5 Things No One Is Actually Saying About Ani DiFranco or Plantations

The Great Ani DiFranco Plantation Kerfuffle of 2013 has been something of a boon to people who debate and study race in America. In DiFranco, anyone who’s ever cared about race or Birkenstocks has had a light cast on the perception of just how far race matters have really progressed, which is to say, not as far as we thought. DiFranco is progressive and hip and down for the cause…and, as it turns out, completely full of white privilege. She rolled with booking a plantation for a retreat, then faux-apologized (poorly) for that decision, then a couple of other notable friends defended her abysmally, and finally she issued what most people consider a more genuine – if late – apology with all the appropriate feels (and 80% less foot in mouth). So while she isn’t Michael Fassbender from 12 Years a Slave, it turns out she might be kicking Benedict Cumberbatch all in the ass.

Would you mind terribly hitting a few bars of “32 Flavors”, my good man?

The discussions this has generated have cropped up in much the way you discover which of your neighbors owns guns on New Year’s Eve: rounds popping off all around you from people you wouldn’t have suspected even owned a gun. The debates (like all internet debates) have ranged from erudite to downright libelous (seriously, some of y’all should talk to your lawyers), and has probably resulted in more whites un-friending blacks on Facebook since Obama took office once white people realized black folks were not going to be humble about that shit.

I encourage people to look at the opportunity we’ve all been afforded here. The great Race Debate gods have offered unto us someone that most of the people who knew her would have assumed was really up on cultural issues. Upon finding out that she’s got some blind spots, her pedestal pretty much fell over, rolled down a hill and smashed up against the front porch of a plantation. She’s down, but not so down that she’s not flawed. She’s a perfect catalyst for a step up in race discussions.

If we could only learn how to HAVE them.

Below is a list of things that cropped up in almost all the discussions about this situation, some of which pop up in race discussions all of the time. They are things people say out of misunderstanding, or worse, to derail arguments. If we all agree to work on weeding just some of these bon mots out of our collective forty acres, I promise we’ll be on our way to better discussions (though I make no promises about the resolutions).

1) That it’s about the land.

None of this is really about land.

Unless you’re this guy.

We’ve been repurposing land for 150 years since slavery…it’s called farming. It’s really about what people did on the land (slavery, which, for the record, is always bad), how what they did is still present in the lives of some people (oppression, racism, inequality, et. al.), and what people now are trying to suggest otherwise about it when they are not disregarding history wholesale (the scrubbing of how bad slaves had it on plantations, or the general call to get over slavery). It’s the same argument Native Americans made about burial mounds (but NOT land in general, mind you), the same argument Jews had over whether or not Auschwitz should be a tour stop, and the same argument you’d be having with George Takei if anybody thought it was okay to turn the history of U.S. internment camps into a Hogan’s Heroes reboot. It’s not about the land. It’s about what the land represents, and how little you care about others if you don’t see it that way.

chart_dirt

2) That since no land is untainted by oppression that all land should be off limits.

Really, white people should stop saying this, not because it isn’t true, but because it makes them look really, really bad. Anybody who says something like, “Well, where CAN you have your righteous writing retreat that hasn’t been touched by oppression?” is just trying to deflate a debate, not have one. We all know that as a society we prioritize things culturally. Ain’t nobody got time to be arguing with you over every piece of land, and you already know that. This is an “Ah well, fuck it” defense mechanism pretending to be logic, and we know that no good can come from being defensive.

3) That anyone’s rights are being taken away.

No one is saying you can’t own a slave plantation, or that you can’t turn it into whatever you want. No one is saying you can’t book a slave plantation for your next New Year’s Eve party. No one is saying the land can only be used as museums. What we are saying is that if you book one, we know where you stand.  Don’t try to make it something other than where you’re standing. We’ll let you know when we care less about what they represent. For now? I’d advise against it. Advise, not demand. See? Your rights are fully intact.

TheyTookOUrPlantations

4) That plantations are way worse than Auschwitz.

It is perfectly acceptable to compare slave plantations to Jewish concentration camps without getting bogged down in which was worse. Both are places where race-based atrocities occurred. While the numbers may be different, there is no magic number that makes one more valuable than the other in a discussion like this. While they may have less in common on a point-by-point scale, they have the most important thing in common: millions of people died because of them.

