We ended 2013, the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation — a year in which one of the most popular movies, “12 Years a Slave” chronicled the horrors of slavery in Louisiana — with Ani DiFranco huffily canceling her plan to host a “Righteous Retreat” for artists at Nottaway Plantation in New Orleans. That, ladies and gentlemen, sums up your year in race.
I understand that most white people never have to think beyond notions of the idyllic and pastoral when it comes to plantations. That these places continue to represent sites of untold horror, violence, and humiliation for Black people is the very kind of knowledge against which white privilege inoculates.
The whole point of being white is that you are never supposed to feel uncomfortable in space. To the moon and back, the world is yours. This past year, “pure” white space has been procured and subsequently sanctified through the precious spilled blood of black bodies – Trayvon Martin, who got no justice, Jonathan Ferrell, who asked for help in the wrong neighborhood, Renisha McBride, who did the same.
In her faux-pology, which doubled as a notice of cancellation, DiFranco claimed to “get it.” But from her passive aggressive chastisement and her choice to accuse her naysayers on social media of engaging in “high velocity bitterness,” she obviously doesn’t really get it. She acknowledged that “the pain of slavery is real and runs very deep and very wide,” but saw as “very unfortunate” “what many have chosen to do with that pain.”
No doubt, Ani discovered this week, that social media is no country for white women’s foolishness on race. Unfortunately for her, she chose to launch this retreat at the same time that another unfortunate white feminist soul launched a twitter campaign called #stopblamingwhitewomenweneedunity. And after a year of looking at Miley Cyrus’ non-twerking ass, everyone has had enough.
But also here’s the thing: sometimes I, too, cringe at the level of hatred and hateration that gets spewed at folks in social media. As the actress Rashida Jones said of Twitter recently, it often feels like a bad neighborhood where everybody is spoiling for a fight.
Indeed it does. But I also know that “bad neighborhood” is not a race neutral term, anymore than “plantation” is. They both conjure up images of utterly abject brown bodies.
What do you think of this, is “bad neighborhood” a racist term we should all stop using, or is this another ration of politically correct liberal nonsense?