Our Apologies

We’ve heard from many of you about our cover text for the March issue, and if we had the chance to do it again, we’d go in a different direction. In retrospect, it was ill-chosen and we apologize to those who are offended by it, and to MyNameIsJohnMichael, the band that appeared on the cover and who we meant to honor, not demean. We didn’t realize the phrase “strange fruit” has the same power in 2010 that it did when lynching was a more contemporary threat. Still, we recognize that for many it’s not a distant memory, and as events in Jena, Louisiana in 2006 demonstrated, the noose remains a potent image.

We profoundly regret our thoughtlessness and insensitivity, but we believe our history of coverage demonstrates our concern for race-related issues and we are saddened by those who would extrapolate this to speak to our character. The context of the cover text next to an indie rock band suggests that we’re not using the phrase in a threatening way, and we believe our mission covering music borne out of slavery suggests that we don’t take the issues connected with it—including hate crimes—lightly. We believed that in 2010, the phrase “strange fruit” could be used without automatically evoking the Billie Holiday song and its subject matter. This was an error in judgment for which we apologize.

  • Stranger Danger

    Wha?

  • lulu

    “We believed that in 2010, the phrase “strange fruit” could be used without automatically evoking the Billie Holiday song and its subject matter.”

    Are you serious? You ARE based in New Orleans, yes?

  • elsbet

    That's a half-apology. I am starting to suspect very young, ill-educated people are involved in this decision-making. Apologizing “to those who were offended” qualifies this to the point of saying “we don't think there was anything wrong, but if you were offended, well, sorry!”

    Strange Fruit is not a common phrase, with some sort of squishy meaning. It's Holiday's song, period. I suspect the people involved in this cover don't know that, and so they're uniquely unsuited to be in the music journalism business.

    Lots of stuff happened before you were born, young people. And it's important stuff, more important than whatever your facebooking about right now. Go study before you pretend you have something useful to offer to the rest of us.

    • Jane

      elsbet: Hipsters don't read Offbeat. It's staffed by a bunch of old white people and some woman from France.

      • Beth

        That's sad, then, Jane. I was willing to think this resulted from the fairly recent generation of people raised in “No Child Left Behind” schools, with little sense of anything that hasn't happened during their own lifetimes.

        • Jane

          I don't know why they deleted my comment, as it wasn't inflammatory or untruthful.

          For the record, it said that the Offbeat is not staffed by hipsters, but by white people (old enough to know better), one of whom is a native of France.

  • Maureen

    Whatever happened to- ” We made a serious error in judgement, and we are sorry for that.” The message I am getting from this apology is that we should not feel how we feel because you did not mean it that way. And why nobody failed to realize how powerful those words can be, is really beyond me, how many people saw that cover before it went to press??

  • 1NONewsladder2

    Thank you for apologizing, offBeat. But…
    [We believed that in 2010, the phrase “strange fruit” could be used without automatically evoking the Billie Holiday song and its subject matter.]
    do you really think that dog will hunt? Yeah, if you all chose to deny the reality behind Billy Holliday's music then I suppose one day we should all forget what she was singing about. It just takes time, and misapplications of the words.
    The question is not whether you all really get what has happened, but whether you will be in business long enough to learn what it means to be a music magazine in New Orleans in the online realities of 2010 and beyond.
    I certainly hope you learn what it means, having enjoyed offBeat for decades. But at the same time, I will continue to put Racial Slur into the ground where it formally left its victims.
    I don't care if any of you like me or whatever. But, if you want to put MTV Kitch on a Billy Holliday song then you're going to hear from me every time.

    Thanks again,
    Editilla~New Orleans Ladder
    http://noladder.blogspot.com/

  • Peter Flanagan

    I have read your apology. To me, the core of what you are saying is in the last paragraph 'We believed that in 2010, the phrase “strange fruit” could be used without automatically evoking the Billie Holiday song and its subject matter.'

    You thought what? What planet are you from?

    You put some smiley white boys on your cover in New Orleans and thought it would not 'automatically evoke' hard feelings. Guys, your apology only makes it worse. Are you sure you are in the right business and/or town? Shame on you on all fronts. Get a new leader who has a heart and brain.

