“High velocity bitterness” shuts down Ani DiFranco’s racist plantation party

Ani DiFranco’s “Righteous Retreat” songwriting camp was originally scheduled for next June at Nottaway Plantation in White Castle, Louisiana. It’s a charming, verdant resort with luxurious rooms, fine dining, and expansive event facilities, all built on the back of a “wiling workforce” (per the resort’s website) of hundreds of slaves used as physical labor and, on occasion, currency.

Some people got upset. Like For Harriet.

The thought of women choosing to luxuriate at the sites of historic brutality against black bodies confounds, but even more outrageous is the refusal of so many women to listen to those whose lived experiences continue to be mediated by the legacy of chattel slavery.

I have an inkling that if a man attempted to “reclaim” the word “bitch” or “cunt” these women would understand perfectly the error of misappropriation; however, white supremacy continues to obscure the realities of slavery.

DiFranco should absolutely choose a new location for her retreat. There can be no healing at Nottaway Plantation. Continuing to hold an expensive getaway here is an affront to feminists of color.

And Sara Starr in a Change.org petition.

This is insulting to black feminists and black queer individuals and is a very blatant display of racism on her part. In order for this event to be canceled, this petition has been formed so that feminists and queer individuals of all races can express their disdain for DiFranco’s racist and oppressive gestures, not to mention the obvious exclusion of/disregard for her black fans.

And Briana Urena-Ravelo at Feminspire.

Ani, the process you need to go through is not of the victim’s, it’s of the aggressor. It is of unlearning, unpacking, listening, shutting up, sitting down, and getting your boot from off our neck. You choosing that venue wasn’t about “reclamation”, it was about how completely ignorant you are to how not cool that is for us. Your fans instantly bought tickets and defended you — NO real discourse was happening or going to happen, just excuses & apologist.

And scores of commenters on the event’s Facebook page, although we’ll never know exactly how many because of the speed at which critical comments were taken down.

DiFranco’s supporters, shockingly, came out in droves to defend her. White fan Mandi Harrington, for instance, declared that since “slavery is over” and “those days are gone,” it was time for black people to “reclaim” the venue. When she began getting pushback, fan LaQueeta Jones jumped in to defend her, talking the way black people totally talk to back her up and quote Martin Luther King, Jr. Was LaQueeta Jones actually Mandi Harrington posing as a black woman? Of course she wasn–well, okay, yes.

Ultimately, DiFranco herself responded with a 1,300-word nonpology gently scolding us for not letting her lead the way in reclaiming the history of the plantation.

later, when I found out it was to be held at a resort on a former plantation, I thought to myself, “whoa”, but i did not imagine or understand that the setting of a plantation would trigger such collective outrage or result in so much high velocity bitterness. i imagined instead that the setting would become a participant in the event. This was doubtless to be a gathering of progressive engaged people, so i imagined a dialogue would emerge organically over the four days about the issue of where we are. i have heard the feedback that it is not my place to go to former plantations and initiate such a dialogue.

(“High velocity bitterness.”)

i know that pain is stored in places where great social ills have occurred. i believe that people must go to those places with awareness and with compassionate energy and meditate on what has happened and absorb some of the reverberating pain with their attention and their awareness. i believe that compassionate energy is transformative and necessary for healing the wounds of history. i believe that even though i am white, i can and must do this work too.

In other words: “It is too my place to go to former plantations and initiate such a dialogue.” She does, of course, respect your right to disagree. Mighty generous of her.

Hat tip to Open Thread commenters.

Note: The issue of plantations is something that I’ve seriously screwed up — and doubled down on — in the past, including arguments shamefully similar to DiFranco’s. I was wrong, and I’m grateful to everyone who called me out for it, particularly in the face of my resistance.


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185 Responses to “High velocity bitterness” shuts down Ani DiFranco’s racist plantation party

  1. Sarah Rose says:

    dear ani,

    you are rightfully recognized as a leader within our social movements. i’m sure right now, amidst all the backlash you are facing about holding a retreat on a plantation site, you probably don’t feel like a leader, but you are one. please use your incredible privilege and voice here to listen, learn from, and further contribute to the vitally urgent dialogues that your event has ignited about about racism and the state of race relations within our progressive communities. also, screw the corporate event planning affiliation – surely, there’s a diversity of skilled, rad folks who would gladly volunteer themselves to organize a truly righteous event that brings us together.

    i have loved, loved, LOVED what you do, ever since my first year at university. your music was key to developing my social conscience and my creative drive. your gifts in activism and songwriting, the grace with which you have raged against and resisted the machine, have been so formative for me,and for so many others. you are, most deservedly, a feminist folk icon, and i was beyond excited to join you on this righteous retreat.

    i, an (over)educated white feminist woman, was super excited to go to a retreat being held on a corporately-owned, white-washed slave plantation operating as a resort.

    whoa. check my privilege. (my foolish, oblivious privilege.)

    ani, in our excitement and commitment to come together in this progressive art-making retreat, our blinding white privilege did fail to recognize the trauma and upset that would clearly affect members of our radical communities being invited to retreat with you on nottoway plantation. when i posted my oblivious excitement on the facebook event page, i received a small handful of comments calling me racist and accusations that i wish to own slaves. you received a similar response, many thousand times over.

    there is no doubt that you received a huge amount of “high velocity bitterness”. there is no doubt that some of it was pure internet stupid. beyond that, resonantly, there were strong dialogues predominantly taking place between black women and women of color about lived experiences of racism,slavery, and the site of the plantation. amidst the bitterness, and the anger which is so hard to hear, so hard to engage with, there is a vitally important resistance,a sharing, an opportunity for us to show up as allies and listen. ani, it is imperative for us, as white people committed to social justice and women committed to feminism, that we listen here, because our world has, systemically, made black women’s experiences almost inconceivable to us as white people.

    many have challenged your cancellation statement. among many others, i am particularly endebted to analyses from N’Deye Diakhate (https://www.facebook.com/anidifranco/posts/10153707811955226)and TatiAna Mercedes (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3-s7n_qZXo).

    ani, i understand that you and those at righteous babe records are humans. i am so grateful to the work that you and your team do. your fierce and strong track record is precisely why i and many other are disappointment by a lack of apology and clear-cut owning-up.

    i tell you this because i love what you do, and we need what you do: please lose the corporate event planning and step up to this dialogue. this has been an important opportunity for me to listen, check my privilege (and the sheer invisibility of my privilege) as a white woman in a white-washed world,and reaffirm my solidarity in our shared quests to leave a more righteous and beautiful world.

    much love and solidarity to you, ani, and to all the black women and women of colour who have shared their voices and their concern about this event.

    peace, in all our relations.

    s

  2. Gareth Wilson says:

    If Nottaway Plantation was entirely honest about its history, would it be acceptable to hold events there? Suppose you could just click on a link on their website and get estimates of the overall death rate, descriptions of living conditions and the punishments, and any first-hand sources that were available. It’s a bit far-fetched for a commercial business to do that, of course. But it seems that the only alternative is demolishing every plantation house in the South.

    • Kerandria says:

      Or plantations could be used as memorials, sites of non-whitewashed history.. a place to never forget, like -other- places where genocide happened en masse. It’s fucking repugnant and racist that plantations continue to make profit off the lives, hopes, dreams, and labour of human fucking beings.

      • Gareth Wilson says:

        It would be quite expensive to keep them maintained, if they weren’t making a profit.

      • Kerandria says:

        It’s funny how museums manage to keep their doors open, isn’t it?

      • number9 says:

        Your premise is all wrong. It is not in any way imperative that plantations exist, are maintained, and make money. Every single one of them could go out of business tomorrow and the world would not be a poorer place for it.

        I’m not going to worry about the ability of white people to continue to make money off slavery. And it’s not what this thread is about, so you need to stop derailing.

      • EG says:

        It is not in any way imperative that plantations exist, are maintained, and make money. Every single one of them could go out of business tomorrow and the world would not be a poorer place for it.

        Agreed. Plantation houses wouldn’t survive? Let me wipe away a tear. What a fucking shame. We can preserve one or two as monuments to institutional cruelty and racism and let the rest fall to pieces, as far as I’m concerned.

        I’m not worried about preserving plantation houses. Of course, I was raised to understand Sherman’s March to the Sea as one of the finest moments in US history, so there’s that.

      • Donna L says:

        I was raised to understand Sherman’s March to the Sea as one of the finest moments in US history,

        Me too. Atlanta burning? Good! I never liked Gone With The Wind anyway, and it always used to infuriate me that just about every single movie set during the Civil War up through at least the 1930’s (except maybe a biography or two of Lincoln) portrayed the South as the good guys, the gallant knights of the Lost Cause, the victims of those rapacious Yankees. Disgusting. When I got to college and first met people who insisted that the Southern States’ secession had nothing to do with slavery — states’ rights, y’all! — I was shocked.

        All these years later, nothing like that shocks me anymore.

      • EG says:

        Yeah, I’ve never been able to bring myself to watch or read GWTW, because, well, fuck those people and fuck their white supremicist representations.

      • Bigbadaboom says:

        Well, Sherman’s March did involve many actions that we would (and should) consider war crimes today. Civilian populations should never be valid targets for military attacks or reprisals.

      • EG says:

        Civilian populations should never be valid targets for military attacks or reprisals.

        Could you name me one war in which this standard has been held to? I’m honestly curious. Because I can’t.

      • Librarygoose says:

        I was raised to understand Sherman’s March to the Sea as one of the finest moments in US history, so there’s that.

        I remember laughing and clapping during descriptions of it in class. Almost every year it got extolled as pure bad-assery.

      • ldouglas says:

        Could you name me one war in which this standard has been held to? I’m honestly curious. Because I can’t.

        Not a counterargument.

      • pheenobarbidoll says:

        Yeaahh..rape, murder, looting, torture…not giving a damn about who was slaughtered…good times. Poor people who weren’t educated enough to understand what the war was over? Kill them. Ex slaves you encountered? Kill them. People who risked their lives fighting for abolition? Kill them. Indians who fought for your side? Hunt them down and kill them too. Lincoln was a terrorist, no different than Jackson and he didn’t give 2 damns about slaves or Indians. Abolition was a side effect of that war, not the cause but it’s romantic to pretend it was the reason even after the man said he didn’t care if zero slaves were freed. Just like any war, profit and power were big factors with lots of other motivations, down to individual reasons for fighting. I’m no fan of gwtw either, but if you think the only people affected were the Scarlett Oharas, then you’re an asshole. Just as much as the people who insist it was over states rights and nothing else. Oh, and one effect that still carries over today- the death grip people in the south keep on the 2nd amendment. Instill a deathly fear of the government turning on you, and guess what they’ll believe. My people were hunted down by the northern soldiers. Hunted down like dogs and murdered, even though we fought for their side. Because we were Indians and all Indians are the same, and some Indians fought with the south. But an Indian is an Indian is an Indian. Funny how that supposed moral objection to slavery didn’t extend to genocide. You’re not on the side of right and good when you commit genocide, no matter what else you believe about slavery. You’re not the good guys. Not to my people. Your good guy story is just another white version of gwtw. Your plantations are just north of here. But they were still built on blood. I’m sick of both sides, and both sides are the same from this view. It’s been nothing but blood, hunger, suffering and death since the first precious little white toe landed in turtle island. You killed us so you could bring slaves here and then you killed us so you could free them.

