Last night Lady Antebellum appeared on the American Idol results show, and I found myself surprised to enjoy their music. Nowadays it's fairly unusual to have male-female lead singers, as they do. They didn't sound like southern rednecks. (I'm not really a fan of country music, unless it's Dixie Chicks, Nancy Griffith, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Johnny Cash, or Dolly Parton. Scotty McCreery [on American Idol] is my least-favorite contestant.])
The band claims that their name is derived from antebellum architecture, not the antebellum period; however, an article in the Augusta Chronicle (which I could not find online) apparently states that they came up with the name after dressing up in confederate clothing.
This excellent blog post, written by Tami, an African-American woman, "Lady Antebellum and the glorification of the pre-Civil War south," astutely examines the complicated issues around this band's choice of names. She shares an anecdote of two women she knew actually longing, in her presence, to go back to antebellum times in the south...they were glamorizing the life of Scarlett O'Hara, and of course all Tami could think of was how horrible it would be to Mammy.
"...mention the antebellum South or the Confederacy, and some Americans grow starry-eyed. No one thinks of the more than 10 million enslaved Africans who died in the Middle Passage or on some plantation or small farm. No one thinks of the people who were denied their freedom and humanity so that the Southern economy could rise, and that all those Rhetts and Scarletts could sit in their fine houses, showing off their fancy clothes and manners. That America forgets my ancestors, while longing for the "glory days" that their enslavement made possible, is offensive."The comments on Tami's blog post are full of great debate about the nature of racism in America and whether it's worse in the south or the north. I felt gratified to learn how many other people have been shocked by the name of this now-popular band.
It's possible that the young band members do not realize how loaded this word is. Perhaps they were intentionally being provocative with the name to garner more attention. Or maybe they were taught about the "war of northern aggression" as children and view those times with rose-colored glasses. It's called white privilege.
As I've commented before, language has tremendous power. I wonder what Randy Jackson thought when he learned this band would be performing.