Country singer Brad Paisley has co-written a song, “Accidental Racist” about the reaction he gets when wearing a Confederate flag. My reaction when I heard it: What exactly is accidental about it?
To summarize, the song is Paisley complaining that he is somehow mistaken for a racist while wearing a Confederate flag. Here’s my question. If you know that it’s widely viewed as a racist symbol, why would you wear it? Is it so important to wear a t-shirt that you are okay with being pegged as a racist by people who see you?
If someone wants to display their Southern pride, there are other ways to do so besides sporting a flag that to many is a visceral reminder of centuries of slavery, oppression and prejudice. (Ironically, Paisley hails from West Virginia, a state that was created in order to secede from the Confederacy and join the Union. It boggles the mind why someone from that state would be proud of the symbol that was outright rejected by his ancestors).
When I see someone proudly displaying the Confederate flag, it screams, â€œI’m racist, but I can’t explicitly say that to you. So I’m going to not-so-subtly hint at it on a t-shirt or a bumper sticker.â€
He sings, â€œI’m proud of where I’m from but not everything we’ve done/ And it ain’t like you and me can re-write historyâ€¦we’re still paying for the mistakes.â€
Well, not really. You’re enjoying the racial privilege that resulted from these “mistakes.” No, you can’t change it, but you are responsible when you are perpetuating it. As the saying goes, if you are not a part of the solution, you are part of the problem.
And it gets worse. In what looks like a token black friend move, LL Cool J chimes in. It was bad enough to hear a song lamenting the negative consequences of wearing a racist symbol, but it is made worse when he gets a certified black personâ„¢ to chime in that, you know what, it’s okay. The opinion of one black person doesn’t negate the prevailing message of the majority. And that message is: get rid of the Confederate flag already.
Quite possibly the worst part is when LL Cool J raps, â€œIf you don’t judge my do-ragâ€¦ I won’t judge your red flagâ€¦ If you don’t judge my gold chainsâ€¦ I’ll forget the iron chains.â€ It’s like heâ€˜s apologizing for appearing overtly black. A do-rag is a questionable fashion choice, not a symbol of hatred. It’s a false equivalency. It puts the onus on the oppressed, not the oppressor. It’s not the responsibility of the oppressed to go out of their way to present themselves in a manner that is deemed to be acceptable as some sort of bizarre quid-pro-quo to get people to stop displaying symbols of racism and historical oppression. It sounds as if he is apologizing for appearing overtly black, and it is incredibly offensive that it is presented as some type of solution against racial prejudice.
In short? If you don’t want to be seen as a racist, don’t present yourself as one. Its quite simple. Take off the t-shirt.