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