Do you believe in "Accidental Racists"?

The last day or so, my twitter timeline has been filled with tweets about Brad Paisley’s song “Accidental Racist” featuring L.L. Cool J.  People have been in general “shock” by the fact that someone would come out with such a song.  “Why would anyone in this P.C. driven society even think that the name of this song is a good idea?” is the general consensus that I’ve read.  Now, I didn’t respond to everyone that mentioned it and asked them what was so offensive about the song, or if they even listened to it.  I was, by all accounts, at work (note - I didn’t say “working” ref: WorkN Style post; Apr 2, 2013).

I finally had a chance to sit back and listen to the song and draw my own conclusion regarding the lyrics and message that the artist was attempting to get across.  I’m not going to sit here and tell everyone that I believe that people overreacted to the song title - As a-matter-of-fact, I believe that is exactly what the artist and record company wanted to happen.  Shock value is one of the few things that sells on a consistent basis.  This record has probably gotten so many spins and free advertising by the title alone.  I’m not sure that 1/2 the listeners were even really trying to hear what the song was about.

I do understand Paisley’s message.  And to some degree, I agree with it.  For those of you who have not heard the song yet, he is simply saying that he not responsible for what happened in the past (slavery) but he is proud of his home and where he came from (the south).  L.L. comes in to add the “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover” appeal to it: “If you don’t judge my doo-rag, I won’t judge your red [confederate] flag.”  This is so true - in the paying for ‘the sins of our father’s” mindset.  I don’t hold the white friends that I have responsible for slavery or even the Jim Crow days.  They don’t assume me or my family were locked arm in arm with Dr. King during the civil rights movement.

I do have an issue with the overall mentality though.  I am not so ignorant to the fact that certain actions I may take or words I may say (the “N” word - with the “a” at the end) may make people uncomfortable.  I don’t sag, but I do wear pants that are more relaxing and comfortable to me.  So if I am walking to my car in the Target parking lot, and I am casually dressed, and an elderly white lady happens to be in front of me walking to her car I understand that she may be intimidated by me.  I try to take all this into consideration.  So if you KNOW that you are wearing something that may offend others, is it a good idea to wear it anyway?  I went to school in Atlanta, so I have learned of the pain and suffering that has been caused throughout the years and what the confederate flag may represent to some.

Why would you want to put yourself in a position to help trigger ill will?  I’m not a Lynyrd Skynyrd fan, but apparently they have a T-Shirt or album cover with their name decorated as the confederated flag.  Paisley alludes to the fact that he puts on his T-Shirt because he’s a fan of Lynyrd Skynyrd, not because he supports the confederates.  To that people, I say, gently as I know how, Get over it!  I like 2-Live Crew, I might sport the “Banned in the USA” T-Shirt one day, not to work, but hey, when I’m out and about on a Saturday, who knows (not really), but really at this point I think that people are a little bit too analyzing and chomping at the bit to label that someone as being racists.
With all this said, I simply invite you to listen to the song and make the call for yourself.  And then ask yourself, are you an “Accidental Racist” or do you know one?

1 comment:

  1. I have a very long list of issues with the song. I could go line by line, but it was exhausting enough the first time. So, I'll just mention some of my issues with this song.

    1. The issue is more complex than this song lets on. I have already had to hear too many people reducing all of racism to the coffee shop misunderstanding and racial profiling in this song.

    2. I've had way too many people think I'm personally mad at them for what someone did years ago. Nope. I just want you to acknowledge that you currently benefit from the second worst crime this country built itself on (the first being wiping out the people who were here before you brought over the slaves). I also don't want to be looked at with pity and that be the end of it. Do something about it or at least stop trying to stop or silence me when I want to do something about it.

    3. LL Cool J could have honored ANYONE in this son and he gave a shout-out to Robert E. Lee and Abraham Lincoln. I can't even get into him. I'm just still way too upset he participated in this.

    4. I can't agree to forget about your slave chains if you forget about my gold chains. That's not even CLOSE to being comparable.

    5. If Brad Paisley wants tip on how to have a conversation about race from a white man's perspective in an entertaining way, he should take a cue from Louis CK http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=derzWWYf3-w

    If people keep thinking we can all shake hands and be ok, we're going to keep missing the very tangible effects of white-male privilege and what it does to everyone that doesn't have it. I'm not just mad at what happened to my grandparents and ancestors. I mad about what happened to me and other people earlier today.

    I would be able to brush this off as silly and ignorant though well intended if it wasn't getting so much press. I'd also be way less annoyed if I didn't have way too many people insisting it was awesome and a reason for me to stop being proactive about racial issues. I don't doubt that Brad Paisley had good intentions, but if you really wanted to start a conversation...GREAT! You did that. Now listen to what people are saying. A lot of folks aren't going to see this as a conversation starter. They are going to see it as the end of the conversation. They are going to hear me pushing back against the perspective of Suzy Weiss and tell me to listen to Brad Paisley.