Joan Baez and Me
She gwine tell de folks how dat ol' missuh prez'dent be a debbil!
Charlottesville, VA—America's "culture war" was on full display last night at the Joan Baez concert. Tickets to the concert were a present to my mother-in-law for her 69th birthday. My mother-in-law certainly fit the demographic of the audience, or as she described it, "All the old hippies are out tonight." Let's just say that by attending, my wife and I dropped the average age of the audience by several months.
Sixty-three year old Baez came out on stage and asked how the audience felt about the election? Of course the audience groaned and moaned—after all, this IS a Joan Baez concert. For her part, Joan said that she felt like she had been run over by a truck. One audience member yelled, "You give us hope." Now I like a good rendition of "Joe Hill" or "Diamonds and Rust," as well as the next person and I do recognize her talent as a singer. And Baez has a perfect right to dedicate a song, as she did, to that insufferable, lying self-promoter Michael Moore, whom she praised for doing his best to save the country. Later Baez announced that she was going to sing a song that she sang only in countries that were undergoing extreme political strife. In fact, she hadn't sung it in the United States in the last 20 years. The song? "We Shall Overcome."
However, the most remarkable and disturbing episode occurred halfway through the concert when 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?