Lest Zeb Vance Offend Your Eye

by Fred Ray on July 9, 2020 · 0 comments

The city of Asheville has done some boneheaded things but this time they’ve outdone themselves. The Vance Monument downtown, which I mentioned earlier, has now been covered with a plywood barrier and a shroud, to keep it from offending anyone until a commission decides what to do with it.

The mayor, Esther Manheimer, says that “People have a lot of different opinions, which is why I think it’s a challenging issue that requires a lot of different heads to think about what we need.” As you might expect, though, the fix is already in. In the city the commission applications are being handled by the Department of Equity and Inclusion, which tips you off right there. To even apply you have to agree to the following:

Do you agree with the call to remove and/or repurpose the Vance monument as expeditiously as possible due to the harm it poses, and to replace it with monument(s) that honor local African-American history and are created by African-American artists?

There are apparently no other options so far as the city is concerned. So far it’s cost the city about $26,000 and there will also be a stiff charge for continuing scaffold rental. If they decide to take it down (it’s 75 ft. tall) that will also be a major expense at a time of financial stress for the city. It is also probably Asheville’s most recognizable landmark. If I were in better health I might apply for a seat on the commission but I doubt I’d get past the “loyalty oath” above.

The irony is that it’s not really a Confederate memorial. Zebulon Vance did serve in the Confederate Army briefly at the beginning of the war, but resigned to run (successfully) for governor in 1862. He was NCs wartime governor and did an excellent job in a difficult situation—the state’s coastal areas were under Yankee occupation and the western end in more or less open revolt. Nevertheless he refused to suspend habeas corpus and kept the courts working normally during the war. After the war he served as a US Senator until his death in 1894. He was an important and influential part of North Carolina’s history, but never mind, he didn’t have the right politics for today and his monument causes “harm.”

 


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