“According to local historians, Asheville was a black freeman’s town: no plantations, no cotton, comparatively little slavery.” (Italics my emphasis.)
Nothing personal, Ms. Hammond [“The Asheville Niceness Factor,” Commentary, July 11], but I am inspired to do a take-off on your observations.
I call it “comparatively blood-soaked.”
In Asheville, there is comparatively little consideration of the Natives’ or African Americans’ rights to stay on their land: from the land-taking of Mr. Vanderbilt to the redevelopment that moved out African-American homes and businesses, up to the current development that promises to move poor whites from their homes in the area where I live now, Leicester.
Comparatively little mention is made of the feudal ruling aristocracies in outlying counties that keep the poor alienated, over-medicated, clinging to the Bible and the Confederacy for salvation.
There is comparatively little notice of the black brain drain that occurred 30 years ago when many African Americans, fed up with segregation and separate-but-unequal, left to find more equal opportunities elsewhere. Upon their return, they now find an even more segregated, alienated, gentrified landscape.
There is comparatively little notice of these things because Asheville must remain a nice tourist town. It strives hard to keep up that image, and has since the Roaring ‘20s, when Jim Crow was kicking butt and taking no prisoners, to the present day, where meetings on Asheville’s prosperous future consist of mostly educated, white audiences leaving poor whites, Latinos, Natives and African-Americans nowhere to be found. Perhaps the “minorities” are having diverse meetings on their own about how to survive the green future and the cultural renaissance that the new Asheville thrusts upon them. Then again, are pretense and the superficial some of the time-honored Southern virtues? Being a newcomer, and not a Yankee, I must proudly confess: I can only guess.
To speak of a “special people living in Asheville full of magnanimous intentions,” I must also speak of those who live here on the surface of elite pretensions of compassion for their fellow man, education, the environment and the poor.
Again, nothing personal, Ms. Hammond—you just became the mouthpiece for well-meaning folks in this nice place. And, your commentary really made me mad!
— Valeria Watson-Doost
Zamani Refuge African Culture Center