The Segregation Conversation

Saturday night, Aug. 21, the Drinks and Dialogue event focuses on an issue I’ve written about before. The topic: Why is Asheville segregated? Racial relations in Asheville remain a controversial issue (as I’ve written before) — and one that must be faced.

The event, at the Haywood Lounge (590 Haywood Rd.) at 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 21, is organized by Tim Smith, who’s taken the initiative to tackle this issue head-on and promote a dialogue. I look forward to it as an opportunity for Ashevilleans to discuss these issues face-to-face, something that’s been helped since time immemorial by a drink. If the questions and comments that arose in the original discussion are any indication, it should be an interesting and enlightening night.

Sadly, discussion over this important topic often bogs down into debates about where minorities live, whether “outsiders” are imposing on a culture, or how many minorities hold positions in an agency or company (full disclosure: Xpress has no Hispanic or African-American employees). Those aren’t unimportant necessarily, but they often miss larger issues.

In my original post, I focused intentionally on events such as the dangerous pedestrian crossing to Hillcrest, the razing of African-American neighborhoods during the “urban renewal” of the 1970s, the Burton Street neighborhood’s fight against widespread demolitions and the feeling of many minority citizens that when it comes to planning the future of Asheville, their concerns aren’t taken seriously.

These are not token issues, but matters of government power, prosperity and poverty. In some cases they are matters of life and death.

In the end, questions of segregation boil down to who is regarded as expendable and who isn’t. Any hope of moving towards a city where that answer is “no one” takes some honest discussion about an extremely complicated topic. Tomorrow’s a great time to start, and I hope to see you at Drinks and Dialogue.


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5 thoughts on “The Segregation Conversation

  1. Curious

    What has the “Building Bridges” program done over the years to address this issue? Has Mountain Xpress covered the programs offered by the Center for Diversity Education?

  2. Jeff Fobes

    Here are some Xpress articles on Building Bridges:
    “Ending racism”

    “Hands across the water”

    “Building Bridges”

    Here are some on the Center for Diversity Education:
    “Center for Diversity Education announces road show dates”

    “Miles away”

    “Breaking taboos”

    You can find more using the “advanced search” feature on the Xpress site, but you have to set the search to look for the exact phrases to get good results.

  3. Clay Henderson

    David, I’m curious. Do you live in a diverse neighborhood? If not, you could live in Montford, Kenilworth, or the MLK Blvd area, just to name a few. Those neighborhoods are diverse.

    And I have a test for anyone who thinks Asheville, in particular, has a “segregation”, or racial problem. Walk the streets. Smile at strangers. See how many smile back. I do this and have always had a friendly response from black folks (I am white). Let’s let go of preconceived opinions that the South is segregated, and see first hand what is the reality. And fortunately, that reality if that Asheville is a shining city on a hill as far as black-white relations go.

  4. Diversity Education

    Thanks so much for mentioning our organization. Anyone can stop in The Center for Diversity Education anytime from 9-5 weekdays at UNCA. It is so important to us to keep communication open with our lovely community. We have a lot to offer Asheville and would love to see schools, individuals and businesses take advantage of our exhibits and roadshows. We try to be at as many community events as possible so if you see us remember to “Start a Conversation”. Find out more at or call us anytime at 828.232.5024. Hope to see you at the next D&D.

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