      • trees says:

        Yes to everything pheeno said. And along with ldouglas’ point: yes it’s one thing to say that atrocities are common to war making, and quite another to celebrate it. I’ve read many a first person eye-witness account of the March (some written by pro-War Northerners), and the brutality visited upon poor white people and people of color, including the enslaved, is gut wrenching. Mind you, I’m only reading the words of the small minority of people who were literate and whose manuscripts survive today.

      • EG says:

        Not a counterargument.

        Not meant to be, actually. A genuine question. They do occur, sometimes.

        And, indeed, pheeno and trees. Given all that, the standard for “one of the finest moments in US history” isn’t very high, is it?

        As for the South’s deathgrip on its guns–bullshit. Plenty of civilian populations all over the world have been hunted down and murdered en masse by agents of the government, and yet they’re not deluded enough to think that everybody should be able to own and carry guns with no restrictions whatsoever.

      • pheenobarbidoll says:

        So? Not everyone around the world reacts the same to being kicked in the teeth, either. The NDNS that I know are worried about gun bans because they already know what happens to NDNS disarmed. Someone else having different reactions doesn’t fucking change that. I know we’re talking about southerners here so attributing any motivation that comes too close to justifiable is going to be dismissed instantly, but I can see it. I come from it. So now why dont you tell me how other indigenous react differently too, so that magically erases everything.

    • But it seems that the only alternative is demolishing every plantation house in the South.

      Well, houses where murders occurred get demolished all the time and no one bats an eyelash. Of course, I don’t know if the dead people were just black slaves. I suppose that’s important.

      • Gareth Wilson says:

        Sometimes, yes. But we don’t always demolish them.

      • OK then use the house for ANYTHING BUT fetishising slave-owning, how about that? Make it a rehab centre. Make it a DV shelter. Make it a spa for rich people with bad nerves, make it a museum of slavery, make it into condos for snowbird seniors, make it into any one of a thousand things that turn a profit WITHOUT deciding to squall about Woohoo Old South Boy Dem Slaver Days Wuz Good. It’s easy! Whenever someone says “wow, was this a plantation?” say “yes, and we’re not proud of it, thought it was probably one of the less horrific ones, and we’d really rather not participate in an unhealthy and racist plantation-loving culture” and then change the subject to the weather, everyone’s health and the latest episode of Game of Thrones. See how easy that was?

    • shfree says:

      There are lots of historically significant places that the world, if they can’t treat as memorials in the proper light, would be better off being wiped off the face of the planet. A plantation shouldn’t be a resort, it should be a reminder of the ugly past of the United States. If the horrors that were done to black slaves are wiped away just to keep large, pretty historical buildings on sweeping tracts of green lawns profitable, well, I would just as soon see those pretty historical buildings torn down.

      • Gareth Wilson says:

        What I’m wondering is whether you can be both honest and profitable. The closest comparison I can think of is Nazi architecture. Most of it actually was demolished, but some of it is still in use, and I doubt there’s the same kind of whitewashing of history you see in the plantation buildings.

      • Hermione Stranger says:

        Museums aren’t normally about being “profitable” the same way resorts are. Getting enough money from donations, grants, and sales to not only keep the place going but be able to get new exhibits and hire people who can create new and interesting ways of attracting visitors and telling history, yes. But no one applies for a museum studies degree thinking they’re going to get rich.

      • shfree says:

        What Hermione said. There is a distinct difference between a resort-profitable, (which, if you read the whole of my post, you would note I don’t think a plantation should even be a resort, ever) and whatever else it is-profitable, which is usually simply enough to keep its doors open and if the workers there are traditionally paid, keep them paid. Because really, if a plantation can’t manage to make any money at all if the current caretakers/owners include its full, horrific history, then frankly it shouldn’t be used to generate any sort of money at all. And it can be ripped down and the land reclaimed for something else for all I care.

      • Angie unduplicated says:

        One thing tour guides probably never say: “This beautiful example of architecture was constructed by African-Americans. Next time you drive by a construction site and it’s all white and Mexican, stop and ask why they don’t hire such an accomplished race now that they’re free”.

      • Angel H. says:

        Next time you drive by a construction site and it’s all white and Mexican, stop and ask why they don’t hire such an accomplished race now that they’re free”.

        Actually, I have heard similar opinions along the lines of “those lazy blacks don’t wanna work and that’s why the illegals keep coming in”. So can we not go there, please? Thanks.

    • Hermione Stranger says:

      Make it a museum. If not a museum about slavery, per se, a museum about some part of Black history.

      Or turn it into a service center – a shelter, a rehab center, a mental health facility, a health clinic, something that is dedicated to providing services to those who cannot otherwise afford them. Turn a site of unspeakable horror into a site that now tries, in some small way, to better that community.

  3. TMK says:

    The willing workforce thing got me interested (i am central European, so i did not have much exposure to the way US treats its local history), and i was stunned. Seriously, that is what people write on former slave plantations? Sickening. Seriously, reminds me of an old joke about Stalin:

    ###
    Soviet TV makes a film about the kindness of Stalin. One of the shots: a small child approaches Stalin and asks:

    -Uncle, please give me some candy.
    -Fuck off! – shouts Stalin

    Camera immediately turns to the board with short inscription: He could have killed!
    ###

    IOW, what a great guy Randolph was! He actually fed his slaves! Impressive!

    I dont get it. I mean, i live in a country that is one of the most socially backwards place in Europe, where anti-semitism is still a problem, yet a mere execution site would get a memorial, and no one would think of turning it into resort. Or whitewashing its history in such horrible way. And it is absolutely stunning that progressive people (which i assume di Franco is) dont immediately see the problem. I dont get it. I mean, slavery is not some suppressed or more arcane knowledge like, idk, Japanese internment or something, so how one could overlook such a thing?

    • Chataya says:

      I was raised with the narrative of the happy, content slave (the section about slave life on the Nottoway website could have been lifted from many of my textbooks); and I was in college before I heard of Sherman’s March to the Sea referred to as anything other than a war crime. My high school history text book “suggested” writing an essay comparing it to the Bataan death march.

      • Donna L says:

        I met more than one white Southerner in college who told me that their families had owned slaves. Each of them assured me that according to “family tradition,” their slaves were so well-treated and so happy that they didn’t want to leave after slavery ended. The usual horrible cliche of “don’t make me leave, massa, what am I going to do without you to take care of me?” (allegedly spoken, of course, like the 19th century version of LaQueeta Jones). The myth is persistent.

      • EG says:

        It’s amazing how many white southern families have passed down that family lore, and how few black families have a corresponding family tradition talking about how well they were treated. Almost enough to make you think that the former traditions are total bullshit, hmm?

        Besides…your family treated them well? Did that include, oh, compensating them for their labor and accepting their control over their family circumstances (i.e. not selling family members away)? No? Well, fuck that, then.

      • TMK says:

        the section about slave life on the Nottoway website could have been lifted from many of my textbooks

        That is just so wrong…

        Besides…your family treated them well? Did that include, oh, compensating them for their labor and accepting their control over their family circumstances (i.e. not selling family members away)? No? Well, fuck that, then.

        Still would not make that deeds of these ancestors remotely moral. I get the attachment to the personal past, its the nationwide reppression that suprises me.

      • EG says:

        You’re missing the point, TMK. The point is, if slaves had been compensated for their labor and had their autonomy respected, they wouldn’t have been slaves. That’s the point. The point is that owning other human beings is by definition vile and immoral.

      • Chataya says:

        I get the attachment to the personal past, its the nationwide reppression that suprises me.

        Wouldn’t want to make all those white children sad, would you?

        There is a huge push by the Boards of Education in several states (notably Texas) to white-wash and Christianize as much history as possible in public schools. They seek to promote the idea of America as the greatest country on earth, and teaching kids that our ancestors did some very bad things goes against that.

      • Niall says:

        And I wonder if it ever occurs to the descendants of these ever so benevolent slave owner families that maybe the reason the said slaves were treated so well; fed, cared for, medical attention and whatnot, had more to do with slave owners maintenance of their “property” and making sure they got the most out of their investment, rather than concern for them as human beings? I doubt it, otherwise they would know better than to talk about it all.

      • Angie unduplicated says:

        Many of the people ruined by Sherman’s March were poor whites, but they were living on former Tsalagi lands.

  4. Donna L says:

    when I found out it was to be held at a resort on a former plantation, I thought to myself, “whoa”,

    Heavy, man.


    This was doubtless to be a gathering of progressive engaged people, so i imagined a dialogue would emerge organically over the four days about the issue of where we are

    I strongly suspect that the claim that she gave any of this a second thought before the controversy arose was made up after the fact. Her original ad for the retreat was quickly taken down, but there are screenshots of it around, and there isn’t even a hint in any of the promotional material that anything like this was being considered. If it were, I doubt that the description of the event would have included language describing the setting as — I’m not making this up, I swear — “captivating.” Or would have had Ani say things like “we’re going to be shacked up” at an old plantation. Seriously.

    I’m glad Tigtog called her cancellation statement a “nopology” instead of a “fauxpology.” Because it didn’t even reach the level of a fauxpology; it didn’t include any words like “sorry” or “apology” or “apologize.”

  5. Donna L says:

    Nazi architecture.

    There’s a big difference between Nazi architecture like office buildings and the like, and concentration and extermination camps. As for the latter, no, none of them are used as resort hotels, with signage explaining how well people were treated.

    • As for the latter, no, none of them are used as resort hotels, with signage explaining how well people were treated.

      Yeah, I think that’s the only thing that made me feel icky. Obvs lots of places have problematic histories, but you can repurpose without romanticising, ffs.

      • To clarify: that’s the thing that made me feel icky about reusing a plantation house, not this whole mess.

      • Chataya says:

        Yeah, it’s one thing to repurpose a plantation home, and another to describe happy slaves feasting with the people who owned them and being so grateful that they stayed there after the Civil War.

