What were you thinking Brad Paisley and LL? That is what many people are thinking as their new song “Accidental Racist” makes its way around the blogosphere. However, while they may have become the self-fulfilling prophecy of their song, I actually feel their thinking was right on, with some misplaced creativity.
There is a powerful message being presented in their song, but one of the biggest creative missteps was the use of the confederate flag as a symbol we need to take away its negative power from and live in a world where it would only represent a lynyrd skynyrd fan (or in my case a dukes of hazzard fan). The symbol, as innocent as it might have once been, was transformed into a symbol of hate that is used as such till this day. You would be hard pressed to find a German singer trying to sway the Jews that a German wearing a swastika in a Berlin starbucks is just expressing his hindu roots and we must be racists if we think otherwise. Furthermore, to try to equate it to a black man wearing a do-rag is also outrageous. I wish they would have used the symbol of a cowboy hat instead of the flag as I think that would have been more accurate a parallel and made the important point I believe the song was trying to make.
Now, while I will not be adding this song to my iTunes “Country” playlist as I don’t think it is a particularly good song, I do applaud the message. To me it appears to be a song that tries to compel two races with a painful history to work on moving forward together and not blame the children for the sins of their fathers. Although, I think again we get stuck with a difficult parallel. It was the white people that enslaved the black people, so the hate does not rest on an equal playing field as black hate towards white could be understood and even justified. However, the question being asked is how can we forgive and move forward? Of course, then I get stuck again.
I am not sure I would be comfortable with Germans of this generation singing about Jews forgiving them and moving on, which is what it seems Brad is suggesting black people do about slavery. The only thing LL seems to be asking is that white people stop doing is thinking every black person with baggy pants is a gangster. If I was his mama I would knock him out. It is not an even handed message. Yet, I remain supportive of the overall message even if it was poorly executed. While prejudice, racism and hate exist, specifically between white and black Americans, we must work towards a world where we do not judge others based on the color of their skin.
The song could have sounded better and some of the lyrics were ill-chosen, but at the end of it I really value the message and the desire to point out one of the elephants we have in our country. Unfortunately, the song has seemed to backfire, but to me that is just a sign of how far we still have to go as a nation to heal our wounds. As a white male, I see it as wounds my ancestors (well not really my ancestors who were not American, but nevertheless my skin color represents a horrible American history) created, but my job to heal. First step? Not wearing the confederate flag to our local starbucks.
Here is the song if you would like to weigh in: