Letter writer: Most newcomers fail to respect or appreciate WNC natives

Graphic by Lori Deaton

A recent diatribe ad nauseum in these pages concerning the superiority of the people who select Western North Carolina as their new or second home was one of the most prejudiced and hurtful commentaries that I have ever read [“Anywhere But Asheville,” Oct. 14, Xpress].

How unfortunate it is that most newcomers here can neither appreciate nor respect the lifestyle and ethics of the people native to the area. Inferring horrible things about locals, the writer’s derogatory comments are not only insulting and untrue, but are demonstrative of the arrogance and ignorance of many who move here to force us to accept their idea of how best to live.

And how did those high taxes, high crime, low morals and unsustainable union demands work out for you from Chicago, Jersey and Detroit?

How dare the writer belittle those who preceded his presence here! Indeed, why do you “progressives” come here? Is it to stomp on what we have, how we live and who we are by taking advantage of our inherent humility and reluctance to get involved? You have used and abused us.

How sad and hypocritical that the writer and his ilk are only able to embrace individuality — er — diversity when it agrees with them.  Prejudging us, you assume to know what is best for us and indeed the world: “Change” for any selfish reason as long as it involves control of others (at others’ expense, of course).

This attitude and political grandiosity are direct affronts to the high standards of WNC natives who characteristically exhibit respect for others, a hard work ethic, high morals, strength, a sense of humor, care for the land, independence and a refusal to give up the freedoms and values that built America.

Why do you think our ancestors settled here in the first place? It was for the beauty of the land, the fresh air, clean water and isolation from criticism by pompous asses. But most of all for the loathing of government control. Let us alone.

— Janet Burhoe-Jones
Swannanoa

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32 thoughts on “Letter writer: Most newcomers fail to respect or appreciate WNC natives

  1. Jason

    Not initially; but likely after a few interactions… They all think anyone not native is not to be trusted and treat us as such. VERY VERY TOUGH NUTZ TO CRACK. Very untrusting bunch..

    • Max Hunt

      I’ve actually had quite the opposite experience living here, Jason. I’m from Jersey and attended Warren Wilson, which puts me firmly in the “transplant” category. Yet I’ve found nothing but welcome and acceptance from most of the natives around the area. In fact, a lot of my best friends in the area are natives or have spent the majority of their childhoods in the mountains.

      Sure, they might joke around that I’m their “hippie” or “Yankee” friend, but the people here are much friendlier than in the rural area of the North I grew up in. I think the disconnect comes from a long legacy of transplants coming into the region and acting condescending towards the natives here, and natives having learned to be distrustful of transplants as a result.

      The best solution is to stop harping solely on the issues that separate people politically, socially, or otherwise, and start finding the common connections. If both sides can put their preconceived notions aside, we might find we have more in common than we think, with valuable lessons to teach each other. Just my two cents.

      • Jason

        Ya, Half glass full or empty. I have neighbors who are Locals who tell me they love me. I once walked into a gas station that had a sign outside that read “Yankees’ go home”, I was able to laugh that off, but I wasn’t able to laugh off the the conversation I immediately walked into between the 2 clerks debated who were worse “Yankees” or “Halfbacks”…. Another time I had an extremely hard to laugh off was when we were having our house renovated; the contractors were from locals from Marshal. They hadn’t installed P-traps on plumbing they had redone; and the septic gases were giving us terrible headaches. When I figured out what was going; I prompted them to fix the problem immediately. Should’ve fired them, but instead I heard their lame excuses only for it to transition to “You Jews come down here and take over, instead of being greatful for the work we’ve done you complaint about this… ETC ETC!” needless to say; I was beside myself, but we couldn’t take their ignorance personally (we aren’t Jewish); we just laughed and escorted them out. I’m sure this was a very isolated incident… but one cannot forget those kinda things.

        • Max Hunt

          Thanks for sharing your experiences Jason. I think that’s a very valid point to bring up, and I’m sorry you had to deal with that kind of ignorance. There’s definitely always bad seeds and xenophobes in any community. I clearly remember kids in grade school where I grew up making fun of new students for their Southern accents, and many family members and friends make jokes about Deliverance and such when I initially moved down here.