However, comparing one atrocity to another is to suggest that they are equal in atrociousness, and there are a lot of people who don’t want that to be the case. There are a lot of reasons why people resist this comparison but one of the reasons actually worth discussing is the inherent devaluation of black history in general. Here is the math (it’s simple):

whitehistoryblackhistory

I mean, that’s so obvious that I almost don’t even have to say anything about it, right? Is anybody laboring under the impression that this isn’t true as a systemic value? In 2014?

Slavery is serious business. It’s so serious that its effects are still being felt, and not just in the “where did all the Indians go?” kind of way. Its effects are so deep and long-reaching that most people with experience in race debates have had to come up with a name for just the effects…or rather, we repurposed one (See #5).

5) That DiFranco is a stone cold racist

Well, a LOT of people were saying THAT, but they were wrong in the general sense of what most people mean by a dyed-in-the-moonshine racist, yet right in another sense.

A lot of white people right now are like, “Didn’t we all just go through the Duck Dynasty thing? Weren’t we all on the same page then? Wasn’t that just a couple of weeks ago? Why are we fighting now?”

I’m judging this book based entirely on its cover.

The problem is that white people see racism as conscious hate, when racism is bigger than that. Racism is a complex system of social and political levers and pulleys set up generations ago to continue working on the behalf of whites at other people’s expense, whether whites know/like it or not. When we see Phil Robertson talking about how happy black people were in the South during a period of time that we all KNOW was politically ratchet for black people, we can all go, “Yeah, black people weren’t really happy about that, and it’s racist of you to suggest that discrimination wasn’t bad.”

Swear to God, they were singing just a second ago.

Yet when we hear about big picture stuff like the disproportionate ratio of blacks in prisons, something short circuits in white folks. Suddenly there are plenty of other reasons why these things might “play out that way.” Folks, that’s racism too, both the statistic as well as your denial that there might be anything racial about it.

Here’s the deal with racism:

Racism is an insidious cultural disease. It is so insidious that it doesn’t care if you are a white person who likes black people; it’s still going to find a way to infect how you deal with people who don’t look like you. Yes, racism looks like hate, but hate is just one manifestation. Privilege is another. Access is another. Ignorance is another. Apathy is another. And so on. So while I agree with people who say no one is born racist, it remains a powerful system that we’re immediately born into. It’s like being born into air: you take it in as soon as you breathe. It’s not a cold that you can get over. There is no anti-racist certification class. It’s a set of socioeconomic traps and cultural values that are fired up every time we interact with the world. It is a thing you have to keep scooping out of the boat of your life to keep from drowning in it. I know it’s hard work, but it’s the price you pay for owning everything.

Even all of these.

What we should all be doing is differentiating between someone who makes a mistake (which, yes, is due to some ingrained, systemic racism) that might be redeemable, and someone who thinks blacks are inferior monkey people. I’m more concerned with what DiFranco has done (that which I can see and judge). That I can do something about. I have seen no evidence that booking slave plantations for hippie drum circles is her standard operating procedure. That said, she certainly committed an act even she obliquely lays at the feet of inherent racism. So the question might sound like “Is DiFranco a racist?” but what it should probably be is, “Is DiFranco prone to racist behavior?” not because she’s ever going to be incapable of racism (if it’s not clear by now, no white person is), but because we need to know what line to put her in.

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79 thoughts on “5 Things No One Is Actually Saying About Ani DiFranco or Plantations

  1. It please me that I was saying some of these same points, and that I defriended no one over this. That said, I have as much work to do on removing racism software in my brain as anyone else. At least the Ani scenarios seemed real, as opposed to fake-red necks in a fake reality show making statements to garner attention before the next season premiered. The fact that the network knew what they were doing and so many people fell willingly is to it scare me about this country too.

  2. Scott, I like you and respect you and agree with just about everything you are saying on your side of the issue, but what you have done here is a straw man argument. You present the opposing position selectively and not completely accurately, and then you destroy, not the actual opposing position, but the straw opposing position.

    1. No.
      In case you missed the headline, he’s listing the straw men *other* people have been trotting out, and explaining how they’re straw men.

  3. Well said.

    I infer from your argument that all white people due to white privilege are prone to racist behavior.

    1. That is what I took from it and at this point I am beginning to feel fine why don’t I just stop trying then after my race makes it impossible for me to be anything but a racist.

      1. It’s almost funny how easily you copped out of being a good ally. “Well this is going to take work so I guess I won’t do it.” The irony is that you feel as if you’ve been slighted. Haha! You just slighted tens of millions of people.

  4. Not having actually heard about Ms. Difranco and the plantation until seeing this, I have to say that, with all the ACTUAL bad crap happening in the world (including people killing other people for their color, religion, sexual preference, politics, etc.), this whole thing sounds like people with too much time on their hands and not enough to occupy their brains. Let’s jump on someone who is arguably a thoughtful caring person because she had what could be called an error of judgement in where she booked a retreat??? Sure, there’s still plenty of racism in the US, some of it quite overt, and coming from folks who own lots of firearms. Might it not be a better use of whatever time and energy you have to devote to eliminating this to be spent on them?

    1. I had not heard this either until i came across this post. Seems to me that Scott is making a valuable point, and that it’s not so much about Ani as it is about white ‘liberals’ and ‘progressives’ who are also prone to swallowing the myth of post-racial America…. the racism of haters and the racism of those who mean well (or at least think they do) are both manifestations of racism. Noticing the absence of black history in our educations, noticing our comfort zone with the privileges that go with having a white skin, noticing the overwhelming victimization of people of color in the incarceration complex…and taking responsibility for owning those realities and making an effort to change them…this is the ongoing work of real liberals and progressives. When we catch ourselves (or are caught by others) failing to act to contradict the racism upon which this country was built, let’s not find justifications for acting out of ignorance and lack of forethought. Instead, let’s strive to do better, each of us as individuals AND collectively. It’s better than it was, but nowhere near the way it ought to be!

    2. So, if you swing the liberal flag you are immune to being called out for racist actions and/or insensitivity?

      I think it was Alexander the Great who was supposed to have said (and I’m paraphrasing here) that one spends the night before a battle with ones’ allies, because you *know* what your enemies are about, but you’re never too sure about your “friends”…

    3. That’s what this article is about, did you not read it? It’s not about Ani but about the not talked about reality that no one with white skin is immune to being inherently racist. That being a racist isn’t just about overt hate, but also lies in ignorance, apathy, access and PRIVILEGE. And we aren’t going to see any real change until all white people really look at this. And how it is uncomfortable and hard work, but it isn’t anything like being a slave so fucking deal with it.

      1. Yeah, but here’s the thing: I, whitey, don’t have to “deal with it”. I can pretty much ignore it. See, that’s how privilege works.

        Now, you can point out my privilege all you like. Feel free. But when you do, just remember: you’re putting the burden on “All White People” to create “Real Change”. Which means you’ve already lost.

      2. Lol a truly ignorant statement. Our Privelage is what we earned. If slavery made us rich then Arabs would be richer than us without the oil. Africans would be richer sthan they are since you did enslave your own people. Oh also why aren’t blacks talking to Arabs more for them enslaving you. Oh that’s right because they don’t give a Damn about your crying and your hurt feelings. As a majority whites are the only ones who at least half way give a Damn. Yeah truth hurts. You are just as evil as whites. Guess what people are people regardless of race. Blacks crimes against other blacks and whites are higher than white crimes against blacks in America. Oh that is white peoples fault too because you are incapable of treating each other well. Because we must be making you harm each other. If you think that then no amount of hand outs your liberal masters give you will ever help you. With that mentality you will never create a society worth living in. Although you will probably manage to destroy the society we live in now. Congrats on that. Every race on earth is both good and evil. So get off your high horse try be a real man. Asians, East Indians, and Arabs prosper in America. Hmmmm white priveladge doesn’t hold them back. I wonder what the difference is? Oh yeah they go out and get it done. They don’t wait for a handout. Many blacks do the same. Further proof that if you were a REAL man you would be too. Plenty of others are. Oh but it’s easy to blame others for your short comings.

    4. Ah yes, the “there are other things that are worse so why are you talking about this” argument. (Ably addressed here, btw.) Yes, there is stuff out in the world that is big and awful. I’m actually capable of caring about multiple things simultaneously. Something doesn’t have to be The Worst Thing In The World to be worthy of discussion or effort. It’s the insistence that only the huge, obviously terrible things are worth focusing on that helps so many of us white people believe that racism is only about acute hatred and direct harm. Where would you like your Missing The Point Award delivered?

  5. That she has said very little about her fangirls reactionary and racist response to criticism from Black women and men – is where I am stuck now. That was the most shocking display I have seen in a long time…mainly because it came from the “progressive” part of the culture… I know that is not a shock to people of color. Let’s just say – it cleared some real cobwebs for me…and hopefully will assist in me thinking and doing more work that means something around these issues.

  6. Thank you, Scott. Beautiful, thoughtful essay that also knew to quit while it was ahead rather than belabor every point.