  6. Donna L says:

    Also, let’s not derail too much here. It isn’t as if the choice is between demolishing every former plantation house that isn’t being used as a memorial on the one hand, and ani defranco hosting a $1000 per night feminist retreat at a plantation where everyone gets to sleep in the former slave cabins, on the other hand. She didn’t have to choose to go there! I am given to understand that there are resorts in and near New Orleans that are not former slave plantations!

    And, no, the fact that “everything is problematic” doesn’t mean it was OK to make the choice she did, and to act afterwards like she was the victim.

    • Hugh says:

      ” It isn’t as if the choice is between demolishing every former plantation house that isn’t being used as a memorial on the one hand”

      That does seem to be what some of the commenters here are advocating, though.

      • Well, if people are going to say that there is LITERALLY NO USE EVAR OMG for a plantation house aside from turning it into a crass fetishising racist “resort” with glossy pamphlets about how These Particular Slaves Were Happy No Srsly!, then sure, it makes more sense to demolish it than to turn it into some sort of creepy racist shrine. But I gave about ten options off the top of my head for what else could be done with the place that would still turn a profit, and I don’t notice any pushback.

      • number9 says:

        Really? Where? Saying that continuing to profit off slavery is wrong is not the same as saying that plantations need to be demolished. I see people suggesting re-purposing, not demolishing.

        But let me be the first to say that yes, I would support demolishing if the only other alternative is keeping them as money-making resorts and wedding venues. Give them back to local black communities to decide how/if to re-purpose, keep some as museums, and burn the rest the fuck down. What’s the loss, here? Are old buildings and this sick part of the tourism industry really so important that they are worth more than human suffering?

      • EG says:

        I seem to just be following you around in this thread pointing and saying “What she said!” because that’s what I’m doing here, too:

        Are old buildings and this sick part of the tourism industry really so important that they are worth more than human suffering?

        Seriously.

        And I like the idea of giving them back to black communities as well–the ancestors were robbed of their labor in the most brutal way imaginable (to say the least), so let’s at least partially compensate the descendents with the results of that labor.

      • Hugh says:

        Well, it was mostly my interpretation of Kerandria’s post, but in retrospect I may have been off the mark.

        Some of them probably still serve as family homes, though.

        It’s also worth noting that a lot, possibly even the majority of slaves worked, not in large plantations like this one, but in smaller farms that only employed two or three slaves. Should these be treated similarly?

      • EG says:

        Do those smaller farms even still exist? Do they continue to make a profit by pretending to all and sundry that slavery was totes OK and waxing eloquent about the awesomeness of their slave-owning founders? If so, sure, treat them the same way.

  7. Donna L says:

    Finally: the one thing about the reaction to this I saw that made me uncomfortable was the disappointing number of people who said things like “if this had been about something Jewish, nobody would be defending it,” or “it would have been stopped right away.” Why, because Jews always get what they want and nobody dares to offend them? Don’t kid yourself. That awful giant cross looming over Auschwitz has been up for 25 years now, and despite all the protests it’s still there and isn’t going away. So please leave us out of it.

    • EG says:

      I’m glad I didn’t see that. I guess it’s because we’re secretly in control of things and all. I wish I could get in on that.

    • victoria says:

      Tim Wise did an entire blog post about this using a Dachau analogy to make his point.

    • Donna L says:

      I’m not really sure I know who Tim Wise is, but I wish he hadn’t gone there. It just wasn’t necessary, and all it does is play into certain myths that are remarkably unhelpful.

      Besides: “unlike the more deliberative death camps operated by the Nazis, [Dachau] was mostly a site of detention rather than extermination.” Somehow, “detention” feels like a rather mild word for a place like that.

    • TMK says:

      Since i indirectly wrote about it too…

      I dont think that is fair comparison. The whole thing with the crosses was awful, but it was not whitewashing history in such a blatant way. Nobody tried to install a plague explaining how unemployed Jews were given opportunity for work in Auschwitz, which would be on the level of the surreality of willing workforce. Or how Mengele insisted on >having his patients well-fed<.

      However, i agree that it is not because there is no anti-semitism or there are no people who would do similar things about Jews and holocaust history. Even among the, lets call it, progressisve circles. So i dont know. Maybe the difference is in the extent of the popular knowledge?

      I think i wanted to say that, from the perspective of an outsider, it is completely surreal. Surreal.

      • EG says:

        Are you really unfamiliar with the activities of Holocaust deniers and the way entire countries have and do refuse(d) to acknowledge their complicity in the Holocaust?

        I think it’s a fine comparison.

      • Donna L says:

        The whole thing with the crosses was awful, but it was not whitewashing history in such a blatant way

        I don’t think we can have a discussion about this, if you don’t understand just how monstrous an example of “Christian-washing” it was to have a giant cross and hundreds of smaller crosses looming over the largest Jewish “graveyard” in the world. Or, as an even worse example, how significant the erasure was when the only memorial the Soviets allowed at Babi Yar refused to use the word “Jewish” to describe the victims.

        My entire point was that I don’t think such comparisons should be made. So please let’s drop it.

  8. EG says:

    i believe that compassionate energy is transformative and necessary for healing the wounds of history.

    Oh, for FUCK’S SAKE. Really? Really? Ani’s going to go to sites of massive historical trauma and feel compassionate and that’s going to solve anything? I realize the New Age bullshit is the least of the problems here, but the idea that white women are going to go feel their feelings and that will solve the trauma of slavery and ongoing institutional racism is so fucking obnoxious.

    • victoria says:

      That part really bothered me, too.
      She seems to be saying that it’s totally OK for white folks to determine how to help Black folks recover from historical trauma done to them by white folks.

      • I’d go further and assert VERY STRONGLY that it is not the place of anyone but black or indigenous people to try to “deal with” slavery. I’d be just as pissed off if a desi feminist had planned this bullshit. Fuck knows we all have our own traumas, but I think it’s important to deal with this incident as anti-black racism, not “general” racism.

  9. Athenia says:

    Here is the original invitation to fans regarding the retreat, you can still find it here: http://www.righteousretreat.com/

    It reads:

    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.

    We will arrive on Wednesday afternoon and that evening there will be a cocktail reception and an intimate performance by yours truly. Thursday, Friday and Saturday there will be seminars and jams with a show each evening by one of our illustrious artists/faculty. We will also have a collective outing to New Orleans so I can introduce you to my new hometown and some of the extraordinary things I’ve found there.

    Bring your guitar, your journal, your kazoo or just your curiosity and come join us for some mind expanding fun! We have room in the circle for everyone.

    • Donna L says:

      Right — when I mentioned the “shacked up” and the “captivating setting,” I forgot the part about how we’re all going to be getting suntans.

    • number9 says:

      Wow. I haven’t seen the original invite. This is disgusting. And this really wraps up the failure that 2013 turned out to be for mainstream (white) feminism. This is just truly sickening, as is the behavior of her fans.

      She only cancelled the retreat because she doesn’t have the courage to be accountable. The right thing to do would have been to reschedule, not cancel. Make the event free and change the focus to deal with what happened. Invite women of color (if any would come). Do some free community workshops in NOLA. There’s plenty she could’ve done differently. And “nopology” is right, the only purpose of this is to make herself out to be the real victim and mobilize her fans to her defense. Unbelievable – I’m not a fan, so maybe I missed other such fuckups on Ani’s part, but I really would’ve expected better from what I know of her work and politics.

    • shfree says:

      And this completely belies her whole “I was going to have a discussion about the plantation thing, I swear!” Or it makes it look like the thinnest backpedal ever. But maybe social justice and intersectionality just isn’t her thing anymore, unless she is called on it.

  10. pheenobarbidoll says:

    Ya’ll should read historical markers on sites were NDN “uprisings ” occurred, if youre shocked they whitewashed the plantation house history.

    • TMK says:

      I am somewhat afraid to ask, but could you show me an example? Never been in the USA (anywhere in Americas, actually)

      • victoria says:

        Last year the radio show This American Life did an episode about the Dakota War of 1862 and part of the episode talks about a “historical” marker telling a very sanitized and not entirely true version of the events that led to a mass execution of Dakota Indians (whose deaths were ordered by Abraham Lincoln). The whole episode is worth a listen, or you can read a transcript of the show.
        http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/479/little-war-on-the-prairie

      • pheenobarbidoll says:

        Yep. Lincoln was a worthless terrorist. That, to date, remains the largest mass hanging and execution in US history. He also signed thanksgiving into a federal holiday on the same day he signed an Indian removal order. Bullet to his head was too good for him.

  11. Ally S says:

    The “joys” of a “post-racial” society. -_-

  12. rw1918 says:

    the head of a giraffe against a bright blue sky: its mouth is pursed sideways White women are not complicit in American chattel slavery. White women were not recognized as citizens when American chattel slavery was active. Married women didn’t have personal property rights in Louisiana until the 1920s. So it’s a non-issue. The slavery society in Louisiana is entirely the creation of white men so Ani has every right to try to reappropriate it.

    • tigtog says:

      Bullshit. Nobody alive today created the major hierarchical oppressions surrounding gender/race/class/cis-heteronormativity, but we’re all living with others’ biases (positive and negative) about us based on their perceptions of where we fit into those long-established and strongly perpetuating hierarchies, and the history of how people whose bodies look like ours and people whose bodies don’t look like ours have been treated differently by those hierarchies. People whose ancestors did not share a particular historical oppression cannot reclaim it on behalf of the people whose ancestors did suffer that oppression, and trying to justify it via some ancestors being differently oppressed by a separate axis of oppression while nonetheless benefiting from oppressor privilege during the same period of history is derailing and frankly insulting.

    • AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

      AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

      AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

      no.

    • Donna L says:

      Let us please not forget that white women were complicit in, benefited from, and enthusiastically participated in, the institution of slavery in most (if not all) of its aspects, whether or not they held legal title to slaves themselves. It’s utter nonsense to say “oh, white women who were the wives of slaveowners and had direct power and authority over slaves shared no moral responsibility because they were simply victims of white men just like the slaves themselves were.”

      And who are you anyway to decide that something like this is a “non-issue”? How arrogant can someone be?

    • Angel H. says:

      Sit the fuck down.

    • Chataya says:

      Even if that were true (it’s not), she has no right to reappropriate something that she benefits from. She is white, she has white privilege, and has benefited from living in a country built on the back of black slavery every day of her life.

      • Angie unduplicated says:

        Wasn’t Nottaway a plantation which used forced convict labor? We understand complicity when we purchase Bangladeshi T-shirts and complicity exists with the purchase of slave-grown cotton and sugar.

