Brad Paisley’s “Accidental Racist” is Not Racist, Not Even Accidentally
So, anyone who has Yahoo! as their homepage has seen the article about Brad Paisley’s song “Accidental Racist.”
It’s literally been all over the Internet like nobody’s business.
The single features famous and long-time rapper LL Cool J. The song is from Paisley’s recently released eighth album, “Wheelhouse.”
According to Billboard.com, Paisley said a lot of the songs in the album weren’t going to be super cozy. “And that was the point, really — for them to be vocally, musically, lyrically, thematically uncomfortable — or at least new enough to me that I think I had to stretch,” Paisley said in the interview.
Well, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that he wasn’t lying.
I’ve listened to the song and I’ve read the lyrics. I’ve read the articles and the reviews. I don’t find the song racist or offensive. I’m serious.
The song is focused on Paisley apologizing to a black barista at Starbucks who he unknowingly offended for wearing a confederate flag shirt.
“The red flag on my chest is somehow like the elephant
In the corner of the South
And I just walked him right in the room”
First of all Brad, if the flag on your chest is like the elephant in the South, then racism in America is like the huge fucking overgrown rotting elephant in the middle of the damn room that has flies buzzing around it that people try to casually step over but fall flat on their face.
I grew up in the South, and in a very racist and racially segregated town. If we were driving and saw a confederate flag, we knew that town wasn’t safe and we didn’t belong there.
Now if anyone has been lucky enough to read a book about civil war history, or taken AP U.S. History like a friend of mine did, they would know that the confederates fought for more than just slavery–they mostly fought for the right for the states to maintain most of the power. But perspective is everything–especially if it’s a southern one.
The song is from Paisley’s perspective as white man guilty of white privilege. Paisley then continues to talk about the progression of civil rights in the South.
They called it Reconstruction
Fixed the buildings, dried some tears
We’re still sifting’ through the rubble
After 150 years
I’ll try to put myself in your shoes
And that’s a good place to begin
It ain’t like I can walk a mile
In someone else’s skin
‘Cause I’m just a white man
Living in the Southland
Just like you, I’m more than what you see
I’m proud of where I’m from
And not everything we’ve done
And it ain’t like you and me to rewrite history
Our generation didn’t start this nation
And we’re still paying for the mistakes
Than a bunch of folks made
Long before we came
Caught somewhere between southern pride
And southern blame
I honestly don’t see the big fuss. He’s right. He’s talking about his perspective and trying to understand another. Paisley understands that horrendous acts were committed willingly, but not by him. Debts were intentionally half-heartedly paid–and are still being intentionally half-heartedly paid.
LL Cool J then raps his perspective on the issue.
Dear Mr. White Man, I wish you understood
What the world is really like when you’re living in the hood
Just because my pants are saggin’ doesn’t mean I’m up to no good
You should try to get to know me, I really wish you would
Now my chains are gold, but I’m still misunderstood
Basically, the song is a half-dialogue, half-journal entry about the prevailing racism in America. The issue of racism in America is constantly brought up by Blacks in popular songs. What is so offensive about a white man sharing his perspective on it? Racism isn’t a one-sided issue and it has many victims.
Seriously, what’s is so offensive and racist about someone sharing their feelings about being accidentally offensive and racist? I mean, it may be because I’m a liberal arts student, but, I think talking about your experiences and feelings are a good thing.
And when’s the last time you’ve seen a collaboration between a rapper and country singer? The last song I remember was between Tim McGraw and Nelly in 2004’s “Over and over again.” And that song wasn’t even about racism–it was about like love and stuff.
News and blog sites have literally wiped the floor with this song.
Slate magazine criticized LL Cool J for ending his verse with “RIP Robert E. Lee,” saying that “the cause has been utterly lost.” Well Slate, if you did your research and like, at least went on Wikipedia, you would know that Lee, General of the Confederate States of America Army, had a slightly moderate anti-slavery viewpoint despite owning slaves, saying it was a “moral and political evil in any country.”
Time magazine, online, said that the song’s lyrics seem to “appear to gloss over the South’s painful legacy of racism and slavery.” PopDust.com criticizes “the song’s colossal wrongheadedness.”
I’m sorry that Paisley didn’t cover Emmett Till, Jim Crow, Rosa Parks, overt racism, the fact that interracial marriage was legalized less than 45 years ago, that this year will be the first racially integrated prom for a Georgia town high school and the perils of being black
and attending a college that has a 2.4 percent black minority and how whenever we talk about racism my classmates automatically look at me.
If Mr. Paisley did include all of that– it would’ve been one hell of a long song and frankly, I have no patience after 3 minutes on YouTube.
I’m sorry that we leave it up to a 5 minute and 50 second song to discuss the more than 200 year old history of Blacks in America–that we are not bold enough, comfortable enough and free enough to have these discussions at school, work or even in our own homes. I’m sorry that we expect a song that presents two perspectives on being a stereotype in America to be “good enough” in the discussion of racism in America.
I’m sorry that we’re so afraid to have a real conversation about race that in order to keep avoiding it we slander an artist’s music all over the web. I’m sorry that we’re too afraid to have a discussion about anything worthwhile and that we live in a culture that teaches and praises avoidance.
It’s the reaction–not the action–that says more about the current state of racial discussions in America and how comfortable people are talking about it.
Progress doesn’t always come in the form of impassioned speeches and black and white documentaries. Sometimes progress comes with cheesy, awkward lyrics, horrible beats and a strange musical collaboration. But no matter what, progress will always–somehow and someway–make the front news. I’m still serious.
And if there is anything worth fussing about, its the song’s cheesy but strangely catchy chorus.
Here’s the video & check out that chorus!
What did you think? Poll and comments below. Your opinion is encouraged.