    My favorite lines, for very different reasons:
    “The discussions this has generated have cropped up in much the way you discover which of your neighbors owns guns on New Year’s Eve: rounds popping off all around you from people you wouldn’t have suspected even owned a gun.”

    and

    “It is a thing you have to keep scooping out of the boat of your life to keep from drowning in it. I know it’s hard work, but it’s the price you pay for owning everything.”

  7. Thank you for writing such an insightful article.

    I am confused by one thing you wrote:

    “Slavery is serious business. It’s so serious that its effects are still being felt, and not just in the “where did all the Indians go?” kind of way.”

    To me this seems to minimize the genocide of Native Americans, its continuing effects, and the very real oppression still present today so I’m wondering what I’m missing. I would love to know what you actually meant.

    Thank you again.

    1. Scott, this is really unfortunate to see how dismissively you wrote about Native Americans in this piece. Here is an incredibly eye opening video about how systemic racism continues to affect indigenous cultures, that I’d highly encourage you to watch if you get a chance: http://www.upworthy.com/a-journalist-went-near-mount-rushmore-to-take-some-photos-what-he-found-changed-his-life-forever?c=ufb1

      The best I can tell is that this falls as another example of how we can be racist without even realizing it. I know you had great intentions with this post, and it’s unfortunate to see that detract from it.

    2. Togo,

      While I’m not in the habit of explaining things after a word count like that, I like how you asked.

      That line isn’t a reflection of what I think (or don’t think) of Native Americans. It’s a line in the tone of the dismissive mindset that doesn’t think about Native Americans until we notice there aren’t any. It’s “at” racists about how they themselves have already dropped the ball on an important culture before. Hope this helps.

      1. But one of the particular issues facing indigenous folks is the idea that “there aren’t any.” And although the ball was dropped it’s also still dropping. I’m not trying to be snarky but it looks like that lined bummed a bunch of us out particularly because it’s couched within some pretty incisive race analysis. It’s good piece and in many, many respects obviously well thought out but it strikes some pretty off notes about native “extinction” and native land sovereignty. Again, not trying to be snarky – it’s just tough to see here, of all places.

      2. Just wanted to say I too feel like the whole “jokey” tone with respect to the reality of native folks was kind of weird.

      3. Thanks so much for your explanation. I really appreciate understanding where you were coming from. And thank you again for sharing your insight on the Ani debacle.

  8. I really, really appreciate this list. Thank-you.
    I admit, though, I’m commenting because there’s one part that doesn’t sit well with me, and it’s how you address First Nations – not clarifying vis a vis statements about land, and then “It’s so serious that its effects are still being felt, and not just in the ‘where did all the Indians go?’ ” which sounds a lot like belittling the genocide wrought on indigenous peoples in North America. I feel like that’s probably really not your intent, but it’s how it came across to me, at least

  9. I truly appreciate your good intentions…in your spirit of sparking discussion please do remember that the issue is “Patsy” not “Solomon” (regarding your photo still above). The Ani DiFranco feminist event invited black women but black American women are highly unlikely to want to attend any event held on a plantation because of the sexual slavery female slaves experienced–rape, forced breeding, sadism. The location was truly weird for a feminist event and the insensitivity was shocking as social media reaction shows.

    I appreciate her second apology–and your blog post 🙂

  10. I am curious- and this is a genuine ponderance: if a black person, say Badu or The RZA had booked a similar workshop at this same location (not that either necessarily would, but for the sake of the question, generalize them as simply examples from a large pool of worthy artists of African descent), what would be the ramifications?

    much love to you, Scott. I miss your presence.

      1. Powerfully and simply said, @ Friday Foster commenter. I’ve tried posting a couple of times here but my comments are not appearing for some reason. I basically said that a number of people found it odd and distasteful to book a feminist event at a plantation given that plantations are synonymous with rape and slavery that meant sexual slavery.

        Plantations are simply inappropriate venues for a feminist event for which one expects black American women to attend–and such women were very much expected to attend this particular feminist event. For some people, such a venue is a location on which they will never step foot and I respect their feelings, reaction, and decision.

    1. G Dave!
      I imagine the ramifications would be similar, though the degree would certainly be different, for a number of reasons.

      But let’s be clear: ANYBODY who books such a venue whose intent has nothing to do with addressing the symbolism and history of the venue is as guilty as DiFranco.

