Outrage over Ani DiFranco’s Planned Retreat at a Former Slave Plantation Isn’t Just the Internet Overreacting

Mikki Kendall, Guardian (London), December 31, 2013

The outrage over singer Ani DiFranco’s planned Righteous Retreat at a former slave plantation in the American south isn’t just another case of the internet overreacting.

As the stories start to proliferate across the web about the cancellation of the retreat (which would have taken place at the Nottoway Plantation in Louisiana), the reasons so many found it offensive have been obscured.

Let me explain: legalized chattel slavery ended in the United States on 19 June 1865, and in many ways the people involved are an abstract idea to much of America. Nottoway plantation’s desire to present John Hampden Randolph as a benevolent slave owner by highlighting a few things, and obscuring others (note that the website says nothing about punishments, the selling of those enslaved away from their loved ones, or about the lower than average life expectancy of those enslaved on sugar plantations) 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.

It’s easy to say that people are being too sensitive and assume that this is an overreaction. It’s true, many freed slaves remained on the land where they had lived all their lives. Some may, in fact, have felt some sense of loyalty to their former owners, but it is more likely that for those hoping to find family members that had been sold away, or those with family nearby there were other reasons to stay in the area.

With limited resources and no knowledge of the world beyond the plantation, they likely felt they had no choice but to make the best of their situation. After all, leaving carried many risks, ranging from starvation, to imprisonment under the Black Codes that would later become Jim Crow laws, to death by lynching. For the descendants of slaves, this history is not necessarily remote. Many of us grow up with a knowledge of that family history, and to see it merchandised in this way–dressed up as a lovely conference center and wedding destination–is deeply painful.

America is a country that prides itself on personal freedom and the rights of the individual. So yes, Ani DiFranco and her supporters are absolutely correct that she has the right to hold her event at any facility willing to host it. But, freedom to choose is not freedom from reaction. DiFranco’s detractors and disappointed fans exercised their right not to support the event. After all, as an activist and an artist DiFranco has often spoken out against racism, so there was a legitimate expectation that she would not book an event at such a problematic location.

As fans reached out to her on social media, Ani’s silence and the less than helpful reactions of her most ardent fans and fellow performers helped drive the initial disappointment and anger to outrage. Whatever DiFranco’s initial intentions might have been, it is clear at this point that the impact of Righteous Retreat was not going to be a positive one.

Impact is often the place where the efforts of the well meaning privileged can collide with the needs of the marginalized. Cliched as it might be to say, the road to hell is indeed paved with the good intentions of those who did not consider potential consequences.

DiFranco’s cancellation announcement makes much of the idea that this was all a mistake, with no indication of remorse. What can be righteous about a retreat that didn’t indicate any intention to address the painful history of slavery on this plantation? At least not until after the backlash had begun? When a retreat starts at $1,099, who is it intended to benefit? What is the best way to start a conversation about history this ugly, and who is qualified to start it? DiFranco didn’t ask these questions, possibly no one involved did, but they should have been asked before the announcement was made, and certainly should have been part of the thought process once the backlash began.

I have no idea what Ani DiFranco was thinking, but I hope this will be a learning experience for her (and perhaps other entertainers) to check where they are holding their events and the message–intended or not–that it’s sending.

Ani DiFranco

Ani DiFranco

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  • Oil Can Harry

    How dares dis white heifer hold a retreat on a plantation where our ancesters used to be slavin’!
    Don’t she know the grass there be evil?

    • MekongDelta69

      I’m sorry I have to do this, but I don’t want ‘outsiders’ reading AmRen for the first time, getting the impression that one of our major posters is lacking in the proper use of ebonics:

      “Wearz mah repamarashuns chek be at, yo?”

      (I’ll see if I can set you up for an appointment with NYC’s new communist mayor’s daughter, so she can ‘skool’ you in advanced ebonics. Study hard and make me proud Harry!)

      • Oil Can Harry

        You want me to meet our new mayor Herman Munster’s daughter Marilyn?

        I’m not saying she has a drug problem but just looking at her photo gave me a contact high!

  • sbuffalonative

    Another naive liberal feminist who likely believed she wasn’t a racist until she was told she was. Apologies don’t matter. Once a racist, always a racist. This episode will be referenced in every story done on her for years. I don’t know her music but I suspect her audience isn’t black so she’s likely struggling to understand why her white fans have turned on her.

    It’s true, many freed slaves remained on the land where they had lived all their lives. Some may, in fact, have felt some sense of loyalty to their former owners, but it is more likely that for those hoping to find family members that had been sold away, or those with family nearby there were other reasons to stay in the area.