          I guess what I’m getting at is people take those incidents to heart (it’s hard not to) and tend to form a generalization of an entire culture or community. It’s the same debate we’ve been having since Antebellum times, and from some of the other comments on this thread, things don’t seem to have changed much at all.

          I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told people living in Asheville that I live in Madison and seen their faces drop like I said I live on Mars (though I guess I kind of do live on Mars in one sense ha). And it’s the same thing with people living out by Shelton Laurel when I tell them I work in Asheville. Both parties are quick to claim that “I don’t go out to [insert place here] very often,” but then follow that up with some sort of stereotype about people who do live in those places.

          It’s an interesting phenomenon. I don’t think either “side” is wrong or right, but the fact that so many people seem to have had experiences like that is definitely a sign of a larger disconnect. Thanks for contributing to this discussion!

    • The Real World

      Janet needs a large chill pill, seriously. No wonder she’s hysterical, she didn’t comprehend the article correctly nor understand who was writing it. This is what causes some big issues between locals and newcomers. It is far too frequent that you explain a need or viewpoint to a Southerner and the comments that come back don’t even make SENSE related to what you said! They rarely ask clarifying questions and I used to think that was b/c they thought to do so made them seem ignorant but, after a couple of decades working all over the Southeast, I think it’s actually that they just don’t care what you need or think. So, they comprehend they they WANT to. But realize, this isn’t something relegated to outsiders — no, no — they do it to everyone.

      Janet also doesn’t realize that people from other regions don’t UNDERSTAND the regional culture. B/c it’s very difficult to grasp why people interact the way they do and it is truly shocking to newcomers. What I mean is: insincerity is a daily way of life — statements and offers will be made that are utterly not meant. They don’t find a problem with that b/c you’re supposed to know they don’t mean it and that it’s just meant to make them look generous. Problem is — others come from places where people both MEAN what they say and actively AVOID insincerity. So, this culture is like landing on another planet and newcomers don’t know how to function when you can’t take someone at their word. Who the hell can you trust if people don’t mean what they say?? And it appears that they think our directness is rude rather than understanding that it is RESPECTFUL to be forthright. Being insincere is toying with people.

      There’s really alot more to be shared and discussed about this topic as it would benefit everyone to do so. However, I am well aware that it would fall on deaf ears for a great many as the letter above indicates. So, it’s not worth the time.

      Lastly, high MORALS, Janet? You are kidding yourself there. In 2 years, I have a short list of locals who have tried to outright rip me off and have heard stories from others as well. What’s worse is they act shocked when you call them on it or go to get it corrected if they initially succeeded. They’re shocked b/c the locals let them get away with it. Yep, they let themselves get ripped off by these ‘people of faith’. And when they’ve had enough they just move on to the next provider rather than call out the rip-off artists, as they don’t care if anyone else gets taken by them. That is seriously twisted.

  2. OneWhoKnows

    Great and BOLD letter Janet! ‘Progressives’ are still ‘hoping’ to ‘take over’ everywhere they can and none of them understands
    WHY ‘progressive socialism’ has FAILED in every country it’s been tried…their levels of ignorance are mindboggling, not only to WNC natives but smarter people in general.

  3. Peter Robbins

    Don’t be ungrateful, Letter Writer. Here in Madison County, we always appreciate it when Professor Ready takes time out of his busy day to remind us, yet again, of our civic duty to preserve the old backward ways, prickly resentments and other quaint charms that endear us so to educated folk. I myself confess that I’ve spent many an evening setting on my porch — enjoying the view of Mount Pisgah and her sisters and all — and plum neglected to grumble at least once about the shameful pleasurements going on just down the turnpike in Eye-ish-ville. Without patient schooling from tradition-lovers like Professor Ready, the social protocols is likely to be forgot.

    They do still have the turnpike, don’t they?

  4. Shultz!

    It’s always difficult, being patient with immigrants, especially when they don’t appreciate your culture. Just try to remember that our ancestors were all immigrants at one time or another, immigrants that didn’t appreciate the local culture either. Of course, in those days they lopped off the locals’ heads & drove them out, so be grateful the human race is slowly civilizing itself! While it’s true that the type of cultural arrogance of which you speak is voiced these days in many ways, I firmly believe that is a vocal minority. Most folks that immigrate here are good people and wish more to meld cultures, not dominate yours with their own.

