When Liberals Disagree: Annie Lennox at the Grammys

I was originally planning to write a silly blog today, similar to the Super Bowl one from last week, wherein I retold the Grammys from the perspective of what I read on Twitter. I didn’t watch the awards, but this time it wasn’t because I didn’t care. It was because I couldn’t get reception on my TV. (I don’t have cable because eff you, MediaCom.) However, what was most notable about my Twitter feed last night wasn’t actually a bizarre commentary on the spectacle of the Grammys. It was a pretty serious and interesting plot point in the ongoing racial divide taking place in the United States.

Two celebrities that I follow on Twitter are Neil Patrick Harris and Franchesca Ramsey and they both had plenty to say about the show last night. You know NPH as the always adorable and very openly gay actor who’s been in everything from Doogie Houser, MD to How I Met Your Mother to hosting the Oscars. Politically, he falls somewhere between extremely liberal and “do you think Barak Obama would date me if I was single?” He's also white. Franchesca Ramsey is a politically liberal, outspoken woman of color. She regularly posts on various social media about ongoing social issues, including the “black lives matter” movement and being a straight ally of LGBTQ+ people. From a distance, NPH and Ramsey are on the same side of the political fence, far left of center. But race is a marker of difference. 

The racial divide between them was really apparent to me last night as I read their tweets on the same subject:  their very different reactions to Annie Lennox’s performance. While the former Eurithmics’ duet with Hozier was praised by NPH, Ramsey instead reminded her followers of the controversy surrounding Lennox’s performance of the song “Strange Fruit” from a few months back. I am not going to enter into this debate because I don’t know enough about it to take a side. I do know that the Hozier song Lennox sang last night—“Take Me to Church”—focuses on religious intolerance of LGBTQ+ people, while the song she performed a few months back is an old blues standard about lynching people of color. (Part of the controversy, as I understand it, is that Lennox allegedly “whitewashed” the meaning of the song. Google that yourself if you want more details.) The point here is that both of the songs deal with hatred and intolerance of marginalized groups, something Lennox herself is outspoken about.

If Lennox did indeed negate the meaning of the song “Strange Fruit” then her public chastising was justified. Black lives do matter, and I agree with Ramsey that the “all lives matter” revision is problematic and comforting only to people who don’t want to feel bad about being white; however, Lennox did seem especially remorseful about the controversy, and as NPH said about last night’s performance, Lennox “makes everything better. Especially church.” I feel conflicted about this because I like and respect all of these people. It’s like when your two best friends get in a fight and you don’t want to choose a side. While we should definitely call each other out when we screw up, how long should we punish the mistakes of our allies? We’re all on the same side here, aren’t we?

In summation, we should continue to call out ignorance, Lennox singing “Take Me to Church” with Hozier was amazeballs (I watched it on YouTube this morning), and we can all turn our attention back to the real enemy: Anne Coulter.