    I love these admissions of truth. After being told how horrible chattel slavery was, the author admits that when slavery ended, many former slaves stayed behind. Funny how these slaves remained loyal to their brutal and racist masters. Then again, maybe for the most part, slavery wasn’t as bad as we’ve been led to believe.

    • newscomments70

      There are some fascinating interviews of former slaves who lived into the 20th century. most still lived with their former masters and were well taken care of in their old age. The interviews I heard were all positive. I believe that slavery was wrong and all that, but the interviews don’t quite match the Hollywood movies.

    • Whiteplight sees the Emperor N

      Since feminists are by creed and practice anti-white male, she figured on getting a pass, a sort of white-feminist privilege. Looks like that didn’t work out. So even white women that have showed their sympathy and support for white genocide are learning that since they’re white, they can’t join in at the big party after all.

  • Spartacus

    They really are getting more and more pathetic, aren’t they ?

    • shawnmer

      In our eyes, yes. Sad part is we continue to lose ground to them. Too many whites are convinced their reputations will be ruined if they fail to acquiesce in the absurd.

  • dd121

    I bet Ani feels the same way that the Brown Shirts felt as they were being executed. Saying, “Heil Hitler” didn’t save them.

  • John Smith

    Why is all guilt for slavery placed on Whites?

    It wasn’t a bunch of hillbillies and neanderthals going to Africa and violently stealing slaves.

    Blacks had already (violently) enslaved MILLIONS of blacks…

    …and then PEACEFULLY sold them to whites, jews, middle easterners.

    Amazing how the staggering middle eastern and (especially) jewish historical role in slavery is minimized or even ignored.

    • dd121

      Quiet now, the truth doesn’t matter in liberal land.

      • CoweringCoward

        Ain’t no money in mau mauing negros for their MUCH LARGER roll in da turrible leggasee ob da slabbery.

    • sbuffalonative

      I watched the first half hour of Henry Louis Gates JR last PBS program on blacks in America. He explained that yes, blacks did enslave other blacks but it was like playing a game of tag. The Trans-Atlantic slave trade was far worse.

      • John Smith

        And Gates is an idiot.

        Transatlantic slave trade – 11 million of which 500,000 ended up in US

        Middle Eastern slave trade – 20 million; no white involvement

        Internal black slave trade (which rages to this day) – countless millions; no white involvement.

        Assuming that you are aware of Barbary Coast in which over one million whites violently enslaved by middle easterners and by some africans too – over double the amount of blacks enslaved in US.

        • There was one point in Helper’s Negroes in Negroland where a black African slave of another black African who had enough resources to buy his way out of slavery instead wanted to use those resources to buy himself a slave.

          • John Smith

            Not sure how your point fits into the big picture of over hyped white guilt regarding slavery and the huge historical role played by africans, middle easterners and especially jews.

        • sbuffalonative

          Gates fascinates me. He believes in his own self-importance and he doesn’t seems to understand that he’s little more than a token black intellectual that Harvard liberals can say they support. His research is nothing more than combing through thousands of old documents trying to find obscure references to an individual slave. Mr. Gates has to go through American documents because it never occurs to him that there are no African records because Africans never had a written language.

          As I said, I watched the first half our of his latest slavery expose, ‘The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross’. I read an interview with him and he was gushing that this new research was going to be a game-changer. This guy seems to believe learning about African-American history will save blacks in America and change white attitudes about blacks.

          To me, black history consists of four eras. Blacks were slaves. Blacks were freed. A black man did something white people have been doing for years. Blacks continue to fail because of racism and white supremacy. That’s black history. Mr. Gates can continue to look for scrapes of paper that mention a slave by name but black history is nothing but a footnote to western civilization.

        • Whiteplight sees the Emperor N

          Nice round numbers. What is your source? I’m not calling you a liar, I’m just curious. I downloaded a complete history of slavery form the internet years ago, so I wonder where you got your numbers? Also, it is important to recognize that slavery has always existed in every race and in every culture. It was only white people who sought to end it world wide and it still is only white people that really seem to care about it. Don’t you wonder why whites never get any credit for that, but instead blamed for trying to bring civilization to the primitive world?

          • John Smith

            Facts are facts. You can easily google and research my points and assertions. Nothing I have stated is ambiguous and especially not false. I stand by all of them.

    • bilderbuster

      When Hymie controls the media Hymie controls “The Truth”.

    • Whiteplight sees the Emperor N

      It happens because people like you distort it and pretend outrage that so few share your own non-historical bias. Arabs have always been slave traders before anyone else and still are at it. Europeans sold other Europeans into slavery in ancient times and they did it as late as the late 19th century. W.T Stead in London headed an organization to stop the kidnapping of English women and children by whites. These women and children ended up usually as victims of wealthy sex-pervert in Europe and beyond. Most of them were from Christian families. Jews played a part in slave trading because it was part of the normal merchant activities in ancient times and as suppliers to the Roman army, they handled the captives as a normal activity. But these were individuals. Overall, Jews abhor slavery because being slaves twice in their own religions history makes it abhorrent to them. It’s also why Jews were and are attracted generally to political ideas that are against the exploitations of people of any race or group.

