Why We Cared about the Plantation and Needed an Apology:
A Letter to Ani DiFranco
By Indigo Violet
We bought your records, attended your shows, struggled with your white feminist and queer fans looking askance at us at your concerts. We thought you were an ally. And, now this.
What hurts for us feminists of color is that we went out on a limb to support you, and that in this historical moment when we say “Ani, please don’t have a retreat on an Old South plantation that glorifies its past. We can’t be there. We can’t do anything righteous there. We can only be hurt there,” you respond by lecturing us for being angry and bitter and by refusing to stand in solidarity with our pain. That YOU, the righteous babe, are re-enacting some of the most terrible patterns in white feminism hurts. It hurts because we’ve been organizing, writing, theorizing for years and years, trying to exorcise racism and white supremacy from our feminist movements, wanting white women to join us in that intersectional fight that would liberate us all. It hurts because we deal with racist assaults and racist blindness from the wider society ALL THE TIME, along with sexism, heterosexism, classism, queerphobia, transphobia, ablelism . . . We are living the legacy of the horror of this country. The horror is in the national consciousness that denies the facts of racism. The horror is in the law, economy, the education system, the prison industrial complex, in health care, our neighborhoods, on our streets, in our homes, our relationships, our psyches, and for those of us who are committed to struggle, it is in our politics and art. We’re trying to fix shit.
Imagine you’re a (black) girl just trying to finally come clean, knowing full well they’d prefer you were dirty (gracious— not bitter, not hurt, not angry) and smiling. . .
We need you to fix shit with us.
A friend, Premadasi Amada, wrote this on your Facebook fan page. This friend speaks my mind:
Ani DiFranco, with your insulting excuse for an apology you are now making your bed with all the white folks who are yelling at Black people and women of color: ‘reverse racism’, ‘stop whining’, ‘get over it’, ‘stop being angry’, etc. Ani, you’re responsible for responding to and reigning in the disgusting expressions of white privilege and hate being spewed by your white fans. The time is now. Also, it’s unfathomable that anything about this has to be explained. You have enough Black women and women of color generally telling you what was wrong with it and how you what you did hurt. Which part of all that leads you to not say you are sorry? You need to listen and apologize rather than complaining and lecturing. This isn’t about you and your feelings Ani.
We need you to fix shit and say something different than what you said. If progressive white folks can’t fix shit, if feminist artists and activists can’t address shit for real, come clean for real about the intricate, longstanding and ongoing pain of race, racism, and white supremacy then there is no hope whatsoever for this America.
© Indigo Violet, December 31, 2013
Links to other articles on this issue:
“In a banner year for non-apology apologies, singer-songwriter Ani DiFranco non-apologized this weekend for renting out an old Louisiana slave plantation to host a songwriting workshop. The event, now canceled, was billed as a “Righteous Retreat” and charged attendees $1,000 to sleep in a tent for four nights and learn about “developing one’s singular creativity” while DiFranco and her friends led jam sessions. The “captivating setting” was to be Nottoway Plantation and Resort in White Castle, Louisiana, a 64-room, 53,000-square-foot antebellum mansion and sugar plantation”
“The decision had spurred angry posts across the web. Ninjacate wrote on Groupthink: “It really blows my mind that anyone in Ani DiFranco’s camp had to have it explained to them that luxuriating for a weekend at a site where mass murder and forced incarceration took place for centuries IS A BAD F—— IDEA. And I know this will seem like a stretch, (but I promise it’s not) I genuinely believe that this kind of attitude is directly related to the prevailing world-wide idea of anti-blackness.”
“It’s not like I hadn’t given any thought to how it would feel to spend four days writing songs with my Ideas Colleagues on an infamous slavery site. We were going to bring really good vibes with us. Vibes of compassion, and also transformation, which as everyone knows is how you heal a plantation.
But there will be no vibes now. I am taking my vibes and my ideas and my compassion and I am going home to my Tempurpedic mattress because of your negative and unfortunate energy.”