    • shfree says:

      This is such a lie. Women had personal slaves that waited on them hand and foot, even if they didn’t technically “own” them under their own names. The white women were most often in charge of the household slave staff, and do you honestly think that if she was having problems with one of them, she just had to grin and bear it, with no recourse?

      The fact is, white women who did not use whatever influence they might have had with their slaveowning husbands to stop owning slaves, were complicit in the whole travesty.

      • Fat Steve says:

        This is such a lie. Women had personal slaves that waited on them hand and foot, even if they didn’t technically “own” them under their own names. The white women were most often in charge of the household slave staff, and do you honestly think that if she was having problems with one of them, she just had to grin and bear it, with no recourse?

        The fact is, white women who did not use whatever influence they might have had with their slaveowning husbands to stop owning slaves, were complicit in the whole travesty.

        Many of these women had the female slaves nursing their babies as well.

  13. I know that many public figures have made insensitive statements like Ani DiFranco. When they’re made by people with whom we strongly disagree, then all criticism is fair game. But when they’re made by people who presumably share our same identity, how does that similarity influence our thoughts and judgments?

    I’m not saying that the flurry of criticism DiFranco has received isn’t justified. But I do have one question of all of us. What do we really want from her? A real apology that may never be forthcoming? Should we boycott her tours and her subsequent albums? Once this latest kerfuffle is over, will we forgive and forget?

    Every human life is complicated, some extremely so. I observe the anger, but when is it time for sober reflection? You tell me. If Ani were a close personal friend of yours, would you treat her any differently? And what will we do personally to prevent clueless commentary in the future, regardless of the source?

    • What do we really want from her?

      How about “rub two braincells together – presumably you have them – and endeavour not to hold pricey feminist events at plantations, and bawwwww about being called out on racism”? I think that’s reasonable, personally.

      A real apology that may never be forthcoming?

      So we’re all being meanies for expecting someone who did something racist to apologise sincerely for it? Okie then.

      Once this latest kerfuffle is over, will we forgive and forget?

      Yeah, your race isn’t showing AT ALL. No, I see no reason to forgive the unrepentant. Do you normally do that?

      If Ani were a close personal friend of yours, would you treat her any differently?

      I really resent the implication that everyone who’s angered by racism is somehow just fabricating it at strangers for shits and giggles while being A-Okay with having a facebook friends list that’s indistinguishable from the local Klan. And I don’t know what kind of racists you cuddle and feed and call George, buddy, but you bet your ass I wouldn’t treat a close friend “better” for being a racist dickbag at me.

    • Angel H. says:

      But when they’re made by people who presumably share our same identity…

      And this is why you fail.

    • Chataya says:

      What do we really want from her?

      An acknowledgment that black people are people and are fully justified in their continued anger over a horrific institution that still has consequences for them to this day. And maybe some small realization that this wasn’t All About Her.

      But I also want my cat to shit gold, which I think is about as likely.

    • Denise Winters says:

      If a friend had a wedding at a plantation that served first as a historically accurate museum and didn’t hide away or destroy the slave burial grounds, and preferably didn’t offer any kind of overnight housing (because its a museum not a frakking resort that continues to enrich upper-class white people off the legacy of slavery and exploited labor), I would be annoyed and find it creepy to host a purely happy event at a former slave plantation, but I would likely go and drink heavily and wear an awkward smile in the photo and laugh make jokes about the screwed-upness of it all with other black people there.

      If a “friend” held a wedding at a plantation partially owned by a social conservative and the website talked about how nicely the slaves were treated, how they were treated well for the time, how the owners would party with them once a year and incentive them, and the plantation billed itself as a resort and considered the house of the overseer one of its idyllic prides, and then that “friend” turned around and accused me of vitrolic hate and being a barrier to progress when I expressed my anger, then I would put random dog poop in a box and mail it to them as a wedding present. Also, we would no longer be friends.

      You see insensitive remarks and clueless commentary, some of us see a white woman who took no responsibility for researching a place that had plantation in the name when a retreat spot was booked for her, some us see a white woman who refuses to acknowledge how choosing a plantation for a retreat is insensitive and in poor taste in the best of cases, but especially for this particular plantation given that reading the history page and seeing it brazenly list The Overseer’s Cottage as a great place to stay should be a dead giveaway that a place for learning it is not.

      Also, anyone who remained friends with someone who reacted that way to being asked to maybe not have their event at a plantation in general and especially a plantation that promoted revisionist history, would no longer be a friend. And that would be my reaction for a wedding, for a full-on retreat that used phrases like “shacked up” and “captivating scenery” in the advertisement and made no acknowledgement of being on a plantation and the significance. Forgiving and forgetting would be self-destructive to my psyche and setting myself up for continued abuse at the hands of a faux ant-racist who places themselves above criticism and thinks they are in a position to school me on matters of racism. And that wouldn’t be a close, personal friendship; it would be an emotionally taxing and unequal relationship where I served as the living breathing LaQueeta Jones.

      Also, I need to try and make LaQueeta Jones a thing on Tvtropes. It needs to be the name for the person that white people accused of racism against black people call the black friend they always invariably have.

      • Also, I need to try and make LaQueeta Jones a thing on Tvtropes. It needs to be the name for the person that white people accused of racism against black people call the black friend they always invariably have.

        OMG DO IT PLEASE PLEASE.

    • EG says:

      If Ani were a close personal friend of yours, would you treat her any differently?

      Sure. If she had been a close personal friend of mine, I would have pointed out this bullshit before the plans were solidified, and this whole situation could have been avoided.

      But I have to say, none of my close personal friends have ever though it would be a good idea to hold any kind of anything at a fucking plantation, because it isn’t such a high fucking bar to set.

    • Safiya Outlines says:

      With so many of these White Feminist F-ups, I am baffled with the fervent eagerness and obliviousness with which they’ve grabbed that spade and dug an almighty hole for themselves.

      I am pretty sure that the USA has plenty of resorts with considerably less dodgy histories then a plantation – she could have picked one of those.

      Failing that (and it’s a pretty big fail not to realise that booking an event at a plantation is wrong and insensitive), when people pointed out her fail, she should have immediately relocated the event and apologised – a proper I am sorry, I was wrong, apology at that.

      But no, she had to do the same old Ostrich + tears act.

      So in she goes into the Clueless White Feminists Hall of Shame and she only has herself to blame for that.

  14. Fat Steve says:

    Where my parents live (Hilton Head Island, SC) all the housing developments are called ‘plantations. Does anyone know if these have the same sordid history?

    • Chataya says:

      Wiki indicates that most of those originated in the 1950s, so it was probably more of a “fuck you” to integration than anything else.

      • Fat Steve says:

        Aha, that ‘fuck you attitude towards integration’ is probably why my Dad was able to just walk in to the Democratic Party office and become the vice chairman. And why there’s no synagogue in town.

  15. orangedesperado says:

    This book is very eye opening. It is the transcribed oral histories recorded in the 1920’s and 30’s of people who had been slaves in North Carolina:

    http://www.amazon.com/Folks-Dont-Want-about-Slavery/dp/0895870398/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1388544327&sr=8-1&keywords=my+folks+don%27t+want+me+to+talk+about+slavery

    My Folks Don’t Want Me To Talk About Slavery by Belinda Hurmence

    It makes it impossible to view slavery as a benevolent arrangement.

    • Chataya says:

      Thank you for the link!

      The Library of Congress has 2,300 of these accounts, available for free here: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/snhtml/

      • orangedesperado says:

        Thank YOU for that link. I found my copy at a thrift shop, and the first person accounts really blew my mind and broke my heart. What a far-sighted project to record these first person accounts, especially in a time and a place that still had deep, deep roots in racism.

      • Donna L says:

        I just read a whole lot of them at random on the project gutenberg website, and they’re amazing. And to that one person who spoke up on this thread and said that white women had no responsibility for slavery and it’s OK for them to “appropriate” places like that plantation, a lot of those narratives show, surprisingly enough (not really!) that white women married to slaveowners actually had moral culpability, and weren’t simply “victims” just like the slaves. One example:


        old William Cleveland and old Polly Cleveland, and they was the meanest two white folks what ever lived, ’cause they was allus beatin’ on their slaves. . . . old Polly, she was a Polly devil if there ever was one, and she whipped my little sister what was only nine months old and jes’ a baby to death. She come and took the diaper offen my little sister and whipped till the blood jes’ ran—jes’ ’cause she cry like all babies do, and it kilt my sister. I never forgot that, but I sot some even with that old Polly devil and it’s this-a-way.

        “You see, I’s ’bout 10 year old and I belongs to Miss Olivia, what was that old Polly’s daughter, and one day old Polly devil comes to where Miss Olivia lives after she marries, and trys to give me a lick out in the yard, and I picks up a rock ’bout as big as half your fist and hits her right in the eye and busted the eyeball, and tells her that’s for whippin’ my baby sister to death. You could hear her holler for five miles, but Miss Olivia, when I tells her, says, ‘Well, I guess mamma has larnt her lesson at last.’ But that old Polly was mean like her husban’, old Cleveland, till she die, and I hopes they is burnin’ in torment now.

        No healing forgiveness, either.

  16. pheenobarbidoll says:

    The race fail in this thread is pathetic.

  17. Kerplunk says:

    I agree that Ani Di Franco was wrong. But what troubles me about the vitriol directed at her is the narrowness of its focus.

    Shouldn’t this outrage be a stepping-off point to direct an equal amount of vitriol (and constructive engagement) at all of the structures and institutions that were built by slave labor and that benefited and benefit from slavery?

    The White House and the Capitol were built with slave labor. Why hasn’t anyone brought that up? Shouldn’t that history be addressed?

    I’m not defending Ani Di Franco, but questioning whether she is really the most worthy target of this outrage, that should exist much more broadly against slavery, as well as other forms of exploitation, many of which exist today (including slavery conditions, in which people are being forced to work for no pay under appalling conditions).

    There’s an aspect here of relishing in excoriating someone who has done something blatantly wrong that everyone can sink their teeth into. But injustice is much broader than that, and it is everywhere, and not as easy to identify or pinpoint. This seems like a wasted opportunity that could be a galvanizing moment. And it’s awfully self-righteous, without being particularly productive.

    • Shouldn’t this outrage be a stepping-off point to direct an equal amount of vitriol (and constructive engagement) at all of the structures and institutions that were built by slave labor and that benefited and benefit from slavery?

      You’re absolutely right, of course! No one in the history of anti-racism has ever, ever critiqued any institution or building except for southern plantations!

      Hey, black people! Listen up! Kerplunk has all of the wisdom, yo. Listen and be edumacated!

      Oh and there are starving children in Africa. Remember those too.

      • Kerplunk says:

        Your response is remarkable in how constructive and useful it is.