  11. A very valuable angle to add to the AniDiFranco/white privilege debate! Someone really needed to call out the way logic was being pathologically mangled, and you killed it. I’ve also written on this issue on my blog (http://wp.me/p11qz5-11N) and would be honoured if you could offer your feedback.

  12. Hi Scott, glad I found your blog. Via Molly Fisk (poet in CA). I’m a white woman frequently terrified that I’m being racist, because I understand I’m in a leaky WASP-built boat. So, working on that.
    My question has to do with the last thing you wrote: “So the question might sound like “Is DiFranco a racist?” but what it should probably be is, “Is DiFranco prone to racist behavior?” not because she’s ever going to be incapable of racism (if it’s not clear by now, no white person is), but because we need to know what line to put her in.”
    What do you mean by suggesting you are putting people in lines? Lines with signs that say “racist” “prone to racist behavior” “not racist” — and, can you discuss how non-whites are racists or not? What is black people hating white people — is that racism or something else? (I’m still new to this debate outside of my comfort zone, so am sincerely questioning, and if you think I should know the answer already, I’m willing to learn.) thanks.

    1. I guess what he means is it would be helpful to understand if said person is prone to racist behavior and responding belligerently to being asked to stop doing [something]. The question is – If I hang around this person for long enough are they (inevitably) going to remind me that me n my family are just a bunch of trained monkeys in their eyes? In which case may be I should make a decision to dismiss that person in some general sense. You might want to put people in “lines” just so you can get on with your day. W.r.t your question about non-whites being racist, diff people have different perspectives. Since this comment is already stupid long, let me just give an anecdote. I work at a university. May be I hate white people, but all, all, of the people in control of my money and my job security are white. So if I honestly think white people are subhuman garbage I better be really good at hiding it, or just get in the unemployment line. Non-white people are not in a position to protect me and they know it.

      1. Thank you Cris. I’ve been chatting with a conflict-resolution anthropologist I love and she’s been enlightening me, too. I really appreciated Scott’s white history > black history image, that’s continued to make sense as I’m asking myself these questions. Part of why this is tricky for me, I think, is that in the part of California where I live, there are not many blacks, but many asian and latino folks. So I have a better grasp of my action/intention/impact vis a vis those folks than toward blacks. Learn learn learn every day. Again, thanks for answering me. Scott sounds like he’s tired of talking.

    2. Speaking here as another white woman:

      Let go of your terror. You’re going to do, say, and think racist things, because you live in a racist culture. That’s not an excuse, or a reason to stop trying to do better, but if you’re terrified of doing something you’re a lot less likely to notice if you’ve actually done it. If “being racist” is the worst thing you could possibly do, and someone points out, “Hey, that thing you said sounded kinda racist,” then the temptation is going to be to argue your way out of it, because you *know* you’re not a bad person, and only bad people are racist, because racism is bad. The thing is, that’s the worst possible reaction. It makes it pretty clear to any PoC around that you’re more invested in feeling good about yourself than in, y’know, not doing racist things.

      As far as the lines go, having lines labeled “racist” and “not racist” would be useless, because everyone would be in the “racist” line. Everyone, of any race, no matter how hard they’ve worked at decolonizing their brain, has some amount of internalized racism. “Prone to racist behavior or not” is a more practical way of dealing with things. It’s about calculating the odds that a given person is going to say or do something wounding. The odds are never zero. (This also applies to sexism, homophobia, classism, transphobia, and any other -ism.) Marginalized people need ways of managing risk exposure.

  13. Reblogged this on Pheonic Chicken Mystery School and commented:
    Here’s the deal with racism:

    Racism is an insidious cultural disease. It is so insidious that it doesn’t care if you are a white person who likes black people; it’s still going to find a way to infect how you deal with people who don’t look like you. Yes, racism looks like hate, but hate is just one manifestation. Privilege is another. Access is another. Ignorance is another. Apathy is another. And so on. So while I agree with people who say no one is born racist, it remains a powerful system that we’re immediately born into. It’s like being born into air: you take it in as soon as you breathe. It’s not a cold that you can get over. There is no anti-racist certification class. It’s a set of socioeconomic traps and cultural values that are fired up every time we interact with the world. It is a thing you have to keep scooping out of the boat of your life to keep from drowning in it. I know it’s hard work, but it’s the price you pay for owning everything.
    What we should all be doing is differentiating between someone who makes a mistake (which, yes, is due to some ingrained, systemic racism) that might be redeemable, and someone who thinks blacks are inferior monkey people. I’m more concerned with what DiFranco has done (that which I can see and judge). That I can do something about. I have seen no evidence that booking slave plantations for hippie drum circles is her standard operating procedure. That said, she certainly committed an act even she obliquely lays at the feet of inherent racism. So the question might sound like “Is DiFranco a racist?” but what it should probably be is, “Is DiFranco prone to racist behavior?” not because she’s ever going to be incapable of racism (if it’s not clear by now, no white person is), but because we need to know what line to put her in.

