a new resident of Asheville, I have to admit I was expecting utter redneck chaos in downtown Asheville during Bele Chere based on what a number of my counter cultural friends who moved here in the last 20 or so years told me about it. Given that crowds and alcohol lead to poor behavior, it didn't surprise me that people had issues with a huge street festival in a downtown area that is generally pretty well-behaved.
But I walked through yesterday and today around 5 or 6 and chaos had yet to erupt. I imagine things are starting to get sketchy as the evening unfolds given that it's a free event and there's lots of alcohol at hand. But I have to wonder if part of the issue is that Bele Chere is one of those times that the normal critical mass of counter cultural types in downtown Asheville is reduced to service workers for the masses.
In any case, it's tough to hold a large event that involves alcohol and not have problems.
I'm more disappointed by two things:
A) My sudden fear of the Asheville police, which had not been a concern for me until the recent assault on Juan Holladay by out of control assholes in the police department and the mishandling of the homophobic attack on Luke Hankins due to the incompetent actions of a police officer for yet unknown reasons. Violent assholes with guns really bother me and my initially more positive impression of Asheville cops has definitely shifted to considering them a threat to me and my friends.
B) I know Buncombe County is 84.4% self-identified as white (non-Latino) but I was still surprised at the very low number of black people I saw and the total absence of people I could identify as likely to be Latino. With 6.4% of the county's population self-identified as black and 6% as Latino, one might expect a larger percentage of people who are other colors than shades of white, especially given that Asheville's demographics in 2000 included fewer Latinos but over 17% black or African-American.
Tim Smith recently did a nice job of discussing the absence of acts that might draw more black people from the perspective of a black man who served on the music selection committee but he did not address the fact that the Latino population, which is probably growing, is clearly being ignored.
More could be said on that topic but the weird thing about Bele Chere is that the criticisms could be said to be that it's too multicultural, i.e. including folks that don't fit the preferred consciousness of Asheville's elite, and not multicultural enough, i.e. being a white thing.
I may take a walk downtown to see what I imagine is going to be the worst hours of the Bele Chere phenomenon. But, even if I don't, I'm not going to be hating on Bele Chere though I will be looking for opportunities to support reining in violent and/or incompetent cops and to encourage more diversity in Asheville public events.
*Note: I'm definitely feeling Paper Tiger. Heard the name but not the music. Glad to have found them!