Letter: Rededicate the Vance Monument

Graphic by Lori Deaton

With regard to the Vance Monument, there is an obvious solution to which I truly can’t fathom that no one seems to have entertained. First of all, I’m not even going to get into whether or not it’s a monument to racism. That part is obvious. I am personally offended by any monument to the Confederacy, including the statues that surround the state capitol in Raleigh and their flag. In a city of liberals, I’ve found it strange since the day I came to Asheville. Just so you know, I am white and have lived in the South my entire life.

The monument is directly on the site of the old courthouse where the slave auctions were held. It is the exact location where blacks were sold into bondage. It has always been apparent to me, and yet I have never heard one person suggest it, that the monument be rededicated to them. Instead, they want to tear it down. Why? It is a beautiful piece of architecture that should be allowed to stand. I truly don’t understand why people can’t see this.

In addition, it is about 100 feet from the old Cherokee cemetery near the corner of Lexington Avenue and College Street, probably under the Kress building or one of the nearby parking lots. Go figure. I am certainly not going to debate this. I have researched it, and to some extent I know what I’m talking about. It was actually one of the original tourist attractions in Asheville; however, for all practical purposes, their history has been repressed here since the 1700s. There are constant intellectual and historical debates by the few who care regarding the Native American presence in this area — whether they were Cherokee or someone else.

The currently held belief is that this was an uninhabited hunting ground, despite the burial mounds found down by the river and graves on the north side of the city. I have personally found arrowheads here. I know they were here.

There is no one here who is further to the left than me; however, I do not consider myself a liberal. From my point of view, liberals and conservatives are opposite sides of the same coin, just like believers and atheists. They all think they have some kind of special insight into this world or the world beyond. No one does. I don’t pretend to believe I am right and everyone else is wrong. I’m simply stating the facts as I see them.

It’s all about easy money in Asheville, liberals and conservatives alike. I doubt many people here — besides the construction workers on these buildings that are going to make you rich — would have it any other way. If the powers that be determined they could make more money tearing the monument down, it would be gone in a month, just like the homeless people. I doubt the buskers have much to worry about because they bring in tourists.

In a world full of starving children, people’s idea of charity here is to leave a 50 percent tip to a service worker for doing their job.

Do the right thing. Get your facts straight. That piece of stone is a monument to racism, nothing else. If you can’t rededicate it, just get rid of it.

— Douglas Thompson
Asheville

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40 thoughts on “Letter: Rededicate the Vance Monument

  1. Mike

    “There is no one here who is further to the left than me”… You presentation makes a compelling argument for that claim.

    • Lulz

      And yet in Seattle there’s a statue of Lenin. Maybe the communist wouldn’t complain if we erected one here. After all, they seem to be in denial of the purges, executions, starvation, and other trivial matters imposed under its banner.

        • Lulz

          No, what’s truly bizarre is that communists are entrenched in education and taxes pay them.

        • NFB

          From the Wikipeida article:

          “Tomáš Fülöpp, Carpenter approached the city officials with a claim that despite its current unpopularity, the sculpture was still a work of art worth preserving, and he offered to buy it for $13,000.”

          And.

          “The Carpenter family continues to seek a buyer for the statue. As of 2015 the asking price is $250,000, up from a 1996 price tag of $150,000.”

          An 1823% profit? Sounds like capitalism to me.

          • The Real World

            Sigh…..as happens FAR too often, facts get ignored and/or cherry-picked for self-serving purposes.

            What 1823% profit? It hasn’t sold, there is no profit! And, it’s been for sale since 1996. So, what is this capitalism you claim?

            Speaking of that non-existent “profit”…..in addition to the 13K purchase price, another 40K was spent to cut it in 3 pieces and transport it to the USA. It is not mentioned what it cost to reassemble and install it.

            Good grief…..scary math and assumptions.

          • bsummers

            Sigh… like when people post deceitfully edited quotes from news stories to mislead readers about what really happened. Sad!

  2. NFB

    ” I’ve found it strange since the day I came to Asheville”

    Well thank you for moving here and telling us we are doing it wrong.

    Whatever did we do without you?

    • Lulz

      LOL I find it quite funny that the far left fringes are even too much for you. Problem is that you ain’t seen nothing yet.

    • luther blissett

      “Well thank you for moving here and telling us we are doing it wrong.”

      Are you on the Cherokee rolls, then? Because somehow I don’t think your family history in WNC goes back that far.

      • NFB

        Well, it goes back 8 generations.

        I get your point, and I even appreciate it as I do think it has some validity. That I normally agree with your posts about 99% of the time, your point here gets a little extra credibility.

        But the tone of this letter and the fixation on the Vance monument by some just seems a little misplaced and I say that as someone who would be all for having the monument shared with one acknowledging that the site was used as a slave auction sight. Judging someone by modern standards — particularly someone who has a lot more nuance to him that many want to recognize — gets to be a slippery slope. What things that we accept today as being totally legitimate will generations 150 years from now judge us with disdain for. The world is not a black and white as the far right or, in this case, the far left likes to think it is.

      • NFB

        Well, it goes back 8 generations.

        I get your point and even appreciate it as it does have some validity. That I usually agree with your posts here about 99% of the time gives your point a little extra credibility.

        But the fixation on the Vance Monument by many seems misplaced, particularly since Vance himself had a considerable amount of nuance for his time on the matter of race. Judging historical figures by contemporary standards is a dangerous game. What things do we accept and believe today will cause future generations to look back on us with disdain? Life is not nearly as black and white as the far right, on in this case, the far left, would like to think it is.

        • luther blissett

          I don’t have strong opinions on the Vance Monument itself. It tells a story about the defining era of Asheville as a city.

          The broader point I’ve tried to make across these threads is that it’s valid to ask who has historically had the right to memorialize in explicitly civic spaces, and who has not had that right, because monuments in those spaces inevitably define certain narratives. There was a good piece in the Washington Post last weekend about a statue in a small Alabama city that was accidentally knocked down (by a cop!) and the conversation about its function and historical legacy that arose in the aftermath:

          http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/style/2017/07/20/a-car-crash-topples-a-confederate-statue-and-forces-a-southern-town-to-confront-its-past/

      • NFB

        Let me add that I totally support the idea which has been floated before of having the Vance Monument share space with a monument acknowledging that the space was once used as an area for slave auctions.

        • Peter Robbins

          Let’s make sure that this proposed slave-auction marker celebrates how blacks were lifted out of savagery in Africa and given a chance to know civilized life in America, since it would be dangerous and risky to reevaluate the actions of our ancestors by contemporary standards. We don’t want future generations taking a dim view of our racial gerrymandering and voter suppression, do we?

  3. Big Al

    “I don’t pretend to believe I am right and everyone else is wrong. I’m simply stating the facts as I see them.”

    How easily opinions become facts.

    Must be that “enlightenment” thing I keep hearing about.

  4. syd renet

    i feel being born and raised in Weaverville, having served OUR country in iraqville USA 003- 004 gives me the right to suggest the following; Have a Vote at Buncombe|Asheville Councilpersons on whether or not to move the monument (To his birthplace in Reems Creek)

  5. Peter Robbins

    The tone trolls who take exception to the letter-writer’s style should at least have the courage to answer the question the letter poses: Why is it better to honor the particular white supremacist to whom the monument is currently dedicated than to honor the sacrifices of the victims of white supremacy?

    • Lulz

      LOL perfect example of leftist ostracizing. Disagree with me and you are troll. Or a racist, mysogynist, or any other is around. Scary. Say, I support the slave marker too as long as it includes the fact that blacks were sold to traders by other blacks in Africa. And the market only existed because Africans willingly participated in it.

  6. bsummers

    I agree with NFB. A good compromise might be placing a new marker in the same space, that shows the slave market in downtown AVL, etc, and especially Zebulon Vance’s history with slavery. No need to erase history, just show it warts and all.

    And as far as I’m concerned, they can put it where that bronze love letter to Robert E. Lee now sits. Let the people who want to celebrate the Confederacy pay for a museum, and then put that marker inside it.

    • Peter Robbins

      I’ll be curious to see what Vance flaws they’re willing to have written in stone. Prediction: none.

      • Lulz

        I’d be curious why people who disagrees with leftist have such vapid insults tossed at them as spelling errors to dismiss them. Yet many adult descendents of slaves are reading and writing at sub par levels. Is it Vance who’s to blame or is it progressive leftist?

        • bsummers

          Is it Vance who’s to blame or is it progressive leftist?

          I would say neither. It’s a combination of the effects of lower income & family instability on students in the African-American community, and the fact that we still fund our schools through property taxes. Meaning, people who live in poor communities will tend to stay poor through underfunded schools. Ah, but maybe I was missing some thinly veiled point. Are you implying that descendants of slaves aren’t intellectually capable of learning to read & write as well as whites?

          • luther blissett

            Black communities have been systematically denied the access to the mechanisms of social and economic advancement even as once-ostracized communities (e.g. white Catholics) were allowed to participate. Redlining was real. “Urban renewal” and white flight actually happened. Biltmore Forest exists.

            The ability to build up hundreds of thousands of dollars in net worth over a few years simply by sitting on property creates all kinds of advantages in America, especially for the following generations. It’s even obvious to commenters who complain about the political influence of a certain local family with large inherited property holdings. Perhaps that’s the broader historical context here: the continuity of belief that there are the owners, and there are the owned.

          • Phil Williams

            Mr. Blissett, Biltmore Forest is perhaps not the best example of “white flight” – that community was largely built during the 1920’s and 1930’s as vacation and/or retirement homes for mostly very wealthy people – that section of land was sold off by the Biltmore Estate after the flood of 1916.

            Most of the flight – white and otherwise – from downtown Asheville resulted from the coming of malls and shopping centers, automobiles becoming readily available, and the local job market becoming unattractive to the younger generations of wealthier inhabitants – many younger folks of the post-WWII generation got college educations and didn’t want to work in manufacturing or running the family business, and moved to Charlotte, Atlanta, etc. Same thing happened with family farms out in the County.

            Many Black folks were forced out of longtime neighborhoods, particularly around Valley Street and Southside Avenue, during the Urban Renewal push in the 1970’s.

          • Phil Williams

            It is also ironic that the man who proposed the Vance Monument and paid for most of it was a benefactor of the Beaumont School. This was the first public school for blacks established in Asheville, and Mr. GW Pack paid the salaries of the first teachers to work there in 1888.

          • luther blissett

            I’ll clarify my point about Biltmore Forest. Yes, it was incorporated in the 1920s. But it was incorporated as a separate town, and it expanded most rapidly in the 1950s. It was 98.4% white in the 2010 census, having gained five African-American residents (up from zero) since 2000.

            http://censusviewer.com/city/NC/Biltmore%20Forest

            It is, to be blunt, a parasitical entity. It would not exist without being in proximity to the city of Asheville and making use of it. Its existence hampers development efforts south of the Swannanoa. It established the precedent of opting out that continues to dominate city-county politics.

          • Phil Williams

            I definitely agree with your point regarding the disproportionate influence Biltmore Forest and other wealthy communities have on the City and County – “parasitic” is a good description – although I think BF’s growth resulted because it was more of a magnet for upper crust pretention and “exclusivity” rather than a destination for people fleeing the downtown neighborhoods.

            I maintain that BF was not a result of the “White Flight” phenomenon at any stage of its existence, nor has Asheville been significantly affected by it. The flight from downtown Asheville was more general – and actually was more of a commercial than residential nature – Asheville proper has never been an ethnic or racial ghetto at any time in its history – even at its lowest point in the mid 1980’s it was mostly inhabited by poor and elderly whites.

            Traditionally middle class neighborhoods like Montford and West Asheville became inhabited largely by poor and working class whites, because the original owners died or moved due to age, and many of their children had moved away and either became absentee landlords or sold the properties to slumlords who rented them out in all kinds of multi-family configurations, and thus many older houses deteriorated along with the quality of life in those neighborhoods.

            Many poor and working class blacks lived around old Southside and Valley Street/Beaumont Street and the black commercial area of Downtown was the Eagle Street block – many families were displaced when the City “improved” those areas and folks were moved to the project style neighborhoods from the late 60’s thru the early 80’s. Many middle class and professional black folks moved to the Shiloh area during the post-WWII era – it is indeed an irony that the sole dividing line between Shiloh and BF is Highway 25!

          • bsummers

            it is indeed an irony that the sole dividing line between Shiloh and BF is Highway 25!

            Ironic because Highway 25 is also known to some as the “Dixie Highway”?

          • Phil Williams

            Not really – I seriously doubt that the majority of Biltmore Forest residents ever gave much thought to Dixie or General Lee, then or now. As Sigmund Freud once observed, “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” In this case, a manmade geographical feature, regardless of what it is called, is literally the dividing line between a very wealthy, predominately white community and a working/middle-class, predominately black community.

            I have been a resident of WNC for over 50 years and never once have heard Hwy 25 referred to as “The Dixie Highway” except as an historical reference – and even then only lately, when the controversy regarding the marker was created. Locally it is invariably referred to as “25” or “Hendersonville Road” if you live in Buncombe County and “Asheville Road” or “Greenville Highway” if you live in Henderson County.

    • Peter Robbins

      Or how about this? The monument is rededicated to some other person, group, event, etc. deemed to be more worthy of honor than the present incumbent. Add a marker that explains the history of the monument and the reasons for the change. Nothing is forgotten; nothing is erased. All that happens is that new history is made.

      • luther blissett

        I think the function of the Vance Monument as a focal point for public speech and protest (of all kinds) goes some way towards mitigating whatever you might think of Vance as an individual. Obelisks are flexible. Civic space can still be defined by the people (for now). Bobby Lee can go somewhere else on 25 — maybe the I-240 underpass?

  7. Lulz

    As posted in another thread, he nor his ilk desire true debate. Labels are used instead to shut down any convo. As written before, a statue of Lenin suits Democrat progressives perfectly. Because it’s either conform or be cast out with them. Absolutism is a trait of the dark side as Obi Wan said to the newly crowned Sith Lord Vader.

  8. Lulz

    LOL writes that in a few generations racism will cease but omits because whites will be a minority. And racism towards them will be on full effect as it is today. But go on believing that is some solution or progress. Especially as leftist continue to lose white votes merely because they actually do hate whites. And don’t understand why whites have stopped playing the absurd self hate because of the past guilt game.

    • luther blissett

      A reminder that the mindset that responded to any questioning of white supremacism by slapping up more monuments to Confederates is alive and well. And a reminder of what the self-proclaimed defender of the city’s working stiffs thinks about the actual working class.

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