  14. The last line bothers me. Everyone (not just whites) is capable of racism, and specifying a color in your statements seems to indicate otherwise. Suspicion of whites by people of color is another manifestation of racism. There is no such thing as “reverse racism” because racism has no direction: any time an individual is prejudged based on their “race”, that is racism.

    Your phrase about “putting [DiFranco] in a line” isn’t part of a discussion, it’s a judgement. We need more of the former, and less of the latter– unless you’re just interested in picking sides, and that isn’t helpful.

    Racism is deeply entrenched, subtle, emotional, and destructive to all involved. I’ve learned a lot from discussion of this issue, and that only happens when people can have honest discussions and be vulnerable and open to others’ viewpoints.

    1. Uh-oh, it appears you missed a bit of the argument. Surely white people can experience prejudice, but never in America (or any other country you’ve ever heard of) could they experience historic, systematic racism. Like the article states, racism isn’t just loud angry slurs, it is the subtle nuances slipped into everyday life, specifically designed to be inconspicuous to you. Suspicion of whites by people of color is not a manifestation of racism, but a well-earned result.

  15. Hi Scott, your point about decision making really stands out. The decision is what shocked the Hek outta so many. Plantations are simply inappropriate venues for a feminist event for which one expects black American women to attend–and such women were very much expected to attend this particular feminist event. For some people, such a venue is a location on which they will never step foot and I respect their feelings, reaction, and decision.

    I checked social media sites today and see that people are still talking about it…especially given her comments during her Baton Rouge concert several nights ago.

  16. I have seen no evidence of any culture which is holier than thou.

    To look at how blacks have treated blacks in Africa (hutu / tutsi – Rwanda comes to mind). How some blacks sold blacks into slavery also comes to mind. As well as the current conflicts between Jews and Palestinians over land grabs which were considered unlawful at the time they occurred. Native American atrocities against rival tribes.

    I don’t see saints here. I’ve asked this before. I’ll ask it here. If America were majority Native American or black, or (soon to be) other than white would it be BETTER or bad in a different direction?

    I think the points brought up in this piece are useful, but, as part of, I hope, that larger discussion which doesn’t excuse ANY of us in the same regard.

    To keep having a discussion about the inherent racism in America focusing on whites as the primary focal point of it seems to me missing a greater opportunity – namely that of scrubbing racism, bigotry, insensitivity and intolerance wherever it is found.

    Lately, having witnessed discussions of whether or not an Indian American can be Miss America or whether or not a light skinned Filipina can be Miss World (issues of beauty pageants aside) I, a multi-ethnic man who more than meets the old “one drop” rule by virtue of my light skinned but very much black father and my mostly white mother feel very much a part of this ongoing discussion as well as ambivalent given my own ongoing issues with “race”.

    Having lived through: colored, negro, black, afro-american, african-american, I’m not sure I can accept the authenticity of “race” as a descriptor other than in the larger sense of “human”.

    Add to that my own heritage and it becomes far more difficult to take sides as it might be to be both jewish-german or jewish-palestinian (or vice versa). It would be like taking sides with my father against my mother solely on the basis of gender.

    I suppose I share something with Whoopi Goldberg in that regard. Whatever I am, anywhere else in the world, I am American with all that entails good and bad. Whatever I’d like to think I am, that is something often altogether different once I step outside the borders of continental America and at that point an entirely different discussion begins.

    This I am consistently reminded of as my Philippine wife embarks on a journey of retirement to the Philippines where I will add yet another label to my existence: “ex-pat” and “-cano”.

    Lest we get too full of ourselves.

    1. Sooo…
      People of color have to be SAINTS to you for you to recognize their humanity AS WELL AS their race? Or can you not see them as human AND different as you?

      And big whoop your wife is Filipina. You can be interracially married and still be a racist, yup even against the group you’re spouse belongs to. Deigning to share you genitals with the “other” doesn’t make you a martyr. Plenty of White men have done just that with Native American and Black women in this country.