        First off, you are dead wrong. Show me where the people who are attacking (and rightly so) Ani Di Franco have equally and just as vociferously engaged the issue of denouncing institutions built on slavery and that are complicit in benefiting from slavery and exploitation. I find that discourse sorely lacking in the current kerfuffle.

        And not just in this particular instance. I find that this website and others that follow the same lockstep brand of discourse to be sorely lacking in addressing systemic issues. This is the case over and over again. Railing at individuals who make bad, even deplorable, decisions is not activism. Individuals do not develop oppressive attitudes on their own. They adopt them from a society that condones and encourages those attitudes, and the root cause is systemic. It is rooted in concentrated power and inequality.

        Even if it were possible to convince every individual to adopt anti-oppressive ideology and to express it in a way that is respectful and appropriate, oppression would still be alive and well, because its source rests elsewhere.

        If this is obvious, it still bears repeating, but I don’t find it to be widely accepted as obvious, quite the contrary.

        Also, my comment is in no way directed at black people in particular. It’s directed at all people. I didn’t in any way give any indication that it was, so that’s just you indulging in the oh-so-delicious institution of snark. It’s everyone’s responsibility to oppose oppression and exploitation.

        Your response was so assholic that I don’t expect to engage in any useful discourse with you.

      • EG says:

        I’ve always been in favor of reparations to everyone whose ancestors were enslaved. I’ve always talked about how this country was built on slavery. Your assumption that nobody upset by this has ever engaged the topic before is stupid and arrogant. As mac pointed out.

      • tigtog says:

        I find that this website and others that follow the same lockstep brand of discourse to be sorely lacking in addressing systemic issues.

        This website and others assume a background level of knowledge regarding these systemic issues. There seems little point in regurgitating social justice theory 101 to readers who are already familiar with it.

        Railing at individuals who make bad, even deplorable, decisions is not activism.

        Pointing out high-profile incidents of oppressive attitudes in action is socio-cultural commentary highlighting teachable moments that emphasise the need for continuing activism. For sure social justice blogging etc is not activism in itself, but it provides spaces where activism is held up as an admirable pursuit that is worth emulating, in contrast to mainstream spaces where activism is largely regarded as a waste of time. It provides spaces for activists to support each other around people who understand why they are engaged and/or outraged rather than the mainstream spaces which tell them to take a chill pill and stop being such a drag.

        It’s everyone’s responsibility to oppose oppression and exploitation.

        Yep. Erasure and appropriation are perpetuations of oppression and exploitation, and pointing out that being famous and full of fluffy-rainbow good intentions does not magically make one non-complicit in erasure and appropriation is one way to oppose oppression and exploitation. Tomorrow social justice bloggers will be highlighting a different example of oppressive attitudes in action, because this is one way that communities supportive of activists and activism are built.

      • pheenobarbidoll says:

        Oh, colonizer , you have not been paying attention. But thank you for the oppression. I didn’t realize our complaints could only be approved if they start at day 1, lest any racist feel singled out. You, who benefit from the colonization of Turtle Island, must know best after all. You, wise colonizer, are the only authority who may determine what is constructive.

      • Safiya Outlines says:

        I have a word for you, that word is Whataboutery. That is what you are doing and it is not good.

    • Angel H. says:

      I really hate having to repeat myself so here.

      Also, anyone else find it funny that Kerplunk’s comment comes right after Pheeno’s comment on racefail?

    • Fat Steve says:

      I’m not defending Ani Di Franco, but questioning whether she is really the most worthy target of this outrage, that should exist much more broadly against slavery, as well as other forms of exploitation, many of which exist today (including slavery conditions, in which people are being forced to work for no pay under appalling conditions).

      Outrage? How about massive disappointment in someone who was looked up to by a segment of feminists? Personally I don’t care about Ani DiFranco, so I’m not any more bothered than if David Duke held a retreat at that plantation, but I can understand why people who admired her would be.

    • trees says:

      Shouldn’t this outrage be a stepping-off point to direct an equal amount of vitriol (and constructive engagement) at all of the structures and institutions that were built by slave labor and that benefited and benefit from slavery?…This seems like a wasted opportunity that could be a galvanizing moment.

      I’m not sure I fully understand your point; what would this look like?

  18. Kerplunk says:

    Your assumption that nobody upset by this has ever engaged the topic before is stupid and arrogant.

    I made no such assumption. What I said is that I am not seeing the topic engaged now, not to the degree that the topic warrants — and I have not seen root causes engaged very often at all in these sorts of discussions. As far as stupidity and arrogance, mine is but a whisper compared to what is routinely displayed in this forum.

    And mac’s reply to me is despicable, so thank you for defending it.

    This website and others assume a background level of knowledge regarding these systemic issues. There seems little point in regurgitating social justice theory 101 to readers who are already familiar with it.

    No, no, and no and a thousand times no. I have been reading Feministe on and off (mostly off, because frankly it’s hard for me to stomach) since 2004, and I find that a basic understanding, or acknowledgement, of the systemic nature of social justice issues is generally (not universally, and it makes me tired that I even have to specify that) lacking.

    That does not seem to be because everyone already knows about it, since when someone does bring up systemic issues, the person usually gets shouted down for having the wrong priorities. Oppression is treated as if it comes in compartments, rather than being an evil that is perpetrated on everyone except for the few who have real power. I’m not talking about intersectionality — though I don’t think that gets addressed enough either — but about everyone, including the proverbial SWD, who is exploited by the system.

    …is one way to oppose oppression and exploitation

    No it isn’t. It’s a fruitless way to oppose oppression and exploitation. What if Ani Di Franco were effectively discredited and silenced? What battleground would have been won? Rearranging the players does not change the game. And addressing bad acts one at a time does not shed much light on their origin.

    …this is one way that communities supportive of activists and activism are built

    Also, no. The discourse here and in other like-minded places is extremely alienating and divisive.

    An example: I believe that snarking at people and insulting them is not persuasive and actually counter-productive. The answer to that has been that it’s okay to use humor to make ourselves feel less exhausted by the struggle. That’s well and good if the purpose is to have a club in which we (you) get to feel better, but it sucks if the purpose is to reach out and actually create change.

    • XtinaS says:

      The discourse here and in other like-minded places is extremely alienating and divisive.

      Then… go away?

      If it’s such a trial and a test of character to return to these vicious echo chambers to dispense your never-before-seen wisdom to us irrational and, dare I say, disorganised people, perhaps consider doing anything else with your life. Like run for office! Money, mouth, et cetera.

      You’re not original and you’re not helping, so go fill out your derailing bingo card somewhere else. We’re kind of busy here.

      • Kerplunk says:

        The issues discussed here actually matter, and it’s disheartening to see them ground into the dirt.

        I realize that attempting dialogue is downright obscene, as well as derailing, unoriginal, and an usurpation of the very valuable time that would otherwise be productively spent on snark and insults.

    • victoria says:

      An example: I believe that snarking at people and insulting them is not persuasive and actually counter-productive. The answer to that has been that it’s okay to use humor to make ourselves feel less exhausted by the struggle. That’s well and good if the purpose is to have a club in which we (you) get to feel better, but it sucks if the purpose is to reach out and actually create change.

      Because god forbid that anyone doing justice work or fighting oppression ever got to feel better in the process of trying to create change? Guess we’re supposed to be serious and dour all the time in order to be Real True Activists.

      • EG says:

        Personally, I do it because that’s how I talk. All the time. Regarding almost everything. If kerplunk doesn’t like it, ze is free to leave for more congenial waters.

    • Donna L says:

      What if Ani Di Franco were effectively discredited and silenced? What battleground would have been won?

      The battleground of people thinking twice before scheduling “feminist” or other events at old slave plantations and other places that (a) go out of their way to whitewash and lie about the evils committed there, and (b) exploit those evils for profit?

      A small thing to you, perhaps, but probably more than you’ve ever accomplished by your own activism. About which you’ve been notably silent.

      • number9 says:

        THIS. That’s quite a worthwhile battle to have, IMO.

        Also, what’s with this constant hand-wringing over every criticism immediately = “silencing” (in kerplunk’s bit you quoted)? If someone is saying oppressive things, or acting in an oppressive manner, I have no problem with non-oppressive voices talking louder and taking over the discussion. It’s not silencing. Literally no one is preventing Ani from speaking. It’s just that if every time she opens her mouth, more bullshit is going to come out, I have no problem with her being politely told to shut up and listen for a change.

  19. Li says:

    An example: I believe that snarking at people and insulting them is not persuasive and actually counter-productive. The answer to that has been that it’s okay to use humor to make ourselves feel less exhausted by the struggle. That’s well and good if the purpose is to have a club in which we (you) get to feel better, but it sucks if the purpose is to reach out and actually create change.

    If I had a dollar for every time someone gave a lecture about appropriate tone while simultaneously using the most condescending a grumpy tone possible, I’d be able to buy an actual real life unicorn.

    • pheenobarbidoll says:

      If I had a dollar every time a poc was told their anger and outrage wasnt constructive, I’d be able to buy a herd of unicorns and feed them spun gold. The very fact we CAN safely express outrage is constructive. But, its only constructive for US and therein, I suspect, squats the toad.

      • Kerplunk says:

        Thanks to both of you for so eloquently proving my point. Let’s take your two comments and use them as the effective tools they so clearly are to create a just society, promote activism, bring people into the struggle, and so much more.

        Expressing outrage is a vehicle that can lead to constructive action. It’s also a useful means to share one’s voice. It is not constructive in and of itself. It does not construct actual structural changes to an unjust society.

        Bravo for congratulating yourselves on your cleverness. What does it matter that you are harming the real-life cause of social justice by actively alienating virtually everyone who does not subscribe to your very narrow insiders-only club. I know that there’s nothing I can say that wouldn’t fall on deaf ears, because only one track is allowed to stand here.

        Also, I said absolutely nothing about tone. Snark and insults are examples of the actual content of the discussions so common in these forums. (See the two above comments.)

      • Angel H. says:

        That’s it. Shut it down, everyone! We’re doing activism wrong. Pack it up. You don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here!

      • XtinaS says:

        What, exactly, are you trying to accomplish here?

      • Kerplunk says:

        the head of a giraffe against a bright blue sky: its mouth is pursed sidewaysMy god, you people are pieces of shit. I have responded to the most despicable slime with actual responses, but there is no bottom to the slime that is spewed here again and again.

        You’re not doing activism wrong, since, at least here, you are not doing activism at all.

      • XtinaS says:

        Again: What, exactly, are you trying to accomplish here?

