Letters to the editor

No more Little Red Sambo

Cuman Dockery says — in regard to those in the community who want to see the American Indian mascots changed at Erwin High School — that he hopes the Buncombe County School Board “does not cave in to the small group of extremists who have no interest in the education of our children.” [Letters, Dec. 9]

Does Dockery include 90 of the 93 faculty at Erwin High School, who voted in May to change the mascots away from Indian images?

Does Dockery include Buncombe County [Board of Commissioners] Chair Tom Sobol, who told the Asheville Citizen-Times [published Dec. 5], “I think any time that you see a name or a mascot that’s offensive to any segment of the population, it is wrong.”

Does Dockery include Commissioner Patsy Keever, a middle-shool teacher in the county system? She said in a personal letter to the AC-T editor [published Oct. 19], “I urge the school board members to rethink their stand on the Erwin mascot.”

Does Dockery include the YWCA, Mission St. Joseph’s Health System, the Racism Task Force of the WNC Episcopal Diocese, the Asheville-Buncombe Community Relations Council, and other organizations who sponsored the [Asheville] visit of Charlene Teters, the “Rosa Parks of American Indians” who is leading this fight across the nation?

The school board’s non-discrimination policy mandates school administrators to create a learning atmosphere that “respects cultural differences.” The Intertribal Association and many, many others are simply asking that this policy be adhered to in recognizing that school mascots are very much a part of the curriculum, very much a part of what the school teaches. We are saying that our schools should stop teaching stereotypes like “Little Red Sambo” — just as we stopped, long ago, teaching stereotypes like “Little Black Sambo.”

Additional information on the mascot issue is available at www.main.nc.us/wncceib/.

— Monroe Gilmour, coordinator
WNC Citizens for an End to Institutional Bigotry
Black Mountain

Boycott sweatshop labor this holiday

Let us celebrate a Holiday of Conscience by being mindful of sweatshop labor as we do our shopping.

During the summer, students from North Carolina visited a sweatshop in Nicaragua, where young women work up to 15 hours a day sewing expensive blue jeans for JC Penny, Wal-Mart, Kmart and Gloria Vanderbilt. The factory is steaming hot; bathroom breaks are monitored; and supervisors yell at the women to work faster.

Pay is below poverty level. Under the piece-rate system, workers average less than $2.40 for a 10-hour day, which comes to $574.08 a year. This provides less than 30 percent of the basic survival needs of a small family.

As consumers, we can make a difference. We can help stop child labor and sweatshop abuses. We can tell store managers that we will only buy products that are produced under humane conditions. Urge the places where we shop to be industry leaders who promote respect for human rights, by making sure all contractors who produce items for sale pay a living wage, and that contractors support the right of workers to organize.

— Andrew Summers
Swannanoa

An oak board and the community’s property

Dear Mr. Sherwood: You asked for the citizens of Asheville to respond to what you call “a government that is corrupt, backward and even downright ridiculous” [Letters, Dec. 9]. Your call to arms is passionate, yet you miss the point completely.

You, Mr. Sherwood, through your own actions, are what has created this horrible state. Worse yet, you are setting your son on the path for the same folly. Mr. Sherwood, the problem, to which you and the rest of us as residents of the United States fall victim, is the curse of the individual.

I ask you this, Mr. Sherwood: What would you say to me if I came into your backyard and picked up something of yours, your wife’s or son’s, which I proposed to use for my own purposes? I believe that you would question me, ask my intentions, and, most importantly, deny me permission to that item, however valueless, because it was yours, hers or his. That ranger was doing what he was entrusted to do as an official of the state: preserve the state’s property.

The parallel I hope to draw is that the poor ranger, who had to deal with you, was looking out for my interests and yours, as residents and lovers of this great state. I do not want — as if any true lover of this place would — any logger, miner, gemhunter, ginseng seeker, artist or cell-phone-tower builder to do as they see fit, simply because they have a divine right as a human to take from this Earth — especially from such a fragile ecosystem as the peak that is the highest point east of the Mississippi.