      1. I think the saying about non-whites (I paraphrase, I do not have it in front of me):

        We are not carbon copies or clay to be made in your image. We have the same rights as you do to dignity, respect, tolerance and understanding.

        would characterize how I see others.

        You’re right, I can still be a racist, even against the group my spouse belongs to.

        That wasn’t the point I was attempting to make. The point I was attempting to make is that the problems of “racism, bigotry, insensitivity, and intolerance” are not limited to white men alone, neither are they limited to American borders. My wife, being Philippine, means I get a daily cultural perspective on that through my wife.
        Could I get it otherwise? Yep. Do I? Yep. At some point the majority in America will be non-white. That will be around 2043 I believe. At that point, a non-white
        majority may likely be in a position to determine the legislative, economic, and social priorities of America.
        My question still stands, at that point, it will be less likely a problem of what white americans are doing, as they will be in a diminished position (like South Africa) to do
        anything. At that point we may find that there are problems that transcend white racism. That likely have
        been there all along and white racism is a (to be clear, NOT an insignificant OR inconsequential) distraction.

        “…sharing my genitals” doesn’t make me a marty or a saint. Whether or not I’m “sharing my genitals” the opportunities remain to be honest with myself about myself as well as the (as I see them) contradictions of
        the world I live in (large and local).

        Last, do “people of color have to SAINTS” in order for me to recognize their humanity as well as their race? No. So, then, what is my problem?

        Simple, as I stated, I think we’re all capable of racism,
        bigotry, insensitivity and intolerance. And I think we all,
        myself INCLUDED, should be sensitive to that and
        confrontational when we encounter it. Wrong is wrong.

        Now, I think that’s a different issue from willful discrimination and inequality. I think that flows from those in power. Which is why I think, as the reins of power may likely change in 2043, it might be useful to
        be mindful that should the hands holding the reins of
        power change, should the problems remain, I think we
        may be hard pressed to continue to contend that this
        is primarily an issue of white racism and may begin to
        look more productively at other underlying causes.

  17. The first two statements in this interesting piece are somewhat puzziling. It seems that Woods really glossess over the aboriginal perspective for his own. Why is considering all land use because of genocidal actions againts Native Americans a non-starter for the race debate. It seems like the perfect starting point.

    I also understand that my white privilege keeps me from understanding why we still only discuss race in such concrete terms. Is it not understood that examining any group under such generalizations leads to poor understanding. Can we really view and define all white experiences in the same perspective as people like Woods, Peggy Mcintosh or Edward Said suggest. I do not think it would be appropriate to view any defined group under such blanket terms. Just seems like a new form of prejudice, that can have a lot of negative consequences.

    I get the poor optics of wealthy (or assumed wealthy individuals because of the price tag of the event) individuals having a retreat at a plantation, and why the retreat should not have remained in its original conception. What I don’t understand is the cancellation. It could have been a great learning opportunity.

  18. “not because she’s ever going to be incapable of racism (if it’s not clear by now, no white person is)”

    Not actually knowing what started all that, I guess it is about a former Slave Plantation (you don’t have any anymore over there, do you?) turned a vacation spot, and I guess you make some fair points, but – and call it a derailment if you like – the above should say “no person is” (for that’s the bitter truth about us).

  19. To call Ms. DiFranco racist is akin to saying that she is horrible as a singer, songwriter and musician. I, of course, disagree on both counts but it really is subjective. Someone on the outside looking into the consciousness of Ms. DiFranco (or anyone else, for that matter) is going to take from that what s/he chooses. Racism is something that is far from gone from the world but the article implies that EVERYONE is racist (thereby including the writer of the article). I don’t buy it. There is a lot of progress and good in our world. Not everything has been destroyed by what is wrong with humanity.

  20. One of the messages that seems to be coming across here is that racism exists only in white people toward non-white people. And not only that, but white folks can’t really help it. Ironically, the assertion that all whites are racist is, itself, racist.

  21. So, no one can be racist but white people… right? Oh, so when I’m called a cracker, honkey, whitey, etc., that’s just “payback” that I should accept from people of color.

