Deconstructing the Asheville niceness factor

“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

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10 thoughts on “Deconstructing the Asheville niceness factor

  1. Edward Krasner

    Well Said…The plantation mentality is still alive and well in this area. it’s just acquired new forms covering up old practices, and a lot of new residents. Remember, this is the town that was built by A Vanderbuilt, and the glorification of his obscene obsession with the magnificence of the European royalty and their wealth.

  2. tommyo

    Who would want to live in a town where “mostly educated” people were discussing the town’s hopefully prosperous future?
    Blah Blah Blah

  3. dhalgren

    Silly woman, please stay out of the way of the people who are better suited to running things. Only an idiot would want to live in a city run by poor whites and the other dregs of our society. Let them eat cake…

  4. Wow! I see the Jim Crow mentality is alive and well in A’ville. Same as it ever was. I expect those who are happy with the staus quo will be glad to sit on their collective fat behinds and watch the explotation/denagration of minorities, the poor and those who dissent.

  5. I just received this post personally from someone to0 afraid to attach they’re name to it. This diatribe illustrates the ignorance that is so pervasive. Here it is, such as it is:

    “So, let me see, what culture are we denigrating? African aboriginal
    culture, negro prison culture, American aboriginal culture? It seems to me
    they are deserving of denigration. They are obviously inferior. Let us
    resist the glorification of the underclass and instead concentrate on birth
    control and education. Forget about jim crow, it’s class, not race!”

    Wow. “They are obviously inferior”?, What? What kind of racist scum answer is that. Sounds like a quote from Team Darwin.

    Also, have the balls to identify yourself. Stand up for what you believe in, however misguided and stupid your position may be.

  6. dhalgren

    FIRST OF ALL, that is my name, also, I’m a middle aged black woman with one son who is a senior at Duke. I chose not to have a housefull of children in order to properly feed, clothe, house, and educate my child. There are many people out there who would do well to emulate me. And yes I’m married. When I said inferior, I was speaking of cultures, not peoples. So…CENSOR THIS!!! “the truth has a way of provoking violent opposition” To the poor dissenting minorities: Assimilate

  7. Wow. Such anger for the world. What? No one ever questioned your marital status, so I don’t know why you comment on that. Furthermore, you DID NOT post your reply to me on the site. You sent it anonymously as a reply to my comment. You sent it directly to me, Why? How can you seperate culture form people? It’s an impossible task as PEOPLE MAKE THE CULTURE. Also, being black doesn’t make a non-racist, as evidenced by your remarks.

  8. dhalgren

    Silly paranoid man, someone sent you that post because it had been censored earlier by the webmaster…they apparently thought you might be interested. Maybe you should lay off the reefers for awhile Mr. “Webb Wilder Soundalike” But anyway, back to my point, which is let’s leave the governance of this country to the elites. Whatever is good for them is good for you. There will always be a few crumbs leftover for you undeserving underclass types.

  9. sonjia johnson

    actually, being black *does* make someone a ‘non-racist” as you say. perhaps they are bigoted, but since racism is an institution of political and social oppression, it is impossible for a black person in america to be racist.

    most people tend to confuse racism and bigotry, but they are very different things.

    example: “white people are ugly and smell bad”–bigotry

    example: blacks in this country are more highly represented in our prisons and military than in colleges and political systems.–racism

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