Internet mob justice gets shit done and a lot of what it gets done is truly, awe inspiringly awesome. Witness exhibit A.
Gets on the plane in London making pithy and racist remark. Arrives at her destination, the butt of said remark, and is promptly fired. Quick, deliberate, and effective. This kind of thing seems to be more and more common as the internet gets older and more people get on Twitter and that’s all fine and good. Unfortunately there’s another phenomenon that’s getting more common as well and that’s friendly fire. Ani Difranco is the most recent victim.
So musician Ani Difranco had scheduled a private event/concert series in Louisiana called Righteous Retreat. It was to be three days and four nights (oh, Ani) of hanging out with Ani and her band doing “music workshops” and playing concerts in the evening. I can’t imagine this was going to be much more than a sort of celebrity vacation/concert experience. Celebrities do private concerts all the time. It’s entirely common. Beyonce did just such a thing in 2010 when she performed privately for former Libyan dictator Qaddaffi’s son for a cool $2 million and that guy’s family murdered tens of thousands of innocents for decades. After it hit the media she promptly gave it all away to a Haitian relief charity. Mariah Carey had done the same thing the year before but for less money. These are just two examples but it’s pretty common and now everybody loves Beyonce anyway.
So, Ani’s booking/scouting person (you don’t think she’s booking these places personally, do you) booked this event to take place at Nottoway Plantation Resort which, yes, used to be a real plantation back before the Civil War and, yes, of course, at one time had slaves, actual persons owned by other persons, being forced to live and work there. The South has a lot of these places and great many of them are now fancy hotels or places to host events because, well, they’re objectively beautiful buildings. So, that was planned to happen from June 24-29 in 2014. It’s no longer planned to happen. Why? Because then this happened.
And that’s just the latest. All brought to you courtesy of #AniDiFrancoRetreatIdeas. Apparently staying in a building that was used to house slaveowners over 150 years ago but is now a hotel owned by entirely different people isn’t at all acceptable. That’s why there are protests at Mt. Vernon in Virginia, George Washington’s home, and Monticello, the homeplace of Thomas Jefferson. That’s why no institution or place that ever had anything to do with slavery must and will be boycotted and/or destroyed utterly.
This is just silliness. No one’s boycotting or protesting Monticello or Mt. Vernon and Nottaway Plantation Resort in no way runs from the horrors of its own history. Here’s the intro statement on their history page.
Built in 1859 in pre-Civil war Louisiana, Nottoway Plantation has experienced a century-and-a-half of very complicated history, both good and bad. That this history includes the abhorrent practice of slavery is not a fact of which we are proud, nor do we take it lightly. However, as with many other celebrated historical plantations, such as George Washington’s Mount Vernon, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello and James Madison’s Montpelier, slavery is an inextricable part of Nottoway’s past. If we could change it, we would. But since we cannot, we feel a strong obligation to present a historically accurate portrait of Nottoway — to share not only the triumphs and failures of the past, but to also acknowledge and celebrate the tremendous strides made since then.
Completely reasonable unless you believe that Mt. Vernon and Monticello shouldn’t ever be used for anything at all or that they should be burned to the ground. This is the problem, both the South and North are full of places where slaves were once kept, sold, traded, punished, worked, or were trafficked. That is the case because America used to think it was okay for some human beings to own other human beings. That can’t be wiped away but I also don’t think it’s helpful to slam Ani Difranco for hosting a private concert series at Nottoway. What if she’d held the same thing at Mt. Vernon on the Potomac? What if she’d done so at the White House where, yes, slaves were also kept and which they were even instrumental in constructing? Do we now vacate the White House? Do we have to evacuate Atlanta and re-burn it?
The answer, of course, is no. No one thinks we should vacate the White House or Atlanta because that’s silly. We have a Black President living there who probably wouldn’t agree to leave and Atlanta is a Black majority city so what we’re left with is looking at things as they are now. Is Nottoway selling a “slaveowner” experience or is it selling a resort experience like any other resort? A look at its website seems to indicate it’s selling a resort experience. If the building itself had never been used by slaveowners then it would likely still be used as a resort today because the building and grounds are beautiful and it’s architecturally a historical piece. It would cost millions to build another building like the one at Nottoway
What really burns me about this though is the idea that Ani Difranco is now some monstrous rich White woman rather than a woman whose music I’ve never enjoyed but who’s pretty much always stood up for what she believed in and even been asked not to perform in some cases because she stuck to her guns. Now she’s an enemy of Twitter SJWs? Madness. According to a Mother Jones article on the topic(which is written in a completely distorted way), a group of Black Feminists started #AniDiFrancoRetreatIdeas and I can feel the Black/White feminist division all through the early tweets (although the hashtag has gone full blown white people at this point). But why Ani? She’s clearly not racist and the site for the venue isn’t racist. There’s no celebration of antebellum life or some other nonsense attached to the place. Why is she now being portrayed as some lounging White woman millionaire finally showing her true colors?
Easy, she’s a famous target to shoot at. That’s all. The snarky allegation that she’s insensitive or racist juxtaposed against her immense cred as a feminist and general ally of PoC is completely captivating. It’s social justice opportunity and celebrity destruction all in one blow. It’s unexamined and empty and shallow and it does nothing whatsoever to address racial problems that actually do exist. This is misguided and self harming. It should stop.
Fight the real enemy, not the one who got booted from Letterman because she insisted on playing this song.