Washington Post article brings mixed feelings about race relations in Asheboro

ASHEBORO, N.C. -- Asheboro is known as a close-knit community. When a Washington Post article targeted Asheboro as a Southern town where racial tensions flared last year, locals took it personally.

"Asheboro is not a city of hate," Eve Ellen Arroyo said. "It's been totally blown out of proportion."

But depending on who you ask, people have different takes on the community's perceived race problem.

"I honestly do," said X Prieto, who grew up here after her parents immigrated to the area from Mexico. "People don't put it out there so much."

"We have a lot of growing to do," Tammy Bennett said. "On the surface things look good, but I think there are a lot of underlying things that need to probably be worked on."

The article highlights a Ku Klux Klan rally that was set in the spring, but never happened in the city after Mayor David Smith and other city leaders condemned the idea.

In the Washington Post headline, the article states "The KKK burned a cross," but Smith says that wasn't verified.

"We have no information that says that actually happened in Asheboro," Smith said. "It did not happen in Asheboro and we don't believe it happened in Randolph County."

Smith says he gets that information from the police chief and contacts at the State Bureau of Investigations who track groups like the Klan.

The article also touches on divided groups who rallied around the confederate monument outside the courthouse back in August.

"There's been an uptick in racial tension since the election," said Dexter Trogdon Jr., who was featured in the article. "Everybody don't have the same experiences, like what I go through you might not see. It's like if you never eaten at McDonald's you wouldn't know what the french fries taste like."

Trogdon says the mayor and police have done a great job at bridging the divide, but there are underlying issues of race here like most cities and towns across the country.

"I don't think Asheboro has a race problem, I think they have a problem with history," Trogdon said. "We just need to learn each other's history."

That history for some in Randolph County is different, along with the meaning and symbolism of the Confederate flag.

"It's basically just American heritage," said Jamie Flannery, who drives a large black truck with an American flag and a Confederate flag with a pirate skull and cross-bones around town. She says she rotates the Confederate flag out every now and then.

"I get some mean looks, sometimes, but you wouldn't believe the thumbs up that I do get," Flannery said.

"That flag will always symbolize a meaning of hate for me," Trogdon said.

But regardless of race, people in Asheboro widely believe that feeling of racial hatred is held by a small group.

"It's a group, that they're more vocal than good people," Trogdon said.

"Yes of course there's hate," Arroyo said. "Every place I've ever lived has had hate, but I think the majority of the people don't want to embrace that at all."

And even if some people see the problem more than others, people agree more can be done and the issue isn't exclusive to Asheboro, Randolph County or North Carolina.

"The whole world has work to do in race relations and even just in love your neighbor relations," Smith said.

NAACP President Donald Matthews says talking about race is one thing, but actions speak louder than words. He wants a commission to focus on race relations in the Asheboro area.