Despite being sympathetic to citizens of color who were somehow offended by the existence of a stack of stones named for a man no one alive today ever met, I applaud Milton Ready’s wise (and certainly, to some, controversial) opinion piece regarding the ill-conceived and poorly executed decision to remove the Vance Monument [“Down by Law: The Monumental Toppling of Zeb Vance,” June 21, Xpress].
In a time when this city desperately needs money to raise salaries of teachers and police officers — as well as to address the myriad challenges afflicting the very people who often clamor the loudest in our community for housing and help — I find the exorbitant expense and waste of tax dollars to be a shortsighted and appalling act of performance activism — and just plain bad business. The even greater loss, it seems to me, is the squandered, intangible opportunity to keep the historic work of art and use it as a teachable moment.
I believe that a simple, tasteful plaque acknowledging our city’s (and country’s) complicated past would have done wonders to heal wounds and begin to explain what “diversity” truly means. I believe that visitors and resident children alike might have gleaned a great deal of wisdom and healing from such a transparently bold and authentic move. I also believe that we weaken our position politically when we knock down monuments beloved by one group and then try to lobby that group for handouts when we find ourselves low on funds. At present, the far right and the far left have become so shrill, inept and divisive that all they really do is aggravate reasonable humans and cancel each other out.
I’m a white man who lived for years in Africa and am engaged to marry a Black woman. I’m an independent who grew up in a family of Republicans but have never voted for one. I believe I’ve developed a reasonably balanced perspective, and so I ask: What’s to become of Asheville, this rapidly growing city named for a former slave owner? What are we to do with Patton Avenue, that busy thoroughfare named for a famous slaveholder, that cuts through the middle of our wonderful, confusing, cool, green, sensitive/insensitive city of sanctimonious souls? Where are the cries to rename our offensively named home and its many racially insensitive streets? Why aren’t our incongruous hypocrisies advertised to the world, along with natural beauty and beer?
Could we all agree that our challenges are overlapping and complex? Could we unite, find common ground and perhaps sign some sort of community peace and reconciliation treaty agreeing to be more frugal with our finite resources, get focused on infrastructure and, from this day forward, never ever to name monuments for any human, living or dead?
— Robert McGee