  5. Paul

    So many transplants; where where they were from to pursue new interests… When one comes to Appalachia, the Podunk ignorance we left; becomes very noticeable and recognizable here…. Don’t take it personally. It’s not that we don’t respect or appreciate locals, just their lack of experience, diversity, acceptance, complexity… Etc etc etc etc etc

  6. NFB

    As a native the only things I resent of transplants are:

    1) when they act very surprised when they learn I am a native and remark “you don’t talk like you are from around here” (as if we all talk like Jed Clampett and as if there is something wrong with a southern Appalachian accent in the first place)) and/or “but you’re so educated” as if natives never progress past the third grade.

    2) any and all cracks about natives being “Deliverance extras” or some other sort of mean spirited stereotypical remarks.

    and

    3) people who move here who then complain about the growth that results from other people moving here, but that’s really another subject

    Overall though, I do think the letter writer misconstrued the point of Professor Ready’s column.

  7. clayton moore

    One problem not being addressed is the forgotten Asheville history. Do the new people know who Edwin W. Grove was? He hired hundreds of people to work on and at the Grove Park Inn. New owner OMNI has made the name Grove smaller and smaller in their advertisements. Mr. Grove started building the world famous Grove Arcade but died in January 1927 before it was completed. Do the new people know who Fred L. Seely was? He helped Mr. Grove hire the hundreds who worked on and in the Grove Park Inn. Seely also built the Biltmore Industries and helped bring in the ENKA rayon factory where thousands locals found work during the worst economic times this country has ever had. Seely gave countless sums to a downtown store which allowed local children to come in to get a free pair of shoes every year until he died in 1942. Seely’s wife, Evelyn Grove Seely basically gave UNC Asheville their first home by donating her castle on Sunset Mountain to start Asheville Biltmore College. History is being paved over every day in this country.

  8. hauntedheadnc

    Natives hate the tourists and the tourists hate the natives. Same old song and dance you find playing in every other tourist town in America, and for the same reason:

    Tourism makes people mean.

    Think about it. From the host’s perspective, tourism is the process of lying to someone about how glad you are to have them, how welcome they are, and how happy you are that they’re here. However, let that money run out and then we’ll see how glad and happy that host is and how welcome the guest really is. From the guest’s perspective, tourism is the process of spending money you do not have to go somewhere you don’t really want to be, to make yourself the burden of people who resent your presence. It’s often done in hopes of fixing some family or relationship problem with a dose of “togetherness” despite the fact that a change of scenery does not help a situation in which the players need to change. Add to the guest’s stress the fact that they must now navigate an entirely new road system, try to find somewhere to eat and things to buy in a place where the sellers are actively trying to rip them off, and you have a recipe for wretchedness.

    And meanwhile, of course, the presence of those tourists has made the natives insincere and predatory because we want their money and we’re willing to lie to get it.

    All in all, tourist towns are just nasty places all around. They have ugly hearts.

    • AVL LVR

      We have more of a soul than Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg. I hope King Kong or Ripley’s isn’t coming downtown (if you know what I mean). But, you are right. A lot of the complaints come from tourism. People unfamiliar with the road system tend to be terrible drivers.

      • Hauntedheadnc

        Well, of course we have more soul than Pigeon Forge. The Biltmore-industrial complex demands a certain level of decorum, and a Ripley’s would be scarcely genteel.

    • Virginia Daffron

      Although this send up of tourism does stray a bit off the track of the letter writer’s complaint, I nonetheless must say that I think it’s brilliant. “Recipe for wretchedness” indeed!

      • Hauntedheadnc

        Why, thank you. Having worked for the tourism industry for years, and having been fired from one hotel when I called their “hospitality” out for being the perpetual-motion bullshit generator that it was, I think I understand the dynamic.

        Long story short, outsiders come in believing the hype and treat the locals like dancing monkeys strategically placed for their amusement (“Say something! I want to hear your accent!”) while the locals have become coldblooded in the presence of so many easy marks and act on it (“The very best rate I have for a room tonight is $279.”).

