Letter: Shouldn’t civic center’s name be changed, too?

Graphic by Lori Deaton

The city of Asheville and a lot of concerned citizens of both the city and the county are embarking on what may become a lengthy and expensive process of addressing past racial grievances and making amends: renaming streets, removing monuments, offering financial reparations.

But the tragic history of slavery — not only in America’s past but throughout history worldwide — holds many sad surprises. Among them is the history of Cherokee Indians who held Black slaves; that situation has been well documented, and, according to at least one historian, the percentage of slaves totaled 10% of the Cherokee population around 1825.

Shouldn’t Asheville’s activists acknowledge that not only white people owned enslaved people and act accordingly? Shouldn’t the name of Asheville’s civic center, Harrah’s Cherokee Center – Asheville, be among those that must be changed, since the Cherokees were also slaveowners? Shouldn’t the city of Asheville revisit the underwriting contract for Harrah’s Cherokee – Asheville and perhaps cancel it? And shouldn’t any money tainted by those once-upon-a-time slaveholders be returned? Shouldn’t consistency matter in a case as serious as this?

I suggested as much in a letter to the Asheville City Council and the mayor, and had only one response, from Julie Mayfield.

— Nan Chase
Fries, Va.

Editor’s note: Xpress contacted Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Principal Chief Richard Sneed, Mayor Esther Manheimer and Asheville City Council members with a summary of the writer’s points but received no response.


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

About Letters
We want to hear from you! Send your letters and commentary to letters@mountainx.com

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

16 thoughts on “Letter: Shouldn’t civic center’s name be changed, too?

  1. C-Law

    But, but, but!!!…systemic racism can only come from white supremacists!!!! White peoples bad! POC folk are saints.

    The South would have been better off if Old Honest Abe had murdered in cold blood every single white man woman and child back in ‘65.

    Or so I’ve been told.

    Appreciate the effort Nan, but the utter hypocrisy of the Left-Marxist knows no bounds. In fact immoral hypocrisy is one of their defining principles.

  2. bsummers

    Nice try, but the Civic Center isn’t named after any individuals who personally owned slaves.

    • vox pop

      So, if we renamed the Vance Monument “The Generic Slaveholders’ Monument”, it would instantly become perfectly acceptable, totally unobjectionable?

      • bsummers

        Absurd. On the other hand, following the authors logic, we should demand that the American Veterans Monument at Niagara Falls should be renamed because Americans owned slaves.

        Nobody is arguing that. This is an attempt to make the legitimate demands that we stop glorifying known racists in our public square seem crazy.

        • vox pop

          You know, the Vance Monument was not erected to glorify Vance BECAUSE he was a racist, or a slave owner. It was erected to honor his long career of public service as a US Senator and as only the second governor of the state from the mountains, and there have only been a few since. History is messy, and few people are perfect. We are all creatures of the times we live in, and it takes a great effort to find a perspective that transcends “presentism”. Its possible that there are those persons who feel that Vance’s contributions to our state are valuable and worth remembering, despite his racial attitudes and slave owning. If there are such persons their point of view is as legitimate as that of any other person.

          • bsummers

            In general. I don’t disagree with most of what you say…

            Have you seen Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing? Every character in it feels they were doing the right thing in their situation, but it still ends in death and destruction. That’s where we are as a nation – watching the cycle go round and round and round and defending our own rightness. I applaud those who suggest a way to break the cycle – remove Confederate-era monuments from our public spaces. Let a generation grow up without the argument that the “Lost Cause” was just. That an economy based on slavery was merely “it is what it is”. That those who propped up that cause and that economy should be remembered only for their good works, while ignoring the vast moral crimes they participated in and profited from.

            Let a generation of white boys grow up without the Stars & Bars, and a generation of black boys grow up without the white boys driving pickup trucks in circles around them. What a great country this could be if we weren’t collectively stepping on our own d***s.