      Now don’t start with this nazi stuff again. I am just telling you real history. I don’t identify with Jews at all. The culture is weird to me, but I am dedicated to facts, not stoking ridiculous, worn out, useless lies about Jews that have only harmed the white race because of the long history of brutality without reason attached.

      • John Smith

        During your little tantrum and history lecture, you did not really address or refute the high level, (admittedly oversimplified) points I made —

        To repeat, slavery wasn’t “only” a bunch of hillbillies and neanderthals going to Africa and violently stealing slaves.

        Blacks had already (violently) enslaved MILLIONS of blacks…

        …and then PEACEFULLY sold them to whites, jews, middle easterners.

        Amazing how the staggering middle eastern and (especially) jewish historical role in slavery is minimized or even ignored.

        You simply quibbled and ranted…good for you…hope you feel better.

  • shawnmer

    So hey, I guess she can’t hold her retreat in NYC, either. One of de Blasio’s speakers declared that a “plantation,” too.

    • Whiteplight sees the Emperor N

      Funny thing is that the word “plantation” was only another word for “settlement.” Funny how words become politically charged beyond their real meanings. By paying attention to words of 19th century songs, even Stephen Foster’s “The Old Folks at Home,” (1853)or the old classic poem, song, “The Old Wooden Bucket” (1820), it is clear that any cabin with a planted field, a shack, was called a “plantation.” Most people living now seem stuck in so much historical myth and stereotype that there is not much chance of recovery of our real cultural memories, even ones barely over a hundred years old. (“The Old Wooden Bucket” remained a favorite song and was sung in schools until the 1920s. That’s one hundred years of memories and sentimentality that even few whites can identify or recall today. Look it up, it’s a very touching poem, song, of reminiscent childhood).

  • Tim_in_Indiana

    What can be righteous about a retreat that didn’t indicate any intention to address the painful history of slavery on this plantation?

    Obviously, this moronic writer hasn’t heard that the best way to deal with a “painful” past is to stop wallowing in it. In other words, just GET OVER IT. Of course, he/she/it and their ilk don’t want to “get over it,” as nursing these imaginary wounds is what keeps the grievance industry going.

  • Kenner

    Speaking of ‘apologies’ that didn’t happen…[I’ve posted this before, but I was late-] re: That ‘black Santa’ ‘controversy– Two days in, Megyn Kelly opened her show by ‘leaning forward’ and fixing the camera with what was the White equivalent of the black ‘death stare.’ Nothing subtle about it. Funny, and wonderful.

  • IstvanIN

    Why should any retreat anywhere care about what went on at that site 150 years ago unless that is the point of the retreat? Let blacks rent the place and have a slavery retreat.

  • Pro_Whitey

    Yeah, the painful legacy of slavery. We’re still paying for it.

  • bubo

    I have noticed that black “intellectuals” tend to overuse certain words and phrases to the point of absurdity. The term “outrage” has to be the most overused. I attribute this to their lack of vocabulary and propensity to exaggerate.

    • KhanBoi77

      Some believe that Blacks have poor impulse control (due to higher levels of testosterone?).

      Blacks have a hair trigger that allows them to be in a permanent state of ‘outrage’ at all times.

      ‘Youse Whitey Boy didy not vote fo ‘Bama? Dat a raciss’ outrage!’

    • Jim

      And don’t forget the Jesse Jackson era of 25 years ago, when he used to put the suffix “-ocity” on every word. 🙂

  • Jotun Hunter

    no – no please dont – i heard her music once – she had dreadlocks and was raving about feminism

    • Jim

      Jotun is right! But I’ve sermonized enough about that in another post. The only people who want to hear AD play is those who’ve never heard her play.

  • KhanBoi77

    Ani Difranco is a Far Left Lesbo.

    It appears the Left is starting to eat their own!

    • Whiteplight sees the Emperor N

      Good way of putting it. Let’s just make sure we don’t do it, too.

  • Jameson

    In one or two sentences can someone please explain what this article is about, what the fuss is all about? Assume that we have read the article and get the basic facts but don’t get why any of this is an issue.

  • Brian

    Coincoin: ancestor of rapper 50 Cent?

  • John K

    Radical libtards like Ani DiSkanko need to be banned from the South. Those slaves were treated good by their masters and that’s the reason they stayed. I once read letters on some website written by literate former slaves praising their masters.