  9. Regina

    As a native of the area, I too, have experienced the arrogant and insulting attitudes of individuals who have chosen to move into the Appalachia with preconceived beliefs regarding the region’s native people. Many times I have wondered why one who believes they are superior would chose to lives in an inferior environment. Why, I ask, if the transients previous experiences were sooo wonderful; why would you leave your previous area to move into an uneducated, deviant filled region?? Perhaps it would and does behoove the native to be very suspicious of those who come insulting the very item they themselves desire. The undeveloped lands with soooo much potential, the crystal pure waters that are already being fought over, the untapped natural resources unavailable in the less blessed areas up north and out west. Too often the newcomer has come to exploit the natives’ natural hospitality and generous natures through with unethical tactics of misrepresentation. Numerous groups desiring special interests consideration; however, being unwilling themselves to return equal consideration to the native’s way of life. With claims of increasing life quality — the skylines are now blocked from the morning sun and the mis-management brought to us from others’ areas have now resulted in lower life quality and fewer community services.
    As a native, it has become a sad daily realization that the way of life I have enjoyed my entire existence is now a memory of the past.

    • AVL LVR

      Some of the arrogance is warranted (think trailer parks). The historic isolation of the mountains did contribute. I grew up in another part of NC where they view you all as hillbillies. I told them it wasn’t quite like that anymore (especially around Asheville and Boone). That being said, WNC natives have some admirable conservative beliefs which we could all learn from.

      • AVL LVR

        As part Native American myself, I also have a problem with you calling yourself native (unless you are Cherokee of course). Just because your ancestors killed or drove out most of the Cherokee doesn’t make you native.

        • Lulz

          LOL, native lulz. And just because your ancestors were Cherokee doesn’t make you native either LOL.

          Indians were overran because they were tribal and separate LOL. They were fighting each other long before anyone else came along that took advantage of it LOL. And just as they were conquered and drove off onto reservations, so will many in the USA eventually. Because if you notice, were are also becoming tribal and separate and ripe for the picking lulz. And now it’s not between just different races, but genders, politics, old vs young, straight vs gay as well. Politicians have done a fine job of destroying the fabric of society lulz. And all they’ve won power over is a decaying nation that’s is broken.

  10. Regina

    Oh, and by the way, — with very little effort, a negative stereo-type could be developed to reflect most regions. With just a little imagination and a lot of meanness- one could develop an ugly picture of the north, the west, the south, inner cities, and basically any region of native peoples.

    • The Real World

      I mean no offense to anyone and would love for us all to live well together and learn from each other. I offered specific examples of what some of the issues are. They can be solved but not until there is willingness to understand and acknowledge them.

      Sigh, here we go. Clayton and hauntedhead are on off-topic hijacks and Regina is spinning-out and very presumptuous. Folks, this what I was referring to above. The comprehension thing! People simply cannot have intelligent and helpful dialogue unless the topic and comments are accurately understood.

      Regina, if you feel insulted that people get irritated with you when their time is wasted by hyper-sensitive rambles with no ultimate point or solution provided, you need to give your feelings of offense a serious re-think. It’s not right or polite to waste people’s time; no one likes that.

      And a little humility is in order for a good many Americans, incl WNC natives, b/c as Shultz pointed out above…..it is our ancestors who killed or drove out the locals (Indians) when they arrived.

      “one could develop an ugly picture of the north, the west, the south, inner cities, and basically any region of native peoples.” This is actually an important point because the Southeastern USA is fairly unique in this aspect. Vast portions of the rest of America have been diverse cultural/ethnic melting pots for a long time so they are not so easy to peg . The SE was settled almost entirely by people from the United Kingdom, one culture. Then black slaves were imported. And it stayed that way for a very long time….150 years + of primarily just 2 cultures and one was dominant. Which is unlike almost anywhere else in this country. That history as well as the narrow religious spectrum are what, no doubt, account for intensely entrenched behaviors, resistance to change, accepting new ideas, etc.

