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Ani DiFranco and white feminist gate-keeping to the point of absurdity.

Of course many white feminists get that advocating for gender equality is valueless if you don’t include equality for people of color too. Supporting women of color is a no brainer. Then there are a few with blind spots, who ostensibly get this idea, but then in practice fail to question their own internalized racist ideas.

This is Ani DiFranco, singer, poet, equal rights activist, and to some feminist icon in words on economic and gender equality…

If you’re not angry
you’re just stupid
or you don’t care
how else can you react
when you know
something’s so unfair
the men of the hour
can kill half the world in war
make them slaves to a super power
and let them die poor

Here she is using slavery as a metaphor for fascist, capitalist, patriarchal oppression by imperialists. Yet here she is in deed...

 

June 25 – 29
Nottoway Plantation – White Castle, LA
http://www.righteousretreat.com/An Invitation from Ani…LOVERS OF SONGWRITING, POETRY & PERFORMANCE!Allow me to invite you down to Louisiana to learn and play with me and some of my friends,
exploring these and a few more of our favorite things!We will be shacked up at the historic Nottoway Plantation and Resort in White Castle, LA, for 3 days and 4 nights exchanging ideas, making music, and otherwise getting suntans in the light of each other’s company. During the day, myself, Toshi Reagon, Buddy Wakefield, Hamell on Trial and others will lead workshops and lessons that focus on developing one’s singular creativity. In the evenings we will perform for each other and enjoy great food in a captivating setting.

Why doesn’t she get that the Nottoway Plantation is the largest former plantation in the South?

Nottingham Plantation

From the Plantation’s website slavery apologetics…”It is difficult to accurately assess the treatment of Randolph’s slaves; however, various records indicate that they were probably well treated for the time.”

Mark Faulk points on his blog what the problem is..

 Here’s the problem: Nottoway Plantation is the largest plantation mansion in the South, literally built by slaves who had to carry the huge logs over (as Nottoway’s own website puts it) “miles of plantation ground to the construction site”. The owner, John Hampden Randolph, built his fortune on the backs of slaves. He even signed over 46 slaves as collateral to build his 53,000 square foot dream house.

To date there has been no official response by DiFranco to answer the criticism about the appropriateness of the venue or to cancel this event. People make mistakes, and sure this one is a huge oversight in the most charitable light. But when people call it to your attention that you’re holding your folk songwriting event in a symbol of oppressive capitalism such that 46 human beings were used as capital to build it -just maybe you should reconsider. And too, going with what should be becoming more painstakingly obvious upon further reflection -the place is also an oppressive patriarchal monument.

More importantly, DiFranco and other non-black feminists can’t feel the injustice done here as keenly as black feminists do, but they can do the work required to empathize. I am not black and I haven’t really experienced the racism directed at black people in America. Even though my son is black, I can only listen and empathize. If you inadvertently step on someone’s toes; apologize and listen so you can make things right. Admittedly the price tag of this event is prohibitive to most people of any color, but who wouldn’t want to be welcoming to all women?

Although there are people calling DiFranco out as racist for this event, what it looks more like to me is a disconnect between words and deeds in regards to racial equality. Where the absurdity of this venue would have been immediately obvious to a black feminist; these things can be overlooked by some white feminists because institutionalized racism doesn’t target them. Indeed popular fiction like Gone with the Wind  glamorizes the Old South for young girls. The appeal of this plantation is that of a whitewashed bygone era of Southern gentility.

In absence of DiFranco’s answer to criticism there is a comment war going on between DiFranco’s defenders of her choice of venue and rational people on her facebook, who don’t get why people don’t get this.  The defenses range from minimization and telling black women what they should feel about this to outright absurd, racist gate-keeping as documented by For Harriet  . Get your oven mitts ready to facepalm…

righteousretreat Mandi

 

The post as is, is patronizing and has a badly, misunderstood idea of what it means to “reclaim” something. What if a man told her to attend an event at a “historic” and “captivating” remodeled Magdalene laundry owned by Hobby Lobby because the baby stealing era is over and “reclaim” it and give a symbol of brutal, dehumanizing oppression a “new meaning ? She could rightly tell them where they could go!

The post was bad enough, but in an absurd effort that would be funny if she wasn’t serious she posted this…

Mandi as LaQueeta 1

This post doesn’t resemble the speech pattern of any black feminist that anyone knows. The name LaQueeta Jones on top of this may be a clue that she doesn’t know any real, black people apart from hackneyed stereotypes. She goes on embarrassing herself, and illustrating the need for some whites to get out more especially if they are toting equality until someone busts her.