    Fewer than 1% of Southerners owned slaves, and one of the first slave owners in America was black. Northerners also owned slaves and were more cruel to them than any Southerner would have been. The fact is, Lincoln only freed the slaves for the purpose of morale, as the Union was losing the war to a vastly outnumbered Confederate Army.

    General Robert E. Lee knew that blacks were inferior, and the slaves would have been freed by the South eventually after they were educated, and would be shipped off to Africa.

  • Jim

    You can have Ani DiFranco. I have no use for her. The planet has no use for her. Like most modern performers, however, she acts as if her slightly moderate fame has some cosmic meaning and significance in the universe. I saw her at a festival 17 or 18 years ago when she was at the leading edge of her emerging quasi-stardom, and her performance exuded an incredible amount of negative energy, all revolving around her feeling sorry for herself. Look up “self-important” in the encyclopedia, and there’s Ani’s picture.

    I must admit, though, I always like to see the nouveau-pious crash and burn among their liberal fan base for not adhering strictly to the the all sacred and holy PC “code”. Her predicament sort of reminds me of an exasperated George Harrison complaining back in the 1960’s about all the young people running around with their “hippie handbooks” (his words) saying, “Oh, no! You can’t do this!” and “Oh, no! You can’t do that!”

    Serves her right. Have a nice day, Ani.

  • Whiteplight sees the Emperor N

    Shirely Plantation in Virginia was the largest plantation of them all and at one time in the mid 18th century its owner, Robert “king” Carter was the richest man in America. Carter Hall still stands and is a meeting center used by many corporations, organizations, etc. What were we supposed to do, burn all these magnificent, historical structures down as if we were Bolsheviks? (Just wait, someone will answer post a yes answer. Wait, no they won’t, because liberals don’t know enough American History to know what I’m talking about). It happens that I’m descended on one maternal side from those Carter’s and I’m proud of that. (Courtney in Alabama, pay attention, please). Robert Carter’s grand daughter was Anna Hill Carter who Married Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee, Revolutionary War hero. Anyone want to guess who their son was?

  • Whiteplight sees the Emperor N

    I’ll repeat what someone else said; Just put them in a place where blacks rule, an American hood or one in Africa, or one in Belgium. They’ll come away with a different attitude.

  • Whiteplight sees the Emperor N

    Notice how the more they put non-whites in the journal/reporters seat the more the stories become concerned with issues like this, as if it is the most important thing in the world? Well, I guess it’s got to go on until whites decide that they have had enough. I have. I hardly watch any television any longer. I still enjoy Jeopardy and Wheel, but I dumped my satellite and just get air HD and most of that is old programing that is most often of either all white or all black shows, so you can pretty must avoid the worst stuff of the past. But missing the current mess of racial/feminist propaganda laden tv fare is no loss to me. From where I sit it seems to become more ridiculous every week.

  • Whiteplight sees the Emperor N

    Lookin’ for that race card hook….. something will turn up if she keeps trying.

  • Truth Teller

    “It’s true many remained where they had lived all their lives.” Well duh!!!!
    Former slaves remained on the plantations because the plantations filled basic human needs such as food and shelter. The writer is ignorant of the poverty of the south after the war.
    Why go roaming about homeless and looking for a job when there were no jobs? On the plantation, they had food, homes, care for their children while they worked, family and a supportive community. Unlike workers both north and south at the time they did not die of starvation and lack of medical care and even heated homes in the winter I n their old age.
    Unlike 19th century factory workers, they worked at their own pace and controlled their tools. Factory workers were at the mercy of the machines. Many were killed or disabled by work place accidents and there was no disability or welfare in those days..
    Unlike other workers, they could and did improve their lives by gardening and raising pigs and chickens. fixing up their homes etc. As agricultural workers, they had leisure time after planting and before harvest. On a daily basis, farm work involves several breaks.
    From a basic survival perspective, remaining on the plantation was the best decision the average black southerner could have made.

  • Truth Teller

    Puleeeeze. Maria Theresa or Marie Thereze is one of the most common women’s names in Catholic countries and areas. Mary has been a popular Catholic name for 2 thousand years. There have been several major Saints and reformers named Theresa. Louisiana was French and Catholic in the 18th century. The blacks as well as Whites used popular Catholic names.
    There have been hundreds of millions of Maria Theresa over the centuries. Empress Maria Theresa was given a very common popular name. All her daughters were given double names Maria Carolina etc. I know a woman of swiss german descent named Marie Theresa. She doesn’t use the Theresa, just goes by the first name Marie.
    I doubt Marie Thereze Metoyer ‘s parents ever heard of Empress Maria Theresa when they named her one of the most common and popular names.
    Marie Thereze was as popular in 18th century Louisiana as Debbie and Linda were in the 1950’s, and Brittany is today