Letter: Nothing to salvage in Vance Monument

Graphic by Lori Deaton

First off, I would like to say that I was initially very pleased to hear of the mayor and Asheville City Council’s decision to tear down Vance Monument seven months ago. But over the past year, I’ve heard talks of transporting the memorial, covering it up, repainting it, and lately, there’s been talk of not removing it at all. I’m embarrassed to say that it wasn’t until quite a bit later in my youth that I really understood who Zebulon Vance was and how much he harmed the surrounding area. As a kid growing up in Asheville, “Vance” was just some other old guy’s name. I didn’t question it.

At the time, I probably would have had a hard time believing that this “free-loving, progressive hippie town” that I lived in could actually have erected (and maintained) an obelisk celebrating a Confederate colonel who owned enslaved people and actively fought to oppress the African American community as a whole.

I was born in Mission Hospital. I attended the socioeconomically confused Isaac Dickson, the former crumbling Asheville Middle and the regal and expansive (and somewhat intimidating) Asheville High. I was at Bele Chere, LAAFF, Goombay, Downtown After 5 and other countless festivals listening to live music propped up on my parents’ shoulders. I romped around the Health Adventure science museum. I watched West Asheville bloom from damp industrial lots and suburban grayness into the Vegas strip it is now. I played in the drum circle until my palms were sweaty and swollen and red. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been to the top of the Blue Ridge Mountains and looked down upon the underwhelming tourist trap bowl that is Asheville. I’ve loved and hated my entire life there, and I would never take a single second of it back. You would be hard-pressed to find a person “more Asheville” than me.

Which is why I hope you really take my words into account when I ask you to please just take the f**king obelisk down. There’s nothing to salvage. Crumble the statue to bits and use the gravel to line a driveway or a country road. From an Asheville native’s perspective, I never regarded the statue with any sort of reverence or care. It was just one of many central high points in downtown to meet people at. The majority of my teens, I was aware of it mostly as a spot to buy drugs, sit on benches and not much more.

I can tell you, at best, no one will care.

At worst, you pain someone every time they have to look at that spire and know that our city that likes to claim pretentious nicknames like “Paris of the South,” and “Land of the Sky,” and “New Age Mecca,” celebrates a Civil War villain and alleged grand dragon of the KKK. Please realize every day this statue remains intact is another day you’re not actively renouncing white supremacy.

— Sequoya Waring
Brooklyn, N.Y.


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29 thoughts on “Letter: Nothing to salvage in Vance Monument

  1. Enlightened Enigma

    OMG, West AVL compared to Las Vegas ! hilarious…writer doesn’t remember city spent $$$ restoring said obelisk just a few years ago…
    So now Sequoya lives in BROOKLYN NEW YAWK !!!

    • Mike R.

      Your reply to this author has a level of nastiness unacceptable to me in this forum.

    • James

      So… you support leaving up a monument dedicated to someone who participated in the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of US troops? You think changing what we call it or ignoring its original purpose makes things different? How about you retrieve the swastika back for Hindu purposes and tell us all how that works out…

  2. bsummers

    Maybe they should leave it up, but sell corporate naming rights to fund reparations.

    The “Aetna: We’re Sorry We Profited Off Of Slavery Memorial”

    “Aetna insured the lives of slaves during the 1850’s and reimbursed slave owners when their slaves died.”

  3. C-Law

    “At the core of liberalism is the spoiled child — miserable, as all spoiled children are, unsatisfied, demanding, ill-disciplined, despotic, and useless. Liberalism is a philosophy of sniveling brats.” P.J. O’Rourke

    Perfect summation of the letter writer and old Barry.

    Nothing more needs to be written. Shalom Rav

  4. Mike R.

    I don’t agree with the author’s position while I accept her strong feelings about the matter.
    No one in favor of tear down seems to want to address my main point/concern which is: Where does it end? Where do we stop tearing down our history that offends us?

    To me, as Councilwoman Kilgore has also laid out, a much better and potentially much more healing approach which is to repurpose. But that repurposing needs to have ceremony and inclusion from both sides. That is the process that has the best chance of healing wounds (on both sides), in my opinion.

    • bsummers

      Hey I just had an idea. How about we repurpose it by putting several smaller obelisks alongside so it looks like a giant middle finger.

      “The Pepsi-Cola Just Say F*** You To Racism Monument”.

    • James

      If someone had put up monuments to the 9/11 hijackers or the Japanese who bombed Pearl Harbor would you insist on leaving them up and simply repurposing them? And speaking of offensive… do you NOT find it offensive that we honor and glorify someone who participated in the slaughter of 120,000 American troops? Should we reverse integration because some people suddenly found it offensive? How exactly could we have repurposed those “Whites Only” signs in your world?

      And should we include “both sides” in these discussions including Al Qaeda, the KKK and the Imperial Japanese?

  5. Peter Robbins

    I like the way the public debate has shifted, in a fairly short time, from “Should we do anything about the Vance Monument?” to “What should we do about the obelisk formerly known as the Vance Monument?” Who says the system doesn’t work?

  6. Stan Hawkins

    Attention all “Utopianites” – as most are aware a thorough study of history is usually inconvenient to the progressive cause. Why, is perhaps a question for another day or not?

    An inconvenient truth is that, George Willis Pack was a close friend of Zebulon Vance during both their years living in Asheville. You know; Pack Square, Pack Memorial Library, etc.