  • faye

    This apology is offensive and inexcusable. Please re-examine the issues SO MANY READERS ARE VOICING and try again. And, sincerely engage some of these readers, instead of attacking them on their blogs. Many of them probably have some great ideas about how OffBeat can appropriately address the racial climate that provides the magazine's context, an ABSOLUTE NECESSITY for a publication whose mission is “covering music born out of slavery.”

  • takemarobinson

    This does not sound a bit sincere after discovering the comments below from your editor on a local writers blog. I want more than an apology, I want an admission that racism thrives and this is an example of how it seeps out. Your insensitivity is steeped in a racist history of which you are a participant and a beneficiary. Do something with this teachable moment and truly explore this “faux pas” for what it is.

    Everyone here realizes we made a huge mistake. But we have way too much respect for music and musicians to have run this cover as a means to create controversy. That’s just disgusting. Being accused of being racist is blowing this faux pas so out of proportion, it’s ridiculous. I resent OffBeat being labeled as racist by anyone. It’s obvious to me that you’re getting a big kick our of keeping this bullshit going. Ah, the venality of our public. For 23 years, I’ve busted my butt trying to create someting positive about local music in OffBeat…way before any other pub into town took music seriously. So dismissing what we’ve done with a quickie label of racism is taking a lot for granted and is just plain stupid when you consider 23 years of work. Too bad you’ve never written for us Emilie, as I am sure you would never make such an egregious error as this one, right? Our “black eye” (oops, was that racist?) is certainly generating more traffic for your blog, now isn’t it? Why don’t you let us apologize and get on with your blog?

  • kim

    That is a very back handed apology. Like saying I guess we will apologize because so many fussed about it. The term “Strange Fruit” was not only a song from Billie Holiday but an account of what lynching was. If you say those two words together you are talking about lynching. Period. No it is not a distant memory and I don't think the killing of human beings in such a manner will ever be forgotten.

  • smulligan

    Continuing what takemarobinson posted, here is the original post on Emilie Staat's blog where Offbeat's editor Jan Ramsey takes her professionalism and throws it into the proverbial toilet by undoing any good this half-hearted apology could have done.

    http://emiliestaat.wordpress.com/2010/03/04/thi

    “We believed that in 2010, the phrase 'strange fruit' could be used without automatically evoking the Billie Holiday song and its subject matter.” There is no doubt here that the phrase “strange fruit” is wholly inappropriate to pair with the cover photo without assuming the racial implications and history behind that phrase.

    Jan Ramsey's unprofessional comments on Emilie Staat's blog, accusing the blogger of “making a mountain out of a molehill” of Offbeat's error and aggressively assuming that the response is just to “[generate] more traffic for your blog”, illustrate that she (and Offbeat as an institution, as Ramsey is a representative of her publication) finds nothing wrong with the cover of the March 2010 issue. Her comments have undoubtedly reversed what the apology above attempts to convey.

    The most professional response here for Ramsey and Offbeat to take is to admit their serious error in judgment and apologize, as opposed to Googling what negative press they are receiving and flaming the people who are responding appropriately.

    • http://emiliestaat.wordpress.com/ Emilie Staat

      Thanks smulligan. I'm glad to know others are just as horrified by this issue and Jan Ramsey's personal attacks to those who object – in “private” on their blogs.

  • http://emiliestaat.wordpress.com/ Emilie Staat

    Because you accused me of objecting in order to drive traffic to my blog, Jan, I'll post on YOUR site. All spelling and grammar mistakes are your own.

    Here is Jan's newest comment on my blog: “Emilie, I think it may be appropriate to wait and see what we do. We never intended–and we didn’t start–this controversy. An intern at Gambit created this brouhaha, and you’ve contining it. By the way, we’ve also received letters and emails from people who aren’t so offended as you over the choice of two words on our March cover. They “got it.” This a band who were in a photo we thought was fun for our cover (the band did too). There was no plan to connect the “jungle gym” or the “monkeybars” or whatever the bloggers have been calling it to anything (that’s really racist thinking). The band has been working hard to be picked by a major label. Fruit hangs from trees, and it’s picked when it’s ready to eat. That was the analogy. (The subhede certainly explains the headline). MyNameIsJohnMichael is the “fruit waiting to be plucked” by a major label, maybe at SXSW, since we’re sending this issue to the event. This is the connotation, nothing more. The OffBeat “lynchings”? You ladies are just nasty; I am appalled by this and wondering why you see fit to make a mountain out of a molehill. We admitted it was a poor choice of TWO WORDS. Let it go, for God’s sake.”

