Lady A Needs to Drop Its Lawsuit Against Anita White

If they were legitimately committed to racial justice, they wouldn't have sued the Black artist who's gone by Lady A for 20 years.
July 9, 2020, 8:57pm
Lady A
Photo courtesy of Green Room PR

On Wednesday, Lady A—the country trio that dropped "Antebellum" from its band name in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd—filed a lawsuit against Anita White, a Black Seattle blues singer who's gone by Lady A for about 20 years. The two acts have been trying to come to some kind of agreement about sharing the moniker since early June, when the country band adopted it without realizing White already used the name, or so they claim.

Publicly, negotiations between the two acts seemed to be moving along fine: They met in mid-June to find "common ground," and posted identical screenshots of the meeting with matching captions on Instagram. But according to a statement from the band, things soured after White asked for $10 million, and they refused to pay up. The band isn't suing for monetary damages, or trying to keep White from going by Lady A; instead, they're asking a Nashville court to uphold their right to use the name. Even still, if the band is actually committed to racial justice, they need to drop the lawsuit.

"We hope Anita and the advisers she is now listening to will change their minds about their approach," the band wrote in its statement. "We can do so much more together than in this dispute."

The courts are all but guaranteed to rule in the band's favor. They've held a trademark for "Lady A" since 2011; White never filed for one, and never challenged theirs. Legally speaking, they're in the right—but just because they can sue doesn't mean they should.

Instead of moving forward with this lawsuit, Lady A should just change its name. Lady A was a flawed choice to begin with. The "A" still stands for Antebellum, and if the band legitimately wanted to distance itself from the "associations that weigh down this word," they should've dropped it altogether.

When they changed their name, Lady A wrote that it was "only the first step"—that they were "committed to examining our individual and collective impact and making the necessary changes to practice antiracism." Taking Anita White to court is decidedly not anti-racist. The band is using their money, their power, and their privilege to try to strong-arm White into something she doesn't want. "Lady A" is her name; she should set the terms of how it's used.

Lady A keeps bringing up their "blind spots"; they wrote that "blindspots we didn’t even know existed have been revealed" back in June, and echoed that on Wednesday, writing that "reflection on our own blindspots" prompted them to change their name. The problem is that, yet again, they've shown that they're not actually trying to figure out what those blind spots are. Changing your name to one that a Black woman has performed under for 20 years—that's a blind spot. Claiming that you're not seeking money from White, without acknowledging that she'll now have to pay costly legal fees to defend herself against you in court—that's a blind spot. Painting yourself as the victim, and self-righteously proselytizing about how you can "do so much more together than in this dispute," when you are the one who caused the dispute—that's a blind spot.

It would be easy for Lady A to do the right thing here, and simply change their band name—one they only adopted a month ago. If they don't, the message they're sending is clear: We deserve to have exactly what we want, the way we want it, and we're going to get it—no matter what Anita White says. The band insists it wants to be made aware of its blind spots. This, right here, is a glaring one.

Follow Drew Schwartz on Twitter.