Update: Ani finally acknowledged her critics were right. Read the new apology here.
Ani Difranco caused a shit storm when she announced her ‘Righteous Retreat’ would be held at a former plantation outside of New Orleans this coming summer. And not just any plantation but the largest of its kind it the South. Upon viewing the retreat/plantation’s website potential visitors are told of the “valuable tools” slaves were to Mr. Randolph’s establishment and business.
For arguments sake perhaps I too wouldn’t have considered the implications of holding a feminist retreat at a former plantation if I was to find myself in Ani’s position. Growing up in Texas my Mexican-American parents hardly felt the pull of slavery and quite readily enjoyed participating in the common nostalgia that many if not all black Americans find polemic to their heritage. But without a doubt I would have acknowledged after rightfully being brought down a notch or two or ten that a plantation setting for such an event was highly inappropriate and inconsiderate not just to black women but to all women affected by patriarchy. Ani on the other hand ostensibly apologized with a tone of resentment that sounded more like criticism of her detractors for having the nerve to call her out on her shit than a genuine apology. Basically the way she saw it people were just too sensitive about the whole plantation thing and just needed to get over themselves.
This whole incident illuminated an established a priori dichotomy that exists between some white and black feminist although once attention was drawn to the misstep most white feminist were just as outraged by Ani’s lack of empathy for her fellow feminist and human beings as they were. This woman is whacked if she can’t bring herself to understand the hesitation of black feminist to embrace a purported ‘righteous retreat’ held on a former plantation. A simple google search of the term ‘cultural appropriation’ would had evinced a broader understand of why the Nottoway Plantation wasn’t the ideal setting for righteousness.
To be fare we all make mistakes and with those mistakes should come enlightenment. Making mistakes is how we learn to be better unselfish less self-centered human beings. Our misrouted actions can serve as a valuable reassessment of how our decisions impact other peoples lives; Growth is a reasonable insightful and hopefully healing outcome for the victims of our misguided egotistical choices as well as ourselves. Unfortunately Ani either lacks basic empathy for women different than her or she simply doesn’t give a fuck. I think it’s the latter and her ego had the last say by deciding to cancel the event all together instead of simply rescheduling to a different date and venue.
One gets the impression of a little child having a temper tantrum because she had to cancel her idea of a perfect party. And just like a child she is refusing to apologize for her emotional stupidity. Did I mention the price of attendance? A mere $1000. Such an entry level price would no doubt restrict the majority of women from participating in the retreat and in particular black women that lack both adequate childcare and financial independence. A direct result by the way of the ubiquitous residue of slavery in America.
A more adventitious less egotistical apology could had served as a platform for both growth and healing; A reclaiming if you will of a sight that served as a prototypical patriarchal inhumane instrument such as slavery was to its victims and thus presently to their descendants. Such a platform if practiced respectful of the interest and concerns of black feminist would require Ani’s ego to fuck off. It would require her to acknowledge as well as transfer and relinquish any control over the fictional and figurative ownership of this site and event into the hands of black feminists.
Additionally black feminist could demand radical removal of a highly painful infested and toxic bandaid that American patricians established in order to serve the greater good of such said practitioners and not their victims. A bandaid that in theory has served as a purported progressive apparatus of healing for all but in reality has never served in the healing of the descendants of slaves. Ani’s refusal to acknowledge this is a clear indicator of her lack of qualifications to serve as the figure head of a ‘righteous retreat’ and maybe that’s the biggest and saddest take away we can hope to get regrettably speaking.