    And my response: “It appalls *me* that the editor of a Southern music magazine is so apparently ignorant about the resonance of such a powerful song, cavalier about the history that inspires the song and dismissive of the power of words, especially juxtaposed with an image.

    -Your March 2010 cover was racist
    -We spoke out, asked you to be accountable
    -You issued a public apology for how your cover made us feel, without accepting any accountability for the cover
    -You undid any good the apology might have done by personally attacking me and, I can only assume from the comments on the apology, anyone who voiced objections to the actions of your magazine (“you ladies are nasty” – who are these ladies? I am one individual, a freelance writer, here on *my* blog. I alone am responsible for everything on it.)
    -Your cover is racist. But, as many of us have said, your actions after releasing the racist cover have caused an even larger outrage. What will it take for you to recognize that? *Who* has to object and *how*?

    P.S. If you’re referring to Missy Wilkinson as the “Gambit intern” who “started the controversy,” it says on her business card that she is a “Special Sections Editor.” That’s a *fact* you should have looked up before you tried to foist accountability off wherever you could, rather than accept it as your own. My *opinion* is that she is a smart and responsible journalist for covering what is, actually, an issue.”

  • Maureen

    OMG- I am having to rethink my commitment to Offbeat in light of the non-apologies, but especially the words of Jan Ramsay, if these are correctly quoted- How dare you throw an intern under the bus, by claiming an intern started this- heellloooooo, are you the editor? Are you responsible for how the issue looks before it goes to press?? How dare you say that people that were not offended “got it”??? Then, after blaming the intern, you go on to say- this was a cover we thought was fun (sic)??? Do you think there is a shelf life on offensive phrases?? As if in 2010- the words Strange Fruit would no longer conjure up a despicable image, but suddenly be “fun”??? As others have posted, your handling of this controversy is making it much worse. I would so have loved to read that you had made a serious error in judgement, and were very sorry. PERIOD!! That would have gone a long way with this reader, who apparently didn't “get it” and could not believe my eyes when I took the copy out of my mailbox!!

  • Ron Ronson

    I have read Offbeat since moving here in 2005. To call the cover “racist” and to label the magazine as racially insensitive is completely out of proportion. Jan Ramsey and the magazine has always been a voice for the local music scene regardless of race creed or sexuality. She is a voice of reason in a city full of crazy. One cover which wasn't to controversial to begin with should not be the one this great magazine is judged by.

    Yes there may have been a momentary lapse of judgement here, but the Magazine's and Jan's reputation of fighting for the LA stands above this and always will.

    • Jane

      Ron,

      You are a white male who has spent a very short amount of time in this city. Seriously, I have socks that have been in this city longer than you have. Please refrain from assuming that you have the authority to proclaim who is the voice of reason in “this city of crazy” (really? how patronizing!), and please read the following before you, as a white person, attempt to dictate to people of color what is and is not racist or offensive.

      http://www.case.edu/president/aaction/Unpacking.

      • stelthassassins

        Nice read. I mostly agree with white/male privilege. Is true equality the answer? Can it be attained? Or would another “group” merely imitate such privilege were they to be in that position? Not to defend Ron, but New Orleans is a bit crazy. And when we get the murder/shooting/rape/mugging/car jacking/radio booming/wild driving/general lawlessness thing under control, I would love to explore (not dictate) what people of color find racist or offensive and work towards equality.

  • Jane

    Ron,

    You are a white male who has spent a very short amount of time in this city. Seriously, I have socks that have been in this city longer than you have. Please refrain from assuming that you have the authority to proclaim who is the voice of reason in “this city of crazy” (really? how patronizing!), and please read the following before you, as a white person, attempt to dictate to people of color what is and is not racist or offensive.

    http://www.case.edu/president/aaction/Unpacking

  • faye

    Haha, me too on the socks, Jane!! And thanks for linking to that powerful piece of recommended reading! The staff at OffBeat should definitely read it, in addition to Ron!!