Mandi as LaQueeta 2mandi as LaQueeta3

 

Who are these people? Seriously. Who gets this personally invested in defending reprehensible, regressive ideologies? It would be funny if these types of ideas don’t pop up in every earnest discussion about racial injustice. When you find yourself telling people that they should just adopt the right attitude about the racist things that happen to them -just stop.  Even less obvious racist crap like this, like Di Franco’s decision of an exclusionary venue for songwriting about gender and economic equality have the net effect of marginalizing people of color’s voices.  Equal means everyone should ideally have an equal place at the table. Do the work and put more thought into it DiFranco.

However, as frustrating as the whole thing is, you can take heart in the fact that most of the posts are calling for Di Franco to do something about this on the event page. They are posting this same statement to her facebook.

“I stand in solidarity with the Black women calling Ani Difranco out for this decision to hold the Righteous Retreat at the site of a former plantation.”

And now there is a petition to sign.

[notice]About 15 min ago, DiFranco replied to the criticism on her facebook. You can view it in its entirety here. I’m still weighing her words, before I decide. I am glad though that she canceled the event and gave it more thought. [/notice]

Comments

  1. says

    OK… COME ON.

    That person is trolling everyone. That person is neither a white feminist or a black feminist.
    That person is in all likelihood a dude.

    Sock puppets galore all over the net get into these discussions and do their damndest to blow ANY arrival at understanding off the rails.

    The disturbing thing to me is so many people buy into it.

    We need derailing 101 – we also need Sock Puppets and Trolling 101…..

    Seriously COME ON.

  2. says

    What that person wrote comes up in these discussions in earnest. You have no way of distinguishing the post from a sincere post. Just like Poes are indistinguishable from real creationists. Hyperfocusing on a single ancillary point that wouldn’t change the main idea of the OP doesn’t address the OP. The point stands.

  3. L.Long says

    I would present another view. Keep the event there and use it as a teaching tool to show what people did with the labor and bodies of others to get their wealth and power. Instruct on how this can’t be ‘reclaimed’ as no black has ever gained anything from this property and building except misery, pain, possibly death, and nothing else.
    Make it a part by showing that this is blood soaked land and the blood came from black bodies and nothing to be proud of.

    • says

      There is an update linked in the post. She has decided to cancel the event. She did consider using the venue as a place to have a discussion on race. However, that is not something you can impose on black participants. That makes many people uncomfortable to be put in a position to explain to everyone in the room why this makes them uncomfortable.

  4. Jackie wishes she could hibernate says

    I still don’t think she gets it and it’s clear that many of her fans don;t get it and don’t want to.
    Citizen Jane, please don’t do that. There is no reason to think a guy wrote that. There is a problem with racism and unchecked privilege within feminism. There no need to deny it. It’s there and it needs to be addressed.

  5. Monocle Smile says

    I’ve seen Ani DiFranco, and since it was at a 30-person venue, my friends and I chatted with her after the show. She’s whimsical and down-to-earth (as evidenced by a performance at a little hole in the wall in Ann Arbor, Michigan), but like most hippie-ish musicians of her caliber, it’s not hard to see her being naive and/or absent-minded at times.

    This may cause a bit of bias on my part, but this seems like a brain fart more than anything else. Unfortunately, when you have a soapbox like DiFranco and want to get a message across, one must be cognizant of these missteps.

    I make no excuses for her horde of evidently crappy fans, most of whom are very unlike DiFranco herself.

    • says

      Yeah, I was much more upset by the clueless folks on her Facebook page than Ani, who has since posted a pretty complete apology with no ‘splaining involved.

  6. lanir says

    It’s good that she got the message in the end. I don’t really know that what she said she was trying to do with it was a bad thing. I guess if not enough people had spoken up against it, maybe that would have been a good approach to take. Pretty risky though, you don’t really know it’s not going to work until after the angry mob shows up at your doorstep.

    I didn’t look at the original thread but the defensiveness in her post cancelling the event makes me think she waited too long to do it. That will make it harder to move on in a constructive way. Trying to move the conversation onto topics like corporate greed where she’s probably more comfortable likely isn’t the best way to empathize with anyone who was disturbed by this in the first place.

  7. Onamission5 says

    I really wish she’d sat with that gut reaction of “whoa” instead of trying to rationalize around it. I hope she wishes so, too.

