From Seattle writer and consultant Matt Rosenberg...

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Joan Baez: Redneck

November 11, 2004

From Reason Online's Ronald Bailey, via D.C. Thornton, comes this appalling episode of virulent condescension towards blacks from none other than Joan Baez, live and in concert. Naturally, it's George W. Bush that has made Baez run off the tracks.

Baliey is writing about a Baez concert he attended last week, post-election, in Charlottesville, Virginia.

....halfway through the concert...Joan stopped singing and announced that she had "multiple personalities." One of her multiple personalities is that of a fifteen year old poor black girl named Alice from Turkey Scratch, Arkansas. Baez decided to share with us Alice's views on the election. Amazed and horrified I watched a rich, famous, extremely white folksinger perform what can only be described as bit of minstrelsy—only the painted on blackface was missing. Alice, the black teenager from Arkansas Baez was pretending to be, spoke in a dialect so broad and thick that it would put Uncle Remus and Amos and Andy to shame.

Baez' monologue was filled with phrases like, "I'se g'win ta" to do this that or the other and dropping all final "g's." Baez as Alice made statements like, "de prezident, he be a racist," and "de prezident, he got a bug fer killin'." Finally, since Bush won the election with 58.7 million votes to Kerry's 55.1 million, Alice observed, "Seems lak haf' de country be plumb crazy." Since Baez was reading Alice's notes, it is evident that she thinks that Arkansas' public schools don't teach black children to write standard English.

Once Joan finished her minstrelsy riff, the audience, in which I did not see a single black person, went wild with applause and hoots and hollers. I have never felt so embarrassed for a bunch of "liberals" in my life. I wonder where Baez got her notions of how poor black country folk talk—she couldn't be stereotyping, could she?


Joan, maybe it's just plain time to hang it up.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at November 11, 2004 05:16 PM

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Seems no one here knows just how much Baez sacrificed to fight along side Martin Luther King, Jr. during the Civil Rights struggle or the work she continues to do for human and civil rights. Has anyone considered the idea that this was a jab at far-right politicians who aim their entire political agenda at white people who make over $200,000 a year and ignore all the poor minority voters? If you know Joan at all, you would know this wasn't meant to be a jab at Black Americans.

Posted by: Alex at November 17, 2004 11:18 AM

First- assuming that Joan was deadly serious about having multiple

1. People with DID/Dissociative Identity Disorder (formerly known as
Multiple Personality Disorder/MPD) are usally so fragmented that they
are completely unaware of their other personalities. They "lose" time,
have strained personal relationships (if any, at all), and are
generally disorganized. There are some people with DID who are
considered "high functioning" and suffer few social/career problems,
but the percentage is small. It's also interesting to note how rare we
consider this disorder, when approx. 8% of the population is affected
by it. People with DID who receive intensive/long-term care have a 79%
chance of no further dissociation and a 94% of no further DID symptoms
whatsoever. If Joan truly has DID, she has obviously done a lot of
work (evidenced by her awareness of the dissociation and her level on
functioning) and is one of the stronger/luckier individuals afflicted
with this disorder.

2. DID is not like depression- this is something that is "made."
Although there is some question of whether there is a biological
component which makes people more susceptible to developing DID, it
doesn't simply "happen" to people. DID is caused by severe trauma-
usually before the age of 9. If this is truly something which Joan has
dealt with, I feel a great deal of sadness for her. It would mean that
her childhood was far more traumatic than she has shared publicly, and
that she has had a lifelong struggle in a search for identity. Someone
with this disorder shouldn't be made fun of or attacked- they should
be welcomed with open arms and given a chance to speak honestly and
openly about their healing process.

Now, assuming Joan was *not* deadly serious...

My first assumption was that Joan was being her usual smart-ass self.
When I read the article, I thought "this person has no idea who Joan
really is." The author obviously has a very distant and lop-sided view
of Joan's history and politics. If this were not so, how could he
possibly consider that Joan is racist? Anyone who knows her history
knows the personal sacrifices she made in the Civil Rights struggle,
and the great amount of love and admiration she has shown those who
fight against racial opression.

My personal thoughts were that she was jabbing at the right-wingers in
office- speaking like an "uneducated black person" because that is how
black people are so often portrayed by this administration. I could
almost envision Bush himself mimicking poor black voters ("yes,
massah, we po' black folk too stupid to vote right. you bes' throw out
our votes"). This seems like something Joan would do- and like other
things she has said in the past.

As for the issue of DID, I hope it is not really something Joan has
had to struggle with. But I recall something she said to me years ago
during an interview- here's the transcript:

ANP: What would you like me to know about you?

JCB: What would I like you to...Hmm, I'll take a gamble here... I
guess I'd want you to know that I am a woman struggling with a lot of
personal issues that I've put off until now. Partly because I didn't
really understand that they were there. And it is a tremendous inward
journey and scary as hell. I'm healing from wounds that I've had for a
lifetime. And I'm managing to...use the music as a healing tool. It's
not always easy being out on the road becaause of this, but I've
managed to stay out and do the songwriting... And all of those
creative things are helping in this private journey.

Joan is in no position to have to defend herself regarding
this. But I do hope that if she were serious about having "other
personalities" that she *would* speak out at some point and share part
of her journey. We cannot ask that of her- she has already given so
much of herself- but I do hope that she would at some point. And I
would hope that we would embrace her and still show her the respect
that she deserves for not only the art she has shared with us for so
many years, but for her selfless humanitarian work. Joan has spent her
entire life treating other with dignity and respect and it's about
damn time the rest of the world returned the favor.

Posted by: anon at November 17, 2004 11:26 AM

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