Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Dyke Dynasty

Ani Difranco is probably the last person you would expect to be on the "wrong" side of a controversy related to politically correct thought crimes. In fact, if one wanted to find an opposite of Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson, she would fit the bill. Robertson is a devout Christian; Difranco is an atheist. Robertson is pro-life, Difranco a loud enough pro-abortion voice to win Planned Parenthood's Maggie Award for Media Excellence. Most recently Robertson's anti-gay comments caused a stir. That won't be a problem for Difranco, who describes herself as bisexual and has a handful of Gay/Lesbian American Music Awards, including 1999's Female Artist of the Year. (Editor's note: doesn't offering a "female" version of artist of the year conscribe artists to imposed gender roles? Think about it, GLAMA folks)

Throw in a National Organization of Women's Woman of Courage Award for 2006, and one would think that Ani Difranco would be completely insulated as a favorite of America's though police. One would be wrong. Difranco has recently been accused of racism. And frankly, the accusation brings to mind accusations of racism leveled against none other than Phil Robertson.

Let's look at the Robertson case first. In the same interview that drew media scrutiny for anti-gay statements, Robertson also suggested that blacks were happy during the pre-civil rights era:

I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field.... They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!... Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.

Robertson apparently wasn't acquainted with Robert Johnson, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson, or Elmore James, who all grew up in the Mississippi Delta and all sang the blues. While his comments don't appear hateful, Difranco couldn't possibly be so insensitive. Say it ain't so Ani?

Unfortunately, Difranco was that insensitive, at least in the eyes of many civil rights activists. She scheduled a four day songwriting workshop open to anyone willing to pony up $1,700 or more at a former slave plantation in Louisiana. Her website glamorized the setting as the current owners:

. . . restored this historic plantation to her days of glory as well as adding luxury resort amenities.

Glory? Referring to the time when a subjugated race cared for the property? That seems too much for some critics who started a petition on to stop the madness:

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. Holding an event on the site of the genocide of black people is no way to show inclusion and intersectionality, both of which are important tenets of feminism.

Difranco claims she didn't understand the fuss:

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.

Ultimately, she cancelled the workshop.

Many on the right came to the defense of Phil Robertson when he made his comments. I think it's time to come to Difranco's defense as well. The location Difranco chose for her workshop employed slave labor as recently as 150 years ago. It's not like any slaveholders will benefit from Difranco's business. Further, slavery was allowed in the entirety of the south. I understand that this could be painful for some, but the alternative is essentially a mass exodus to some Eden-like location where no sin was ever committed. I'm quite certain that America will never get along until people like Difranco or Robertson are permitted to state their thoughts under the assumption that they aren't trying to insult an entire class of people.


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