      • Onamission5 says

        Gah. No heroes, no hero worship. You know? To love someone’s music from a certain time, and to hold them in regard for the meaningful impact that music had on your life, and to also be so terribly, terribly disappointed.

        There’s a handful of appropriate responses she could have chosen from here. I’m afraid that lecturing injured people on their own damn history for 1400 words was not one of them. She could have asked for different venue suggestions immediately, when that first “whoa” surfaced. She could have said, hey, a plantation is a loaded, painful choice for venue and I want this to be a welcoming event, not a troubling, silencing one, so I am going to go ahead and say a big ole nope to that let’s find something else.

        Uuuungh.

  8. corwyn says

    What would respondents here recommend happen to this building? If it is irredeemable, should it be torn down? Should it be made into a slavery memorial? Should the entire South be treated similarly?

    • says

      The building is a private business. If people want to hold events or stay there they can. If others don’t want to buy into its whitewashed history, they don’t have to patronize it. However, if you are a singer, who sings about equality, your fans don’t have to buy your music if they don’t agree about a decision like this. Anyone concerned with the progressive movement can criticize this decision. After all an ideological movement is based on ideas.

      So no one is advocating in seriousness that we all get together and have the building torn down. What would be better is if people raise awareness that glamorizing the old Southern aristocracy built directly by slaves and exploitation is gross. And old bad ideas would die out. Places like this would lose their appeal and shut down.

      Now as to your moving the goalposts to the entire South. Not every place in the South glorifies slavery such as this site still does. So no, it isn’t necessary even if it were possible to tear the entire South down. What you are saying is the equivalent of someone criticizing Auschwitz and you saying should you tear it down and tear all of Germany down too? It doesn’t make sense.

      • corwyn says

        “Places like this would lose their appeal and shut down. ”

        How is that different from tearing it down (which you don’t advocate)?

        If the building is intrinsically bigoted, and only bigots should use it, the owner will be forced to promote bigotry in order to make a living.

        “Not every place in the South glorifies slavery such as this site still does.”

        I probably missed it, but what is this place doing to glorify slavery (other than merely existing)?

        In other words, what *would* it take to redeem this building?

        “It doesn’t make sense.”

        I know that, which is exactly what prompted my question. But if it is a matter of principle, one should be universal in one’s condemnation, not selective. If one can exempt the whole south, why can’t one exempt some particular building? Is it purely a matter of pragmatism?

    • Jackie wishes she could hibernate says

      How would you feel if you visited Auschwitz and were told the “history” of how the Nazis really weren’t as bad as all that and the Jews were quite happy in their camps while you were treated to the treatment of a high ranking SS officer? Would that be an acceptable use of that place? What would that do to the memory of the people who suffered an died there?

      Would you support a supposedly progressive artist who wanted to hold an event there? Would you understand if Jewish feminists and their allies were angry and offended by that artist’s choice?
      Would not supporting that artist’s choice mean that you think all of Germany should be turned into a Holocaust memorial?

      Does that help? Does making the victims white do anything to help you understand what you sound like?

      • jagwired says

        I, personally, didn’t need any help understanding the problem with this, but that’s a really damn good analogy. Thank you.

      • corwyn says

        Thanks for the implication that I am racist.

        I have exactly the same question about Auchwitz. It seems to me that there are three basic (good) choices: A) Obliterate it. B) Turn it into a memorial. C) Turn it into something redemptive. I generally prefer option C, but it only works if people are willing to forgive a *place* for the evil things that *people* did there. Option A risks forgetting those evil things. Option B is only viable for a small number of instances, so for many sites we are back to A and C. I would ask that you turn off your immediate visceral response, and think about what really would be the best use for such places, imagine that transformation, and then turn those emotions back on and see if they can agree with the end result (whatever it is).

  9. Diana Tortolini says

    It would have been better for her to relocate the event to a place that didn’t have such a horrifying history. I would have asked the people who expressed their uncomfortability, surprise and outrage to suggest an alternate location and chosen a more appropriate venue from that list. It seems a shame to lose out on what could be an engaging and positive experience over a foolish choice.

    • April K says

      The ENTIRE United States has a horrifying history. So where should this kind of collaborative, creative event be held? Hmmm?

      I fully agree with corwyn. Get over the initial visceral response, and vote Option C.

  10. trina says

    If you go the plantations page it describes watt happened to the eleven Randolph children. One of them apparently married a beautiful ‘mulatto’.

    Way to not be racist, current plantation owners!

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