      • Lulz

        LOL, what are you talking about lulz? Places like Detroit saw white flight because of black migration and the cities became urban ghettos lulz. There’s no melting pot in the north LOL. Atlanta is a melting pot. Detroit, Baltimore, Chicago, and the like are divided by racial lines more than what you’ve been led to believe lulz.

        • The Real World

          Lulz – You’re way off base. Clearly, I spoke about long term American history. Travel a little and you’ll find the realities to be different than what the TV says. Or, have a good look around here, it’s very interesting: http://www.census.gov

          Atlanta – a melting pot? Hilarious….not. Lived there 25 years so I’m intimately aware. But, here are details from the 2010 census of ATL city, not metro: white 38%, black 54%, Asian 3%, Hispanic 5%, 2 or more races 2%. In the larger metro, it’s much more white. And vast numbers of the whites are Southern born Christian-raised. The Asians, Hispanics and others only showed up in mostly the last 15 years.

          Chicago – holy moly! That city has many multiple generations of Irish, Polish, Germans, Italians, ETC. And more recently a solid number of Hispanics.

          The North – Boston, NYC , Philly?? Good grief, they are the original American ethnic melting pots and very much remain so.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culture_of_the_Southern_United_States

          • rm.tate

            Wow- see how easy it is to get wayyy off the subject?? Subject: Respect , & Integrity from migrating people into WNC ( especially Asheville). I AM a true Native. My maternal grandparents were Cheerokee and my grandmother lived on the rez as a child. I was born in Buncombe Co. during the 60’s and was well traveled throughout the US by the time I entered school. During that period, there was a huge movement in this area titled “The Appalachian Redevelopment Act”. I grew up in what is now termed “The Golden Era of NC”. Agriculture, Textiles, and Tobacco reigned supreme and the natives enjoyed the high paying benefited jobs, the freedom of living off the land, and of course- the gorgeous natural environment.
            Plenty of public parks (now defunct) Far more extensive public bus services, and OPPORTUNITY.
            Life was good and the word spread. In came the developers, preying politicians, and of course the tourists. Now to be fair- most of the natives had never felt the need to go off in search of the “good life” ( many were unaware of how horrible it is in other areas of the US) ; so when “non-native” and “summer” people began to desire the area as their “home” the local attitude was understanding . —
            I believe this is where the mis-understanding between people begins. Often the “changes” that have occurred from growth and sprawl and a swinging economy have failed to be positive. Everyone knows the low paying service industry jobs, the un-affordable housing, the power struggles in local government. So –Just Saying–Individuals who disrespect the culture and history of the local region should consider the fact the native people were who built it.

  11. chops

    “our inherent humility and reluctance to get involved” Hah ha.
    This letter is evidence to the contrary, Janet Burhoe-Jones.

  12. mg massey

    The experiences that have happened to myself and children would make you cry.As a cop said; ” You’ve been through he’ll and all you were doing was standing up for yourself”. The damage to my ability to trust is permanent.
    There are some deep dark secrets about this place that some rightfully fear bringing forward. The cost is too great.
    In 2007 , I found out that. I am truly from here ancestrally. My ancestors left a curse on this place as they were forcedarched on the Trail of Tears. They said ; ” hope you choke on enough.” Cosmic irony, nor this wee , humble opinion,can even begin to cover my regrets that my move here actually caused my family to be abused as my ancestors were. I shall never forgive myself for exposing my children to this ongoing horror.
    As long ad we as a nation forget that we are all part of the circle of life, this divide and conquer rhetoric will win the day. May the great spirit forgive our ignorance. May we build bridges not walls.May we come to find commonality and respect the differences. It is here that I will say. Huge. Thank you to the locals who have ameliorated the horror with their humble kindness.I’d rather stick with them than the ” we know what is best for you” crowd any day.
    Miyutake Oyasin. May peace be with us all. I live for that dream. Please pardon typing mistakes my eyesight is not good.

  13. Dman

    Meh….I’ve lived here myself like 12 years. Visited every summer since a kid. Have grandparents that lived here all their lives. Might as well be from here. Too many douche bags come here thinking it’s a great place. It was a great place, until all these douche bags and trustafarians turned Asheville into whatever it is now. I’ve spent enough time in this overrated city. Moving away within the next year. Y’all can keep this tourist trap this place has become.

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