  3. North Asheville

    Nan Chase, author of many articles and a history of Asheville, makes an interesting point and very subtle point.

  4. Reeb McCauley

    The current slaves of the Cherokees are the hapless casino gamblers addicted to losing their money that their children need for food and shelter. You can check anytime you like but you can never leave says Don Henley….

  5. Mike R.

    I think all this historical racism stuff has gone way too far.

    It is intellectual masturbation at it’s finest. If we were to continue on this line, we will tear down the US Capitol. Yes, largely built by slave labor. And they did a damn nice job of it!!

    Look, the history of the US is filled with all kinds of inequities, imoralities, injustices, etc, etc., Not just here in the continental US but overseas as well. Are we going to try and right all those wrongs??

    Instead of all this historical wokesterism, why don’t we focus on today? How about railing against the US empire abroad and how our CIA has inflicted untold levels of death and misery on other foreign powers?? How about studying how the US dollar as reserve currency has manipulated and robbed other countries of trillions of wealth over the decades? Not good enough????….How about questioning our very extravagant lifestyle here in the US and how we achieve that on the backs of others around the world.

    Get real people!!

    • bsummers

      This isn’t about “historical racism”. This is about the racism of today (especially in law enforcement), that allows certain bad cops to think they can flat out murder black men in front of witnesses and cameras with impunity, and there will be no consequences. George Floyd wasn’t an isolated case.

      Continuing to celebrate known racist slaveowners on our public monuments is the first thing that has to change. It’s horrifying that there’s so much pushback against that simple necessity.

      • Sabresong

        You are mistaken. “This” is exactly about historical racism. That was the entire point of the letter on which the comment was made. While your points are valid in a general sense, the individual cases you mention have no context here. What you’re doing is generalizing and attempting to hijack the intent of the letter’s original author in order to make a broader point. Very much like the earlier comments author that attempted to use this letter to divide us by party affiliation, your comment attempts to divide the very people who agree with you by effectively accusing us of not agreeing enough.

        Context is vital in communication, and you hurt your cause by dividing people over context

  6. Peter Robbins

    What’s your beef, lady? The connection to casino gambling cleans up the image, don’t it? There’s nothing more American than buying respectability, and it ain’t for youse to besmirch the honor.

  7. Shultz!

    False equivalence that shows the author doesn’t fully understand the idea underlying the movement. Perhaps coming down to Asheville and talking in person with the ‘activists’ might help? Also, throwing reparations into the argument is nonsensical – they are 2 very different things. So come & talk to us, get to know us & perhaps we can teach each other a thing or two.

    That said, I’d be very glad to see the name changed to something more classy than a gambling hall. Perhaps the citizenry can start a go-fund-me to get it changed to Willy’s Drive Thru Guns n’ Beer Civic Center or something.

    • Nan K. Chase

      Thank you for the invitation to visit. I lived in Asheville for a decade and built two houses on former vacant lots, walking distance from downtown…but some people call that gentrification.

  8. Harold

    “Among them is the history of Cherokee Indians who held Black slaves…”

    YES! And why is it that the weather report in the winter ALWAYS warns about slipping on BLACK ice and never about WHITE ice! That right there is weather racism.

  9. Jason Williams

    Slave ownership was a status symbol. Slaves were a commodity of early American Capitalism. To be protected by the government at that time, a group had to prove civilization. If the Cherokee, (or other “Civilized Nations) wanted to show themselves civilized, they had to own land and slaves. Native Americans owned slaves because the white man did.
    Anyway, not to justify the actions of Manifest Destiny, but America’s policies towards the native population, especially after the 1800’s, serves as kind of a payment for the Civilized Nations karmic debt for owning slaves.
    It’s somewhat unfair that the poor southerners and their descendants, who never owned slaves, must carry a burden of their wealthy counterparts karmic debt, but all white America owns a piece of that debt now, and all debts come due at some point, and must be paid.


Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.