I am tired and disgusted with people who feel that their beliefs and intentions are superior to the statutes and standards set by the citizens of our community. If you, sir, have such a grand intention [for] that piece of oak, I encourage you to return to Mt. Mitchell and craft something splendid. But remember that you do not own that wood — we all do — because it is the property of a state park, preserved by the state of North Carolina. Allow your work to show the grandeur of the human spirit in combination with the natural world. And take your child with you to show that even you, high and mighty Beecher Sherwood, are two things: 1) wrong, like all other humans from time to time; and 2) a member of this community who will abide by its rules, rather than your own, because you understand that only by working together can we make our homes a better place.

— Jacob Altemus
Swannanoa

A European view of the impeachment attempt

We Europeans have never made a secret of our admiration for the United States. We do realize that America has had a leading role in the humane treatment of its opponents; [Americans] are the only ones who didn’t plunder their defeated enemies. On the contrary, they have helped them get back on their feet. In these and other matters, the American people have an impressive lead over us: a true Bill of Rights formulated some 200 years ago, the willingness to risk and conduct a Civil War to wipe out slavery, and the readiness to come — three times — to aid Europe.

We are well aware that America is not soap operas or Walt Disney. Therefore, it is with great sadness that this flea-bite of a personal peccadillo threatens to reduce this greatest-nation-ever-created to a mental trash heap.

Granted that your sitting president is a small-time dirty bungler with little legal knowledge and a great talent for juridic obfuscation — but he has shown a fair insight into the political realities of the outside world, as shown by his sincere aims to reduce tension in the Mideast and, yes, even elsewhere in the world, including flexing a tiny fist at Saddam.

Yet he is hampered by a reactive and harmful attack by his political opponents [who are] out to unseat him, and gleefully stirred up by a vengeful public prosecutor wasting millions of dollars. There are no signs we can detect that an impeachable offense (such as treason) has been committed.

Yet it is also understood by all Europeans that a man, any man — even a president — has to deny, even under oath, any intimate relations with a woman not his wife [in order] to protect her. Not to do so would brand him immediately a cad, an untrustworthy person. The fact that he did not know that his little slut had blubbered to a “friend,” who promptly and illegally taped these revelations, only pleads for him.

His subsequent twistings and turnings are less admirable, but are still a human reaction. Again: no impeachable actions.

All that money would better have been utilized to study and remedy American policies. The way that small-time villains like Moamar Ghadaffi, Slobodan Milosevic and Saddam Hussein are taunting, provoking and insulting your chief of state is deeply humiliating to this powerful America. It seems to us that your republic will ultimately inherit this wind.

— Robert Rouveroy
The Hague, Holland

No exceptions, Mr. Sherwood

Mr. Sherwood, are you for real? Dude, if you were allowed to lay claim to your weathered oak board [Letters, Dec. 9], then someone else would likely feel equally justified in creating a rock garden from the stone foundations of Rattlesnake Lodge (near the Parkway, north of Weaverville), or perhaps [constructing] low-income housing by the dismantling and removal of the abandoned recreation building that lies not far from the Hard Times trailhead.

The point is, the laws involved here do not allow for exceptions by discretion — for a very good reason. While the national [and state] park lands are there for us all to enjoy, that does not give us the right to take parts and pieces of them home with us (regardless of any self-righteous justifications).

This is an area I hope never to hear of rangers making exceptions of any kind.

And besides, it’s not like the national forests have a monopoly on weathered oak boards. There are thousands of land owners in the area with thousands of barns and outbuildings that are laying to waste. Try running a classified ad [for some of that wood].

But, hey, if you really cannot control the urge, perhaps you might consider taking an empty trash bag with you on your next trip out and nabbing some of those cigarette butts and gum wrappers you mentioned. Actually, now that I think about it, had you filled a trash bag with such, and carried it and the precious oak board to your truck, you may have gotten away with it on the pretense of trail clean-up.

— Bedivere
Weaverville

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