      • Angel H. says:

        Since you seem to have all the fucking answers then why aren’t you doing something? Yeah, I can joke about this because I’m a homeless Black woman in a red state who can’t go a week without hearing about a wedding for some rich white couple performed at one of the many local plantations where, most likely, the same blood running through my veins was spilled. But no, keeping telling me I’m not supposed to turn my rage into humor in order to deal with my oppression.

        Or better yet, just sit the fuck down.

      • Denise Winters says:

        1. You are on a site centering a movement that had conscious-raising as one of its core tenants not that long ago and where many self-identifiers still consider it to be an important one. Talking about shared struggle, micro-aggressions (I personally think DiFranco’s actions have passed that stage, nothing everyday about this, including the fact she didn’t offer a simple non-apology apology but rather a full-on condescending lecture that shifted so many goal posts I thought she might be an invisible referee time-traveling to the past and trying to create a situation where the UF Gators had a good American football year), and acts of oppression, violence, and exclusion actually do matter; especially to those of us who have been silenced or ignored.

        2. I’m calling for a Giraffe here not because I want the post deleted or disemvoweled, but because I want it highlighted and moved to the top as the golden exemplar of the kind of rhetoric being used to shut down people critical of DiFranco. And that is exactly what it is. Heavens forbid we direct outrage at a single person for their actions. This discussion is about DiFranco, and no one needs to be told what their energies would be better spent on or that they are wasting their time discussing one particular issue. How dare you call these people pieces of shit for not letting your condescending bullshit fly, especially when if you yourself care so much about talking about other sites that have had their history white-washed you could have jumped in the thread that Pheenobarbidoll (which I did find some of the plaques and ye gads you would think that forts existed only to protect innocent bystander settlers who didn’ mean no harm to anybody) started instead of going around trying to shut down other commentors. There was a thread started that could have had the focus on how these types of historical revisionists sites are prevalent but you chose to ignore it in favor of condescending paternalism.

        3. Moff’s law. Moff’s law everyday. Short version: If you think something isn’t worth discussing then don’t discuss it, don’t put down others who want to in a thread on a particular discussion, and go do something you do actually find productive because you sure as hell aren’t aiding or advancing conversation here.

        4. Where the hell are all these people who think it is there right to tell someone what is and isn’t an acceptable use of time and an acceptable conversation coming from? I have never seen so many, in so many different places, at one time as in defense of DiFranco or trying to deflect criticism from DiFranco. Maybe it is trickle-down White Liberal Paternalism where anyone caught in the path can risk being hit with the need (regardless of their race or political ideology) to talk down to others about how their actions are non-constructive and they should be out fighting True Evil right this very moment. Because changing the social discourse doesn’t matter. When you have been told to shut-up and sit down for centuries, being visible and loud is changing things.

        5. That more people now know just how horrible Nottoway Plantation is with its revisionist history is a positive thing in and of itself. “Willing workforce” for fuck’s sake.

      • pheenobarbidoll says:

        My insider only club requires you be a person of color or shut the fuck up about what WE need in order to heal. We’re not your goddamn sacrificial bodies , nor are we obligated to be for social causes. We are not your tools, so take your benevolent racism and stuff it.

      • pheenobarbidoll says:

        Oh and yes we indeed proved your point. Youre so privileged though that you have no clue that your point is racist as hell. So here, allow me to do something actively constructive about racism. Mods we need a giraffe here.

        [Thank you for sending a giraffe alert ~ mods]

      • trees says:

        My insider only club requires you be a person of color or shut the fuck up about what WE need in order to heal.

        Yes, mine too.

      • EG says:

        Yeah, you know, I think Angel H. and pheeno and the other PoC in this thread have heard enough shit from Kerplunk.

        We need a giraffe here.

        [Thank you for sending a giraffe alert ~ mods]

  20. EG says:

    Did anybody else read this:

    An example: I believe that snarking at people and insulting them is not persuasive and actually counter-productive.

    And then lay it along side these:

    Your response was so assholic that I don’t expect to engage in any useful discourse with you.

    As far as stupidity and arrogance, mine is but a whisper compared to what is routinely displayed in this forum.

    My god, you people are pieces of shit. I have responded to the most despicable slime with actual responses, but there is no bottom to the slime that is spewed here again and again.

    And roll their eyes so hard that they strained a muscle?

    Just to recap: Calling out Ani Di Franco on her racism? Pointless and counterproductive. Calling commenters here pieces of shit, despicable slime, stupid, arrogant, and assholic? Totally constructive in building a cohesive movement against white supremecist patriarchal capitalism.

    Thank you, ladies, gentlemen, children of all ages, and everybody else too.

    • Donna L says:

      Remember, Kerplunk is the same person who was so filled with self-righteous outrage when I said “fuck you” to hir after zie absolutely, 100% refused to acknowledge that anything Helen Thomas said about Jews was anti-Semitic, even after I specifically referenced all the comments about Jews owning Congress, the White House, and Wall Street, and how Jews in Israel (including Holocaust survivors) should “go home” to Germany and Poland, and so on and so on.

      Apparently, Kerplunk has now learned to sling insults with the best of them, but has retained hir original hypocritical outrage.

      What I don’t think Kerplunk truly comprehends, though, is that hir comments in this thread (as well as the Helen Thomas thread) simply come across as apologism for any individual person who says or does anything problematic, so long as that person shares Kerplunk’s socio-political views in general. Apparently, they get a pass. It’s not their fault; it’s “the system’s” fault:

      Even if it were possible to convince every individual to adopt anti-oppressive ideology and to express it in a way that is respectful and appropriate, oppression would still be alive and well, because its source rests elsewhere.

      What does this even mean? Systems only operate through individuals! You can’t skip over individuals and change “the system” independently of individuals, as if it were some kind of disembodied entity. This is basically double-talk.

      And I have yet to hear what Kerplunk has done hirself in the way of anti-racist “activism.”

      • trees says:

        Remember, Kerplunk is the same person who was so filled with self-righteous outrage when I said “fuck you” to hir after zie absolutely, 100% refused to acknowledge that anything Helen Thomas said about Jews was anti-Semitic…

        Shit, I remember that thread, and I knew that name sounded familiar!

      • Yes, well, you’re not allowed to call Helen Thomas an anti-Semite before attacking all the people in history before her who were anti-semitic! That’s how activism works in Kerplunkland!

      • Also, for Kerplunk calling commenters pieces of shit and slime, which I recall being giraffe worthy from previous threads: we need a giraffe here.

        [Thank you for sending a giraffe alert ~ mods]

  21. pheenobarbidoll says:

    Also- dont even try to pull the crap about wanting change. Your first two sentences show that lie for what it is. You agree she was wrong, but what bothers you is how people reacted to her oppressive, white privileged insult. In other words, poc reaction to racism is what you really have a problem with.

    • Donna L says:

      It seems that Kerplunk wants to hear different viewpoints. This is from July:

      http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2013/07/06/stop-expecting-cookies-and-other-sage-privilege-checking-advice/

      Are we engaged in activism, which is meant to be persuasive, inclusive, and welcoming if it is to yield results, or are are we content to simply talk among ourselves?

      And if we value the voices and stories of the people who are members of the oppressed group for whom we are advocating (which, in the case of feminism, would be all women), then why aren’t more women whose views don’t neatly dovetail with a particular view more welcome to speak their minds?

      From the same thread:


      I am very troubled whenever there is any suggestion that there isn’t room for discussion or for diverging opinions, and even, sometimes, for experiences that don’t fit a particular narrative.

      She says in the same thread that she’s “a woman, a longtime feminist, [and] a political lefty,” but other than gathering that she doesn’t like snark and doesn’t like cursing, and doesn’t like attacks on individuals rather than “the system,” I still can’t figure out just what different views she wants to hear.

      • trees says:

        Sweet fuck, that thread.

        I still can’t figure out just what different views she wants to hear.

        Judging by her continuing fixation on “SWD”, and what she would consider the systemic power under which they live, she wants more points of view that center white men.

  22. shfree says:

    And it’s nice to know that Kerplunk is following every single one of us around to know what we do in our off times, to so zie knows that none of us engage in any real life activism. We all just snark on the internet about people that piss us off.

    • trees says:

      and emotional expression is valuable in it’s own right.

      • Donna L says:

        Yes, it actually feels good to vent sometimes and say what one really thinks. We don’t all have the opportunity to do that in our daily lives, at least those of us who aren’t able to devote every second of our lives to fighting systemic evil, like kerplunk does. I certainly don’t have that opportunity.

  23. ARIADNE says:

    Outrage over Ani DiFranco’s planned retreat at a former slave plantation isn’t just the internet overreacting

    [Moderator note: the above Guardian article is authored by Mikki Kendall aka Karnythia, which might have been information of interest for a helpful link dropper to include.]

    • TMK says:

      Nottoway plantation’s desire to present John Hampden Randolph as a benevolent slave owner by highlighting a few things, and obscuring others (…) makes perfect sense from a business standpoint. It is much easier to enjoy plantation-based resorts if you ignore the horrors that took place there in the not so distant past. However, the romanticizing of this history comes at a high price.

      This is exactly the problem. The fact that the possible backlash from such blatant whitewashing is less costly for a business than being truthful.

      Sadly, i guess it is true if in the south, another generation learns that history looked like Gone with the Wind.

  24. Kerplunk says:

    I have in no way defended Ani Di Franco. I clearly stated that, in my opinion, what she did was wrong, and that I find her choice deplorable. I have also not said at any point that she should not be called to task, or that the reaction to her actions was in any way unwarranted or incorrect.
    The only thing I said, in my original comment, was that I felt that the systemic issues that underlie injustice and oppression should be addressed just as vocally. This was at first greeeted as a statement that is so obvious it is not worth mentioning. Fine, that’s a fair point of view, other than the unprovoked nastiness with which the rebuttal was delivered.
    And yet, this statement, that was at first perceived as obvious and uninteresting, is now being attacked as being horribly heinous. Most of the responses here have nothing to do with anything that I brought up. And most of them I don’t even disagree with, as face-value statements.
    My perspective is not even anything new. It’s usually labeled Marxist, though I am not a Marxist. In short, I essentially agree with the theory that the root of oppression lies with a systemic, unequal (often labeled “capitalist”) power structure, rather than with a white male power structure. Those may sound like the same thing, since the people who have real power are overwhelmingly straight white men. The difference is in considering the game istelf rather than the players in that game as the root of oppression. The players can change, but the power structure stays the same, and that structure is what needs to be addressed in order to address all forms of oppression. (Specific forms of oppression also need to be specifically confronted, of course.) Depending on one’s perspective, this can be greeted as either obvious or highly offensive.
    That’s my first point, and the one I made, or at least thought I was making, with my first comment.
    My second point is that I find not only this website but many other similar forums to be exteremely doctrinaire and intolerant. As a result, they are alieanting and divisive, even to many other feminists, and certainly to many potential feminists. I think this is a huge problem, not necessarily for me since I can just leave, but for the health of the discourse that one would hope influential websites hope to foster. I’m bothering to speak up at all because I actually care.
    My third point is: for the love of god (and I say that as an atheist), why does this place have to be so appallingly nasty and abusive? There was nothing in my initial comment that warranted the response it received. And though I later did not mince words, none of my subsequent comments merited the degree of abuse that they received either. Disagreeing broadly with a particular methodology and modus operandi is not an act of aggression.
    I in no way take back my statement that those whose despicable comments I was responding to were being pieces of shit. It’s no worse than anything that was said to me. It certainly isn’t any worse than saying GO FUCK YOURSELF YOU ANIMATED SHITSTAIN (not directed at me), which was allowed to stand without comment until I called for a giraffe.
    I’m not going to read the replies, so go crazy. I don’t think I said anything offensive, but I’m sure you’ll find it anyway. Maybe there’s something therapeutic in abusing and bullying an outsider. Have fun.