    In fact, Pack thought so highly of Vance, he donated land in a swap with Asheville and partially funded the monument in question today. Since Vance is seemingly detestable, should not we also detest and cancel / erase / and dilute the history of his close friend, George Willis Pack?

    Certainly, appropriately elected representatives, along with a thorough review of deed rights and restrictions – have the right to change the landscape of its city / county property. This could have been done without dirtying up the citizens and their ancestors. I therefore request we leave George Willis Pack, a northerner and close friend of Zebulon Vance, alone in the annals of Asheville history.


    • James

      No… it is the difference between demanding we punish Trump and the Capitol seditionist terrorist attackers while not going after their friends who didn’t attack the US government. See how that works? Of course you don’t. You want to find ways to distract from the fact you support someone who killed American troops and enslaved, tortured and killed people based on their race.

      • Stan Hawkins

        Uh, James I believe you are a bit off topic and my post was written shortly before your post indicated in the order of posts. Nevertheless, as I say in regards to the Vance monument, the city / county leaders certainly have all rights and privileges that the law provides.

        Currently, we see in our news and political leadership if paying attention ; a movement in restricting the rights, privileges, and opportunities of acquaintances, friends, and co-workers of public figures because of a disagreement in opinions, possible rush to judgements, and other such person rights to self expression.

        George Willis Pack had such rights and he chose a pathway for his later life. The post civil war south, including Asheville / Buncombe had a great need for investment in infrastructure during the years Pack and Vance were friends. Pack invested heavily in the Asheville area, and we benefit from these actions today. My point is, just because he was a friend, acquaintance, and in civic minded cooperation with Vance – should not be held against him.

        To expand my point to your post, I take no pleasure in the destruction / invasion of property by any. Unlawful behavior by any should be held to account. Yet, many of our citizens are being encouraged in the media and by politicians local state and national to restrict the privileges of associates of people who have served , who just happen to be a member of a political party. I hope you can recognize that slippery slope.

        • James

          Do you have any proof that Pack supported Vance’s actions or even opinions on slavery, white supremacy, the killing of American troops, etc? If not your straw man argument goes up in flames. If you do, I would love to hear them and would consider the validity or whether to include Pack in our opprobrium.

          Freedom of association works both ways and “shunning” has been a valid tool for expressing opposition to the viewpoints/actions of others for generations. Or do you not believe in the rights of companies and others to not wish to be seen condoning the actions of those people? (For example do you support the baker who refused to sell a wedding cake to a same sex couple because they did not wish to be seen condoning their actions? Sauce for the goose and all…)

          Don’t want people to refuse to have anything to do with you because you associate with people like the GOP who refuse to hold Benedict Donald and his mob responsible for the attacks on and the killing of Americans? Then disassociate yourself from them. Until then, actions and associations, like elections have consequences.

          • Stan Hawkins

            No thanks; I will prepare for the slope you so emphatically layout before us should it arise. I support freedom of association, freedom of speech, 2nd amendment, the right to disagree, peaceful demonstration, and opportunities based on merit, justice, and freedom.

            History tells us a lot about how that works and does not work when abused by any. George Willis Pack knew of Vance’s history, yet chose to be his friend. Why would he do that – we can only guess as neither man was perfect.

          • James

            YOU were the guy who raised the slippery slope of attacking the friends of people…. Hoist by your own petard.

  7. Enlightened Enigma

    Everyone is a racist. You me they them those everyone is of some race.

  8. Rl

    So very sad to read comments such as those above. Why has Asheville jumped from “ owned slaves, must erase all reminders” to “ helped kill 120,000 soldiers.” Get over it people! There are more serious matters to discuss and repair in Asheville- homelessness, schools, hunger, getting residents vaccinated. Don’t forget the totally unreasonable tax reassessment!!! Leave the obelisk alone- it is harming no one and is a landmark. Does Asheville really have the hundreds of thousands of dollars to take this 120+ year old piece of art apart? The $2600 spent monthly fir the scaffolding is bad enough! Many children could be fed with that money. I don’t care if Vance had slaves ( he didn’t ), I respect the friendship Mr Pack had with him. Stop the foolishness, the whining, the pretend hurt feelings and move on.
    Asheville is actually better than this but changes must be made …politically and socially. Just stop the foolishness and spend the time and money on actual important projects.

    • James

      So racism and the killing of American troops isn’t important? If people like you hadn’t been so intent of preserving symbols top those things we could have taken it down quickly with minimal cost and time. If you want to know what white privilege is, look in the mirror. And P.S. we are capable of multi-tasking and those other issues can be worked on while take down this emblem of shame.

      • rl

        And you. Sir, are delusional and a trouble maker. “Racism” has only become an issue because of those who push it to the front. I would rather see no color and love my brothers and sisters.
        Killing of American troops is a new addition to Governor Vances sins…. nevertheless, any bloodshed is tragic. Do you suggest we erase the bravery and valor of our troops who fought in wars through the ages? Simply stated, you are part of a group calling for trouble, destruction of history and denial that mistakes are made all over the world everyday. But do- gooders don’t rush in and remove all evidence… they learn from it. No, Asheville can’t multi task because the political left is too strong and damaging. Asheville will be destroyed and certainly not the “ tourist haven” once hoped for.
        White privilege? LOL! I am a cancer fighting, recent widow who is fighting to survive.
        Think about doing good for others instead of wasting time and money on growing hate and destruction.

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