  • elsbet

    I'm not persuaded that the cover or Ramsey or Offbeat is “racist” – it's a term that carries a huge weight with it and shouldn't be thrown around so easily as the “white privilege” movement activists do. But I am no less appalled by the cover, nor by Ramsey's non-apology and defense of the image, simply because I can't see how anyone with a smattering of intelligence and decent sense of musical – and American – history would not see the image and title as terribly inappropriate and just plain stupid. We can debate what that means in terms of -isms until the cows come home, but it won't change any minds. I don't think we're ready to laugh at a cover full of guys in striped pajamas, with a headline “Work Makes Freedom,” about a band of hard-working musicians about to get signed on a big label, either. It's just stupid to take things that are serious, grave, and of emotional, intellectual and moral depth – like the song “Strange Fruit” and try to use them in a happy-go-lucky Hey Hey We're the Monkeys! light-hearted way. It was a ham-handed, ignorant thing to do, and it's not the fault of a blogger or an intern at a competing magazine that this has come to public notice. It's the fault of the people who created the cover.

    If they own up to that, without anymore blaming, qualifying and implying “you just don't get it,” I'd be pleased. It's sad they won't do that.

  • Maureen

    Elsbet, you nailed it, I was trying to come up with an analogy, but your work makes freedom is perfect. I was offended by the cover, but even more so by the subsequent tone of the “apology” and blaming an intern for causing this whole thing??? That is just wrong.

  • Maureen

    ok, I have had time to re-read, and see I made an error in my post, I thought Jan Ramsay was blaming an intern at Offbeat, funny she is blaming an intern at Gambit for that, that intern was nowhere near Brooklyn when I got my copy of Offbeat and was taken aback by that cover. I manage to get by in life a lot easier by asking myself the question “how important is it” when things upset me. Fortunately, 95% of the time, the answer is “not that important” , and I am able to let a lot of stuff go. That cover, however, falls within the 5% of stuff that IS important, when it was still bothering me the next day, I posted on FB about it, that was way before I saw any piece by any intern at Gambit, I suggest that Offbeat itself started this “brouhaha” by publishing that cover in the first place, and then just escalated it by being so defensive in the “apology” and subsequent postings by the editor. And, by the way, this is one person who is happy to not “get it”, if “getting it” means to think that a despicable phrase somehow has a shelf life, and can be recycled into something light-hearted and fun!

  • http://www.killiansaid.blogspot.com/ Citizen K.

    “We didn't realize the phrase “strange fruit” has the same power in 2010 that it did when lynching was a more contemporary threat…We believed that in 2010, the phrase “strange fruit” could be used without automatically evoking the Billie Holiday song and its subject matter.”

    I've been reading Offbeat since I visited NOLA in 2008 for Jazz Festival. I used its reviews as my tour guide through the Louisiana Music Factory. I've never detected bias against African-American musicians, and Offbeat has turned me on to black artists as disparate as Glen David Andrews, Big Sam, John Boutte, and Cedric Watson.

    That being said, Citizen K. doesn't see how any intelligent music magazine in the world (and Offbeat is an intelligent music magazine) could miss the connection between the words “strange” and “fruit” to “Billie,” “Holiday,” and “lynching.” Any assertion to the contrary is just not credible. How a southern magazine could miss that link is downright inexplicable.

    I tend to think that the cover was the result of the temporary insanity that can result from the pressures and insular culture of putting a publication to bed. Does that make Offbeat racist? No, but that cover sure is. And it certainly reflects what any of us are capable of if we're not continually alert.

    As much to the point, Offbeat has no business being defensive. They should be stand up, take their medicine, and not complain about the “venality of our public” or whine bitterly about all the hard the work they've done going unappreciated. Most of all, they shouldn't blame a firestorm they created on another publication that simply pointed out the obvious.

    What they should have said is “We screwed up. Bad. We can't explain it or justify it. What this shows is that forty years after the Civil Rights movement, even people who pride themselves on their progressivism can go way wrong and that the battle against racism is never over. We hate to think that this invalidates 23 years of color-blind music coverage and criticism, but if it does it's our own fault. We welcome the comments of our readers, we appreciate their commitment, and we will do our level best to learn from them.”

    Try that instead of describing their readers as venal and they might actually have some left when the dust settles.

    Citizen K.
    http://www.killiansaid.blogspot.com

  • Foxessa

    To write as the editors did is an illustration of racism 101. Their response is on the order of, ” It hurts to see that one isn't as immune from the history of skin color entitlement as we think we are, so telling us that we screwed up hurts us, and so it's about us and our pain at being told we screwed up. And then we continue to screw up, by whining that you keep telling us we screwed up and you not recognizing our pain.”

