Brad Paisley And LL Cool J’s “Accidental Racist” Transcends Racial Boundaries Of Awfulness
Country superstar Brad Paisley wanted to write a song addressing the devastating racial tensions still affecting our nation. Instead, he produced what may be one of the most unintentionally hilarious and unintentionally honest songs about white privilege to date.
In fact, the song has caused such a stir that it has been taken down from YouTube. I can’t find a single version still up.
But here’s the basic idea: the narrator of the song wants to understand black people. But really he wants black people to understand him, so he tells the black guy who works at Starbucks how difficult it is being a Southern white man who loves the Confederate flag, and then gets his friend LL Cool J to rap back at him.
And it’s all really, really, really earnest. Just way too earnest for a song about a Lynyrd Skynyrd t-shirt in a coffee shop. How long would even the sunniest barista, of any race or creed, stand there and listen to this?
LL Cool J’s rap is similarly two dimensional. Its confession of racial frustration might have been groundbreaking in 1968, and its outright sympathy with the Confederate flag guy seems forced.
However, Paisley’s achingly sincere dialogue does expose some truth- just not in the way he probably intended. Paisley’s narrator is so concerned with his own discomfort he can’t see the ironies of what he is saying. The Southern white guy is convinced he is the victim in all this; more specifically, he believes that a Confederate flag is just like any other cultural object. Like a dew rag.
The Stars and Bars was the official symbol of a government formed largely to preserve racial slavery. On the other hand, a dew rag absorbs sweat on your head.
A guy gets a dirty look in a coffee shop for his t-shirt. Trayvon gets shot for looking like he was “up to something.”
These things are not equivalent.
Pop music seems to have had a problem with protest songs in recent years. Even great artists like John Legend and The Roots can misfire with generic nostalgia bait like 2010′s “Wake Up Everybody.” This and “Accidental Racist” don’t remind me of Bob Dylan and Marvin Gaye so much as parodies like South Park‘s “Hey People, You Gotta Drive Hybrids Already” and Russell Brand‘s “African Child.”
But at least they are trying. Hopefully, the dialogue that Paisley has sparked will affect artists trying to address this issue for the better.
What do you think of “Accidental Racist?”
[image by Christopher Polk/Getty Images]