In a recent statement attacking the band formerly known as Lady Antebellum, Seattle R&B singer Anita White hinted that the “privilege” they exerted was all too familiar to struggling and downtrodden black artists.
The Nashville country-pop trio “has used their wealth and influence to intimidate and bully me into submission without offering any real recompense for appropriating my name,” White said.
An ironic twist in the Grammy-winning band’s late show of virtue-signaling came after its attempt to right the self-inflicted wrong of invoking a vaguely controversial term backfired.
While trying to whitewash its reference to the “Antebellum South”—i.e. the artistic, literary, architectural and sartorial Southern fashions of the era that predated the Civil War, when a select few aristocrats ran lavish plantations—the newly woke band quickly learned that White also laid claim to their chosen replacement, “Lady A,” as her stage name.
After White demanded $10 million in reparations for the appropriation of her performance moniker, the two sides reached an impasse.
Even worse than a costly legal battle over the trademark is the embarrassing public-relations fallout for the band, whose innocuous, honey-laced harmonies—paired with Music Row’s ham-handed overproduction—had, heretofore, been the very antithesis of offensive.
But White is not the only one who might be forgiven for seeing a historical holding pattern in the band’s presumption of ownership for something it had no right to claim.
In fact, the entire episode might be said to mirror the past two-plus centuries of Southern history—and particularly the awkward habit its more liberal denizens have of overcompensating for the perceived shame of their Southern identity.
To be certain, the South’s original sin of slavery was a horrific blight in its culture and nothing to be marginalized.
But it is precisely in such marginalization of race issues that many have continually missed the mark, instead tacking hard to the extremes, and making their own misery that much worse.
The chart below shows the saga of both Southern Democrats and Nashville’s Lady A, from their respective origins through their “Antebellum” periods and into modern times.