    That was a really bad screwup, particularly for people who live in New Orleans and deal in music. The only way to deal with it is to face up like human beings with ovaries and admit it, and apologize for our screw up and NOT apologize only 'to those who were inadvertently, not intentionally, offended.” That kind of apologize blames those who are offended. It does not take responsibility or show remorse for having offended.

  • charles

    This is not a Billie Holliday song, yes she did perform and make it famous, but the song was written by a jewish schoolteacher Abel Meerpool,under the name Lewis Allen, because he was disturbed by the photograph of a lynching. The song was written in 1938
    Southern trees bear a strange fruit
    Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
    Black body swinging in the southern breeze
    Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees
    Pastoral scene of the gallant south
    The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth
    Scent of magnolia sweet and fresh
    And the sudden smell of burning flesh!
    Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck
    For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck
    For the sun to rot, for a tree to drop
    Here is a strange and bitter crop.
    – Music and lyrics by Lewis Allan, copyright 1940

    Let's say, i do not accuse offbeat of being racist, more so ignorant, after all this is a MUSIC magazine. Using this term with a the photo is just irresponsible journalism. That song is a part of music history that evidently the magazine is not that in touch with. The explanation that is the subject of this post proves this…..

  • 504bizzoy

    you're a total overly sensitive pussy if you were offended by this. the editor of the magazine is probably more liberal than all of you and you fools know nothing was intended to be offensive about it. yall are all strange fruit.

    • charles

      it is irresponsible for a music magazine to avoid the subject matter….whether or not people are offended is actually irrelevant to the issue of poor journalism. This should not have been an issue because the magazine should not have printed it. The magazine's apology furthers the fact they still have no idea what this song really is because if they did , it would not have been referred to as a billie holliday song. This is not about the character of the magazine, but i do think the magazine should look to itself and if not one staff member, not one person raised a question about this i would have to question the reputation of a magazine that has a “history” of coverage. your history obviously is not in the field you cover unfortunately

  • oops

    in the words of staff writer John Swenson – “horrendous…”

  • MICHEcitizenNOLA

    This is not an apology. I would ask you to try again, but have been shown over the years the staff of this magazine is not capable of taking responsibility for the truly great responsibility of being a voice for New Orleans music. With that track record I have no faith that the staff is capable of anything more than whining and blaming others. Why does music as an industry struggle in a city where it should flourish? Lots of reasons, but it's supposed mouth piece is no small part of the problem. Shame on you.

  • Fragano Ledgister

    I wish that I could send you back to 1920s Mississippi as black people. You'd see how far a non-apology apology would get you there.

  • Freeman

    I'm so glad that Jan Ramsey's craziness is once again being exposed. And I agree w/ Citizen K for the most part, except I DO NOT believe Offbeat is an intelligent magazine.

  • stelthassassins

    Every “group” has members who grasp onto wrongs and oppression in their (distant) past and wedge those times into the present whenever they possibly can. This “tradition” keeps us collectively separate and fuels racism and nationalism. :( I ♥ offbeat.

    • faye

      I don't think the past you're referring to is all that distant. And in some ways it's hardly the past. A noose was hung on the gate of a local African American art museum in the fall, and the Danziger Bridge case is proving how systemic racism is within local policing, all too often with lethal consequences. From the Feb 25th Times-Pic: “Former Police Officer Pleads Guilty to Danziger Bridge Shooting Cover-Up of Stunning Breadth,” http://www.nola.com/crime/index.ssf/2010/02/for

      • stelthassassins

        My point is not to forget the past, but stop punishing the present. The Danzinger bridge shootings are an abomination as are instances of noose intimidation, but they do not equate to this loose musical references. As I see it, the largest instances of racism occur within the black community and are expressed in the holocaust of street violence and murder that thrive without witness everyday in New Orleans. Point your stress at this and maybe we can live long and prosper together.

        • http://www.killiansaid.blogspot.com/ Citizen K.

          Except the cover is not a loose reference: It's a clear reference to a specific, well-known song about whites lynching blacks.

          Also, you conflate the consequences of racism with racism itself.

