A journalist has written an op-ed in which he examines negative racial connotations with Dixie Chicks‘ name, saying it’s “the epitome of white America.”
Jeremy Helligar has asked whether it’s right for the country band, who are set to release their comeback record ‘Gaslighter’ on July 17, to keep using the name – particularly in the current context of the fight for racial justice.
Helligar argued in a guest column for Variety that the band should rethink their name because “regardless of its origin, for many Black people, it conjures a time and a place of bondage.”
He continued: “‘Dixie,’ for the record, is the epitome of white America, a celebration of a Southern tradition that is indivisible from Black slaves and those grand plantations where they were forced to toil for free.
“The origin of the word, though, is unclear. One theory links it to Jeremiah Dixon, who along with Charles Mason, drew the Mason-Dixon line as the border between four states that later became the unofficial separation between free states and slaves states. Other less likely theories trace it back to a slave owner from Manhattan as well as ‘dix’, a word written on Louisiana’s 10-dollar bills pre-Civil War that’s French for ‘ten’.”
Despite question marks over the etymology of ‘Dixie’, Helligar pressed that “times have changed dramatically” and “it’s hard to imagine many Black Southerners today tying their appreciation of their homeland to ‘Dixie’, even if, according to legend, it’s the title of one of Abraham Lincoln’s favourite songs (one, incidentally, in which the author longs to be in ‘the land of cotton’ because ‘old times there are not forgotten’).”
The journalist acknowledged, however, that Dixie Chicks have opposed “up-with-the whiteness” Republican sentiment in the past, noting that frontwoman Natalie Maines once called out former US president George W. Bush for ordering the invasion of Iraq.
“The grand irony of the hoopla that ensued was that as she stood on stage declaring herself a non-fan of George W. Bush, the Republican president, she and her bandmates, sisters Martie Maguire and Emily Strayer, were performing under a moniker that, in some ways, represents up-with-whiteness more flagrantly than Bush, whom Kanye West once accused of not caring about Black people, ever did,” he wrote.
The op-ed comes after country band Lady Antebellum announced they’d changed their name to Lady A in an effort to distance themselves from a term with ties to slavery.
Lady A inadvertently stole the name of blues singer Anita White, who has been using the stage name Lady A for more than 20 years. The band’s publicist since confirmed that both acts will use the same name.
Dixie Chicks last released an album in 2006, ‘Taking the Long Way’.