On Sunday, Ani DiFranco bowed to an overwhelming tide of Internet outrage and canceled her "Righteous Retreat," a planned four-day creative getaway at Nottoway Plantation. The problem, of course, being that Nottoway was one of the largest slave plantations in the South, a fact its website positively boasts about—while asserting that the slaves "were probably well treated," and referring to them as a "willing workforce."
DiFranco has since apologized, but she's still taking heat online from the kind of liberals who would normally be the feminist icon's fans. Here's a taste of it:
- "It's easy to say that people are being too sensitive, and assume that this is an overreaction," writes Mikki Kendall at the Guardian. But it's not. This is an important issue, because the people who were bought and sold under chattel slavery "are an abstract idea to much of America." Nottoway perpetuates that, failing to mention, say, how slaves were punished—because "it is much easier to enjoy plantation-based resorts if you ignore the horrors that took place there."
- DiFranco is an accessory to that. "Her decision, at first, to proceed with the retreat falls in line with an American habit of divorcing painful symbols and events from their historical contexts," writes Brentin Mock at Grist. "She knew better, but decided not to do better."
- DiFranco's apology—which Jezebel described as "remarkably unapologetic"—didn't help either. DiFranco argued that all of America is built on slavery. "i believe that one cannot draw a line around the nottoway plantation and say 'racism reached its depths of wrongness here,'" she wrote (lack of capitalization hers).
- "There's built by slaves, and then there are plantations," writes Liz Dwyer at xoJane. "Those of us who call ourselves allies, as DiFranco does, have to remember that we aren't suddenly in possession of a magic wand that inoculates us from what is the norm in America." It's indicative, sadly, of "the continual divide between white women and black women. … How can we forget that collectively we have the same boot on our necks?"