    • pheenobarbidoll says:

      Woc are telling you your posts are offensive. Try listening. Your comments were a huge race fail, and youre not the victim of bullying. You are, in fact, the perpetrator.

    • EG says:

      I’ve heard the nonsense that really it’s capitalism that’s the basic power structure that’s oppressing us, and that patriarchy and white supremecy are but symptoms my whole life. I didn’t find it convincing when I was 12, and I don’t find it convincing now. If that’s the best you’re going to come up with, it is both obvious (yes, capitalism causes suffering and depends on exploitation and oppression) and obnoxious (white supremecy isn’t really what you should be upset about).

      I in no way take back my statement that those whose despicable comments I was responding to were being pieces of shit. It’s no worse than anything that was said to me.

      Perhaps, but nobody else here is wagging their finger and admonishing everybody else that we’d catch more flies than honey, are they?

    • Donna L says:

      Nice flounce.

    • irishup says:

      jesusfuckingchristinachristmasthemedsidecar … I guess we’re not having any nice things in 2014 either?

      Just to lay this out for anyone still reading along from the cheap seats, since Kerplunk has kerplunked off;

      On point the second: When nice white ladies (or anyone else) on a feminist (or *F*eminist) forum, dismiss the objections of WOC, IT HAS THE EFFECT of erasing these women. If you find that erasure less of a problem than your nice white feelings of alienation, you are acting fucking racist. If you find WOCs’ objections – content, tone, mode of expression inclusive – more divisive than your fucking racism, all I got for you is “Here’s your hat, what’s your hurry”. I don’t care about what you care about.

      On point the third: If you waltz into a thread waving your ignorance and telling marginalized people what they SHOULD be doing, YOU should be doing some shut the fuck ups. If you fail in that, and get your ignorant ass handed to you by the people who are actually hurt on a day to day basis by that marginalization, it is the height of Privileged Isht Hurling to insult them and flounce.

      And YES, that makes you a worse person than they are. As pheeno said, it makes YOU the perpetrator, the aggressor, the nasty and abusive one. Take your white woman’s tears elsewhither.

      Extra bonus shitstain points for including disableism in your flounce.

      If you don’t understand what Kerplunk doesn’t understand, but would maybe like to fix that? May I recommend Flavia Dzodan @ Red Light Politics who is currently engaged in some OUTSTANDING deconstruction of this very topic, as an excellent starting point.

    • PrettyAmiable says:

      Alright, I seem to have some good faith patience stored up, and you seem to be having trouble processing comments from people who are angry with what you did. I’m only going to address your first comment.

      The gist of your first comment is a derail. No really. You are more or less telling anyone who wants to discuss this issue that there are more important things to talk about. Based on how defensive you’ve been, I’m concerned you’ll be offended by the link, but here are the relevant bits:

      First of all, it communicates to the marginalized person that you think the entire debate is trivial and below consideration, indicating you entirely disregard their feelings and emotions. Secondly, you disown responsibility for your part in the debate and anything that you’ve said that may have been discriminatory or offensive…You, with your objective, rational privileged perspective, on the other hand, know exactly what is most important…

      Next, you demonstrate that you don’t know anything about the case at all.

      The White House and the Capitol were built with slave labor. Why hasn’t anyone brought that up? Shouldn’t that history be addressed?

      It has! Liberally, by nearly every DiFranco supporter. If you go to rawstory’s coverage and read the links, there are so many privileged comments asking where she could have had the event instead given that literally everything can be traced to slave labor (not to mention pheeno’s very correct point that even if that weren’t the case, it’s still going to be held on stolen land).

      Then you ironically end your comment saying

      This seems like a wasted opportunity that could be a galvanizing moment. And it’s awfully self-righteous, without being particularly productive.

      And this just makes you a pot because you came in, derailed a discussion, refused to listen to a WOC because you didn’t like her ornary tone (which is another derailing tactic), and doubled down on your offensive contribution to this discussion. And note, most of this happened before mac ever replied to you. And all of this has been pretty much said to you, but you chose not to listen because you angered the commentariat and like DiFranco, painted yourself to be the victim. You’re not a victim. You refuse to listen unless treated with kid gloves, and even then, I’m skeptical you’d be open to the possibility that you screwed up.

    • Combray says:

      So you decided to leave your pearls of wisdom here and then wrap up by announcing that you’re not interested in reading what anyone else might have to say. Since you’re so invested in being productive, I’d argue that yours isn’t a particularly conducive method of tempting others to read your thoughts (which have been nothing but derailing anyway, as has been pointed out by others).

  25. Kerplunk says:

    There are no spaces between paragraphs because the text is copied and pasted from a text document, and the paragraph breaks didn’t transfer.

  26. Miranda says:

    I realize I’m late to the party here but…holy shit. This after another commenter on another thread complained that “white feminism” has become a sneer. It deserves to be, at this point.

  27. AngelikaMartine says:

    Well, ya’ll better stop buying VW, GM and Ford autos — as all off them used slave labor in WWII. Stop using any medications from Bayer — yup, WWII slave labor. And better not use any wind turbines, plastic cups, t-shirts, steel, etc etc because any or all of it was probably manufactured with chemicals made by ThyssenKrupp which, you guessed it, used WWII slave labor in WWII as part of the targeted extermination of Jews, gays, political dissidents, etc. etc.

    All of those companies continue to prosper, probably with your help. Congrats!

    • EG says:

      My grandparents boycotted a lot of the companies for that very reason. I still won’t drink Fanta.

    • PrettyAmiable says:

      Oh hey, it’s like someone addressed why this is offensive already.

      On a related note, I do now recall the section in VW’s annual report which included a lengthy discussion of the glorious days of yore, and how they used labor that was essentially voluntary given how happy workers were.

      Also, I don’t think anyone here would disagree with being judicious with what institutions you support via your money, and I don’t think anyone would disagree with the principle that you do what you can (i.e. not every liberal is the best liberal in the history of liberals and we make mistakes or are constricted by our means – because let’s face it, being socially conscious is really expensive). But I also think that hosting a retreat designed for social justice people at a place that glorifies racism when the host is not a WOC is just stupid and thoughtless and a marker of white privilege that she should have womanned up and owned.

      • PrettyAmiable says:

        On second thought, it’s not quite what Donna was getting at in that comment. I think I’ve seen her write here or elsewhere that somehow, Jews are always used for comparative purposes. It’s like its own tokenism. You can see it in Godwin’s law. Which I suppose this is an example of.

    • Why don’t you and your racist buddies all get a nice white rocket and fire yourselves into another solar system? I’m sure you could set up a suitably white supremacist benevolent society there.

    • Donna L says:

      Fortunately, those companies are no longer actively boasting about (I hope) how well they treated the slave labor they used, or otherwise marketing their Nazi past. But I imagine you do know, don’t you, that it was the case for a long time — although not so much anymore — that a great many Jewish people refused to buy cars or other goods from those companies, for exactly that reason? Not that it’s likely that I’ll ever have to buy an automobile now that I’m back in Manhattan, but I don’t think I would buy a German car from one of those companies.

      I never heard of any non-Jews taking the same approach in solidarity, but for all I know some did.

  28. victoria says:

    An update: Ani DiFranco posted a new apology:

    everyone,
    it has taken me a few days but i have been thinking and feeling very intensely and i would like to say i am sincerely sorry. it is obvious to me now that you were right; all those who said we can’t in good conscience go to that place and support it or look past for one moment what it deeply represents. i needed a wake up call and you gave it to me.
    it was a great oversight on my part to not request a change of venue immediately from the promoter. you tried to tell me about that oversight and i wasn’t available to you. i’m sorry for that too.
    know that i am digging deeper.
    -ani

    • Donna L says:

      More accurately, a first apology.

    • pheenobarbidoll says:

      Now she needs to tell her defenders theyre being racist asses.

      • victoria says:

        Seriously. I haven’t waded through all the 800+ comments on the apology, because I got as far as this one and just could not believe the total failure in oblivious word choice:

        “I would like to see this incident be the moment that the internet general public realizes it’s no longer cool, and definitely not conscious, to explode into Lynch Mob Mentality online…”

      • Andie says:

        lynch mob mentality

        Holy fuck. Are you kidding me?

        No, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. People throw around the lynch mob metaphor without getting how fucked up it is. of course they wouldn’t get that in this particular context, it’s probably the wrongest use.

        Because of course, calling someone on their shit and asking for an apology is just fucking like lynching.

        What the fuck.

    • Denise Winters says:

      Maybe in a few more days she’ll apologize for her first statement and perhaps a few weeks after that Righteous Babes Records will apologize for taking down comments it found sexist but leaving up all the racist comments (many of which were also sexist, especially of the “you WOC are being over-sensitive/hysterical/too emotionally involved” variety”). But of course it can be said by her defenders throughout this that I am being unforgiving, which I totally am. Maybe if it had been any plantation other than one that downplays slavery, maybe if she hadn’t talked about expecting conversation to arise organically while making no mention of the venue in her advertisement other than how great it was, maybe if she hadn’t scolded people who were upset like they were toddlers throwing a temper tantrum, a lot of maybes that didn’t pan out. It really isn’t worth it to risk getting burned again and again. Right now, to me, she comes across as another who when it comes down to it, sees many as inferior, immature, unjustifiably angry, unintelligent, an ineffective and uneducated critic and challenger of oppression, and just generally knowing less than her because of their race and/or ethnicity. Some people can do great things towards social justice, but still need to be held at length. I’m about to jam (well not really, I don’t jam. I lack the rhythm and the coolness to jam) to some Doria Roberts.