          • stelthassassins

            Looks to me that at most, the cover could be considered in poor taste. Write what you like, read what you like, I see no way of divorcing racism from it's consequences, so what is the point. I feel racism everyday. I think everyone is racist and good people learn to squelch that thought process and behavior set within themselves. Unfortunately, we are not educated equally and so it's the charge of the good people to bring others into their fold. The search for commonality. One day we will have come far enough that we can all laugh at injustices in our past.

          • http://www.killiansaid.blogspot.com/ Citizen K.

            Conflating the consequences with the cause make it too easy to blame the victim. Once this happens, the incentive to act on the issue disappears and good people will just look the other way. This things have a history that we ignore or dismiss at our peril.

            Why is the cover an act of racism and not simple bad taste? Because it trivializes and belittles a part of southern history in which thousands of people were murdered and tortured in a reign of terror and barbarism that enforced a Jim Crow policy of apartheid.

          • stelthassassins

            There are no innocent bystanders. Look around at most of the good people looking the other way. An ongoing open discussion keeps us from ignoring these things. I don't believe for one second that Offbeat has the power to trivialize Southern history. I disagree that the cover is an act of racism. I have a sense of humor and though I didn't find it funny and thought it in poor taste, I can see where they wanted to go with it and it was not racist. The caption was pointed directly at the band. They are strange. I suppose homosexuals are offended at the fruit reference? For anyone to anoint Offbeat with such power is folly. Our energy is better spent finding commonality and teaching moments.

    • Jane

      “This “tradition” keeps us collectively separate and fuels racism and nationalism.”

      I like how you blame minorities for the systematic racism that oppresses them. That's really cool! Hey, it's their fault they're offended when white people make ridiculously ignorant, inherently racist, embarrassingly public mistakes. White people shouldn't have to think about any of that anymore, right? Black people should just GET OVER IT. I mean, jeez…the civil rights movement was ssssoooooooooooooo long ago!!

      Ok, off to start my day! I'll remember to drop the N-word several times over the course of the next 12 hours. I mean, if Black people are offended, it's THEIR fault, right? And if they acknowledge the fact that I'm being a giant ass, they're just FUELING racism and separation by calling attention to it!!!

      In other words, you sound moronic.

      • stelthassassins

        First, you read between the lines, I said “group” as in many groups behave this way. Second, learn your history, our history. The very rich are using race against all of us in a plot to oppress the bottom 99%. Maybe 40-50 years feels like yesterday to you, but it's 3 generations ago to me and I'm not saying we should forget the past, but we've got to find commonality and stop the knee-jerk behaviors that keep us separated. I am not offended when you call me moronic, it makes me sad you do not have the capability of making your point without name calling. More love = less drama.

        • Jane

          You're not very bright, are you?

          1) There's a difference between racism and classism. We're talking about racism here. The rich are not “using race against all of us in a plot to oppress the bottom 99%.” That's not how institutionalized racism works.

          2) I see you're not very good at detecting sarcasm. I was being sarcastic when I said that the Civil Rights movement was “ssssoooooooooooooooooo long ago.”

          3) Injustice, inequality, and systematic oppression are problems far too complex to be solved with a nice, simple, easy statement like “More love = less drama.”

          • stelthassassins

            If you were intelligent, you would see that anyone who is not mega-rich, has but a vote in this country. United we stand, divided we fall. As long as you are easily riled to arms in defense of your group, the wall street white boys win. They saw the writing on the wall and held up the country for $1,500,000,000,000.00. They will use any means to divide the citizens of this country, including, class, race, religion, sex, preference, education, location, imprisonment, and pharmacology. By the way, institutionalized racism works both ways. We've watched as many recent “leaders”, used race to attain office and set up their own back alley deals to defraud the very people who elected them. Tell me how in a majority black city, black people are continuing to be oppressed? And for being “not very bright”, I sure get a lot of attention from you.

  • Dan Ring

    I don't believe the cover was racist…for it to be racist it has to have some level of intent on its part. I do believe that it was insensitive though as this magazine should know the connotation the title evokes, especially paired with the picture of the band. This is the editor's fault and as editor Jan Ramsey needed to apologize for her magazine's insensitivity. The apology as it was tries to defend their use of caption and the image. Instead what should have been done is just an apology. Too many people were obviously offended to make it seem like a select few were ticked off by it. Everyone involved in the design and layout of this cover should man/woman up and stated simply “We are sorry, we f'd up, we are better than that” I shall defend Offbeat in my closing remarks by saying that the magazine is a champion for a better city, a champion for all musicians be they black or white, and a liberal voice in the race relations of the city. Offbeat needs to just be more sensitive in its journalistic endeavors.

  • Satchmo

    Dan: Just wanted to share with you that there is alot of research on the issue of racism. Intent does not have to be present for something to be racist. For example, many laws have been found to have unintended racial consequences and thus racist, even if the original intention was not racist. It's a fact. I also do not believe that Offbeat is a champion for all genres and artist in this city. They are quite selective believe it or not.

  • znola

    What a lame apology. You should have just pretended you didn't know what it meant. tsk tsk.

  • BVill Lynn

    Weather it is racism, stupidity, ignorance or some combination of all three I think we can all agree that Offbeat certainly put a turd in the punchbowl
    Swami Bill

  • Ellie

    I can't wait for the newest edition of OffBeat, the cover picturing a local music hero posed seductively under the word “N****r”. No problemo, right?

    When in doubt, do your research. And when you make a grievous error in judgment, apologize instead of making excuses.

  • Jorge

    I believe the editors were unfamiliar with the term “strange fruit” or Billie Holiday's song, but cannot admit it because they are a music magazine. Admitting ignorance would undermine their musical expertise.

    Better to say you were ignorant than admit you knowingly use racist terms.

  • Henri

    Even if everyone had a lobotomy to forget that strange fruit refers back to Billie Holiday's song which refers specifically and only to the pain of lynching and racism, then what is the play on words meant to reference? That the band members are strange in some way? How? They look fine and happy having fun hanging out or that they are hanging like fruit ready for harvest or that the low hanging fruit is ready for picking? That they are gay and strange and need to be lynched?

    There are so many other clever plays on words to choose. Strange Fruit will never be appropriate for usage other than for reference to lynchings, that is the power of the song.

  • Daniel

    All said, I'm beginning to think this delirious debate– about the latent racism behind that cover, as well as the nature of racism in New Orleans 2010– is going to be a positive thing in terms of opening lively discussions about “race”. On a side note, I found it very interesting that this particular issue had a pretty compelling article about Bounce music, thus highlighting a positive element of “street” culture that is dying out as communities have been ravaged by Katrina & post Katrina gentrification. I'm going to play devil's advocate here. Yes, the cover was lame & insensitive & unprofessional & the magazine entirely unapologetic. And everyone, including all the musicians that have been getting free promotion from it are furious & embarrassed, as they certainly have the right to be. But personally, I have always thought of this magazine as something for tourists, or select local groups. The magazine & the venues make their money from tourists who come down from Ohio & like the “exotic” culture, and this is their guide. So before anyone wastes a whole lot of time on this I think we should take a little time also to reflect on some other media groups that are FAR more detrimental to racial equality in the long term by way of producing negative imagery and stereotypes (i.e. all the local news stations). If we're going to talk about racism & responsibility as a means for holding this magazine accountable, I think we should also should ask ourselves deeper questions about how we are taking personal responsibility for the solutions, like civic considerations that work to unite various communities deeply affected by racism. My point is, when does Frenchman St. intersect with the Cooper Housing Development? My answer is rare to never. Or when does a regional entertainment guide purportedly committed to reflecting the culture of our city learn that this issue is in your face so that you will listen & grow from it or move on? My final two cents worth: find a way to stop the evening news from depicting the majority of New Orleans people of Color as hopelessly ignorant savages , and in your spare time, deal with this kind of light weight. I have the feeling that if Billie were alive she would still be singing this damn song, but it might be about how people's lives and the communities they had are completely in limbo as they watch their city being developed out of their reach without a single consideration for what was their before.

  • AP

    What else could the phrase “strange fruit” possibly evoke? In what other context besides lynchings has that term ever been used…[besides a band hanging from monkey bars] ? I don't think people think you are racist as much as that you are a bunch of oblivious idiots. This has to be the lamest printed apology ever. It's not that people are still sensitive because of Jena, it's that you placed a picture of people hanging next to a word that means killing black people by hanging them.

  • maureen

    I was happy to see a real apology in the April issue of Offbeat.