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  23. I enjoyed this essay and the comments; thank you Scott W and all you people discussing race in America. I think that this issue will be one of the most important issues to have been addressed in my short (everyone’s is short) lifetime. I seldom hear it put that way, “as a white person I will never be incapable of racism”. That’s a good one. I believe it, and I also think that being able to listen to people, PoC, and my fellow priveligees, other whites, is one of the keys to addressing problems we have, trying to solve this problem in America. It will not happen in my lifetime; I’m 54. My daughter’s generation, I have happily noticed, is already better than my generation! But there are still a bunch of dumb*sses out there bringing us all down. I was born in 1960. Like everyone’s childhood, mine certainly was no picnic, but I had one advantage besides being white–in my household with my Vietnam Vet pops who was around once in a while, the N word was never used…because it was wrong, it would have been stupid, and no one in my family ever believed one poor person was better than another one, no matter color. One more “blessing” I had, ONLY in helping me understand race, in NO other way, was that I spent five years in prison in America, with the majority of prisoners black and persons of color, non-whites. I really felt what it was like for five years to hear every bad thing attributed to me, “these white folks ain’t fixin’ to let you see your children” “these white folks ain’t lettin’ you out any time soon”, etc. I felt like an oppressed minority. I also knew I would go back out into the “free” world one day, and then I would see who was really oppressed. I lived abroad for three years and witnessed other groups, Asians, Europeans, Whites, people from African nations all deal with each other. When I arrived home I started the Bikers Against Racism group (please do join if you ride) after I saw a guy on a Harley with a confederate flag on his jacket and a swastika tattoo. I wanted to vomit, because I had missed living in America, the richest country. I’d been gone so long, I’d started believing America was almost perfect compared to some poverty-stricken places I had visited. When I see overt racism like the hate-symbols I scream out, No! What year is it, 1863 or 2014? I will go to the Bikers Roundup at the end of the month; it’s like the black riders’ Sturgis (although white and black riders attend Sturgis, it is majority white Harley riders), and hand out my B.A.R. motorcycle club patches. We have members from 15 nations, and a sister club in Copenhagen with the same name. We are only a Facebook group, and we are still majority white and Asian members, just because I invite everyone and these are the places I’ve been. I have not seen black riders flock to join my “white” group. That could change. I’d like to hand over, give admin rights away and have the B.A.R. group have black leaders. It would be more appropriate/perhaps do more good. Down with the g*ddamn swastika wearing, though! M*th*rf*ck*r really?! What year IS it, in America? I hope we all make it through. I know we’re all equally “rushing blissful toward death in a stampede” but we have time to make our world better. PS I gave up drug use after prison, so I’ve enjoyed the good life since I got out twenty years ago. Some of my siblings still attend the justice system’s war on drugs, though, and they report things are still the same on the inside. 😦 https://www.facebook.com/groups/InternationalB.A.R.Club/?ref=br_tf

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  26. Lol. Let’s be very real. How many blacks would want to leave America and go somewhere else? Very few. Why because this racism stuff is way overblown. Also I can find thousands of videos of blacks spouting racist garbage at whites online. If you are black and label all whites or even most whites as anything then you are an ignorant racist yourself. You don’t know all whites or most whites you ignorant racists. Boo hoo we are the only ones in history done wrong. Hardly the case. Boo hoo everything whites have ever gotten was handed to them. Hardly the case. I work for everything I have and so can you. Here is a secret the people who truly don’t view you as inferior are the ones who expect you to do like every other race in history has done. Fix your own problems and stop crying about them. The reason these whites think most whites are racist is because the are racist themselves and can only see the world through that sick lense. Oh and there is absolutely zero doubt in my mind blacks would of had whites in chains if they had the ability to put them there. They put their own people there they Damn sure would everyone else. The only difference is they weren’t advanced enough to do it to whites. In other words people are people regardless of color. Color doesnt mean a Damn thing. Culture and morals mean everything and thankfully those don’t depend on race. God bless every black person who isn’t so filled with hate and racism to the point that they look at everything through the race lenses. As a white person myself if we are as evil as some think I hope we do get utterly destroyed and wiped completely from the face of the earth, and that everyone who is as “evil” as us regardless of their race comes with us. I mean all the countries that don’t have many whites in them are bastions of love. Lol what a joke

    1. People of colour don’t need your permission to have grievances. Even as a white person, I’m sick of white people thinking that their one-sided Eurocentric take on “history” and the present reality is the only valid way of thinking about the world. You claim that colour doesn’t matter and then turn around and say that people of colour are less advanced? You’re making it matter, you white supremacist piece of shit. Your mentality is the reason white men can go on a shooting spree and get hauled into a police station without a scratch while black people are routinely harrassed and murdered, shot in the back, while unarmed, and left to die on the street. You know who knows better than anyone else about the experiences of black people? Black people. So you can shut the fuck up.

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