      • Denise Winters says:

        Also, given some of the comments on her page that are still happening, I wouldn’t even feel safe at one of her concerts or events.

      • pheenobarbidoll says:

        Yup. Comes off as sensitive poc just arent as enlighted about racism like she is. The special enlightened snowflake.

  29. Pingback: Sanctimonious Portland Activist Tells Native American to Not Self-Reference as an ‘Indian’ | The Portland Intelligencer

  30. Bigbadaboom says:

    Out of curiosity, do people here think it’d be ok for a former plantation to be used as a resort or for some other similarly “frivolous” purpose if the history was just ignored rather than whitewashed? Must there always be an acknowledgement of the history, or can folks just say, screw it, it’s just a building now?

    • Angel H. says:

      How is ignoring a plantation’s history *not* whitewashing it?

      • So….what would the ideal solution be, then? Because from the various tacks the conversation’s taken, it’s rapidly turning into damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t afaict.

      • EG says:

        One could neither ignore nor whitewash the history. The informational materials would have a section like this:

        “The mansion’s beauty belies the suffering it was built on. We know the name of Rich Slaveholder, but we don’t know the names or the fates of the hundreds of slaves who labored building and maintaining this plantation and getting it to turn a profit. Unfortunately, these people’s labor and lives were stolen from them and they were used and abused with appalling cruelty until [whenever the plantation stopped having slaves]. In order that we do not forget those who labored and suffered for this building, we have recreated an example of typical period slave quarters in Building A, and have a library of materials relating to slavery in this region and the experiences of slaves as part of our reference materials. We have also dedicated a memorial to these men, women, and children in Courtyard B, and we encourage you to pay your respects before you leave.”

        I still wouldn’t be OK with it being a resort, but at least a minimal effort would have been made to acknowledge one of the injustices it was built on.

      • That makes perfect sense to me, EG. Thanks.

      • Angel H. says:

        That’s a difficult question. Even though I like EG’s idea, to me such an addition to the reading materials (pamphlets? website?) would look like an afterthought. The focus would still be on glamourizing the antebellum period in which the plantation was built.

        I honestly don’t think there would be a way to keep the plantation as-is that would honor those who died there. What I would like would be to access the owner’s slave records. Unfortunately, few records have survived. There are so many of us who have no idea where we come from and how many of us died to get where we are now.

      • EG says:

        I take your point, Angel H. It would be better if the entire project was rethought to integrate the acknowledgment of slavery and its horrors throughout; that would effectively preclude the glamorization that in itself is so awful. I have to say, to my mind (and I’m not black, so take this for what it’s worth, i.e. not much), an annual donation in perpetuity to a local black community center and/or archive or something like that wouldn’t hurt.

      • Donna L says:

        If people make the effort to do the research, it is often possible to find the names of some people who were slaves on particular plantations.

        Unfortunately, the so-called “Slave Schedules” of the U.S. Census, found for certain states including Louisiana in 1850 and 1860, just give the numbers of slaves owned by each slaveowner, plus the age, race — black or “mulatto” — and sex of each slave. For example, here is the last part of the nameless list of the 132 slaves owned in 1850 by John Hampden Randolph himself, the benevolent master of the very plantation we’ve been talking about, the Nottoway Plantation in Iberville, Parish, Louisiana, showing the 29 slaves age 5 and under:

        View Record 5 Male Black J H Randolph Iberville, Louisiana

        View Record 5 Male Black J H Randolph Iberville, Louisiana

        View Record 5 Male Black J H Randolph Iberville, Louisiana

        View Record 5 Male Black J H Randolph Iberville, Louisiana

        View Record 5 Male Mulatto J H Randolph Iberville, Louisiana

        View Record 4 Female Black J H Randolph Iberville, Louisiana

        View Record 4 Female Black J H Randolph Iberville, Louisiana

        View Record 4 Female Black John H Randolph Iberville, Louisiana

        View Record 4 Female Black John H Randolph Iberville, Louisiana

        View Record 4 Male Mulatto J H Randolph Iberville, Louisiana

        View Record 4 Male Black J H Randolph Iberville, Louisiana

        View Record 3 Male Black J H Randolph Iberville, Louisiana

        View Record 3 Male Black J H Randolph Iberville, Louisiana

        View Record 2 Female Mulatto J H Randolph Iberville, Louisiana

        View Record 2 Female Black J H Randolph Iberville, Louisiana

        View Record 2 Female Black John H Randolph Iberville, Louisiana

        View Record 2 Male Black J H Randolph Iberville, Louisiana

        View Record 2 Male Black J H Randolph
        Iberville, Louisiana

        View Record 2 Male Black J H Randolph Iberville, Louisiana

        View Record 1 Female Black J H Randolph Iberville, Louisiana

        View Record 1 Female Black J H Randolph Iberville, Louisiana

        View Record 1 Male Black J H Randolph Iberville, Louisiana

        View Record 1 Male Black J H Randolph Iberville, Louisiana

        View Record 1 Male Black J H Randolph Iberville, Louisiana

        View Record 1 Male Black J H Randolph Iberville, Louisiana

        View Record 6 M Female Black John H Randolph Iberville, Louisiana

        View Record 6 M Female Black John H Randolph Iberville, Louisiana

        View Record 6 M Male Black J H Randolph Iberville, Louisiana

        View Record 6 M Male Black J H Randolph Iberville, Louisiana

        There were 10 slaves 65 and over.

      • Angel H. says:

        If people make the effort to do the research, it is often possible to find the names of some people who were slaves on particular plantations.

        But that’s only helpful if you know which plantation(s) your family originated from.

      • Donna L says:

        But that’s only helpful if you know which plantation(s) your family originated from.

        Right; I understand that. I was thinking in terms of EG’s idea, and of particular plantations themselves, to the extent they still exist, trying to research the names of slaves who lived there, in order to create some kind of memorial to them.

      • trees says:

        For info on enslaved persons associated with a particular plantation, you’re going to want to consult the papers and archives of the wealth family. If you want information on enslaved persons in general, that’s a lot more complicated since, as was mentioned up thread, most people didn’t labor on grand plantations.

        @Angel H
        While you probably won’t be able to learn much about the antebellum history of your particular family members, you should be able to discover a lot about the general African history of the state/county from which they come. In looking at the economic and importation history of that place you may even be able to determine their likely African origins.

      • Este says:

        I don’t agree that ‘ignoring’ the history (i.e. not memorializing it at the place) is the same as whitewashing it.

        Because I don’t see any reason why every site of every atrocity should be a memorial. I do think we get to say ‘it’s just a building now,’ unless the modern descendants of the victims want it memorialized. What we don’t get to say is ‘oh, well, the victims who were tortured here were really happy with it, anyway.’

        Even if they tore down the house, the land it stands on would still be a site where black people were imprisoned and tortured, as well as a site that was stolen from the Native Americans. I don’t think it has to be a memorial for those crimes in perpetuity. But the idea of claiming that what happened there was benign in any way is just repellent.

      • EG says:

        Even if they tore down the house, the land it stands on would still be a site where black people were imprisoned and tortured, as well as a site that was stolen from the Native Americans.

        I actually think it would be a good idea to keep on memorializing those things until most Americans get it through their heads that this country was built on that kind of exploitation and suffering. If that means a memorial on every building, that’s fine with me.

      • Este says:

        EG–I have no objection to that, but I also don’t think it’s necessary, or that it’s somehow wrong to not have one. My beef with this plantation and DiFranco is that it’s a love-letter to slavery.

      • Angel H. says:

        When I was in the 6th grade, I lived with my family in a small town in Georgia. Taking a tour of the local plantation was one of the only things to do during the winter holidays (the only other thing being watching the performance of the “Nutcracker” ballet, and my dad refused to be “dragged” to that another year).

        We got dressed up, looked at the pretty decorations, and listened to the tour guide talk about the first owners’ history and the effort it took to renovate the mansion. Afterwards, we were all served tea and cookies by an older white woman while she and my Granny. Sometime later, my mom mentioned the irony of a Black family being served by a white woman in a plantation house.

        Ignoring a significant piece of history is whitewashing it. And doing so is disrepectful. I don’t have the privilege of being able to look at a plantation house and imagine myself twirling in the ballroom wearing an expensive gown because that would have never been my life or the lives of my ancestors. When has ignoring history benefitted anyone but the privileged?

      • Este says:

        By “ignoring”, I specifically meant not memorializing it–which isn’t what your local plantation was doing. Your local plantation memorialized and celebrated the slaveowning institutions. If you keep a plantation open and give tours that focus solely on the slaveowners and how hard it was to renovate the mansion, that’s celebrating it.

        I was thinking more of turning the plantation house into a hospital or a clinic or something, or tearing it down and building something in its place. That’s the sort of thing the originator of this thread was asking about, as I interpreted it. And I think that could benefit a lot of people, depending on how it was done.

      • Angel H. says:

        Ah. I see what you mean now. I do think that’s a good idea. Sorry for the misunderstanding. ^_^

    • ldouglas says:

      As I read it, the problem was that the plantation’s self-description was basically slavery apologetics.

    • EG says:

      No, I don’t. I don’t think there’s ever a point when you get to go someplace that was a focus of state-condoned suffering slavery whose material repercussions are still felt far and wide and kick back for a relaxing vacation.

      • Lolagirl says:

        I hope this doesn’t come off as apologetic to the whole Ani debacle. Because that is definitely not my intention. But I don’t really do relaxing, kick back vacations much, I like them to be interesting and educational and experiences of things I’ve never experienced before. I have been to a plantation in South Carolina maybe ten years or so ago, precisely for the historical knowledge value of it, and it was as disturbing as it was enlightening. Of course that only happened because the plantation was run with the mission of being historically accurate and NOT white-washing of its sordid past.

        Put me in a place where all I do is sit around for days and do nothing, or worse yet, where it’s hot and sandy and necessitates the wearing of a swimsuit and I’m miserable. So maybe I’m just weird that way. It definitely causes some friction with the Spouse, because he loves sitting on a hot, sandy beach for interminably long periods of time and doing NOTHING.

      • Fat Steve says:

        Lolagirl,

        It doesn’t seem like the same thing at all so I can’t imagine anyone would accuse you of being an apologist. I’ve been to the Anne Frank House and Fort Breendonk, and I can’t imagine anyone here taking that evidence of me being and Anti-Semite.

      • EG says:

        Yes, that doesn’t seem like the same thing to me at all. I’ve been to pay my respects at the site of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. But treating a site of historical suffering as what it is and visiting it to learn and memorialize is, I think, different than what DiFranco was proposing.

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