(Not So) Accidental Racist

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, “I’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.”

He sings, “I’m proud of where I’m from but not everything we’ve done/ And it ain’t like you and me can re-write history”¦we’re still paying for the mistakes.”

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, “If you don’t judge my do-rag”¦ I won’t judge your red flag”¦ If you don’t judge my gold chains”¦ I’ll forget the iron chains.” It’s like he”˜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.

4 replies on “(Not So) Accidental Racist”

You can’t rhyme chain with chain! Dear Lord, what was Brad Paisley thinking?!

I mean, I can almost get with the whole part where he’s not a racist for wearing a highly overt symbol of hatred and oppression, but I mean that just killed it for me.

(I am obviously joking)

Here is my thing. The song talks about this Lynyrd Skynyrd t-shirt. The album cover referred to is “Southern by the Grace of God.” This live recorded album came out in 1988, which was ten years after the plane crash that killed most of the original Skynyrd members. So, seriously, Brad. I love Lynyrd Skynyrd as much as the next person (I could listen to “Simple Man” over and over) but WHY ARE YOU WEARING A 15 YEAR OLD TSHIRT TO STARBUCKS? Don’t you own another t-shirt? This one must have holes in it. And why has it JUST occurred to you that this might be offensive. I’m sure even the Skynyrd stand-ins are going, “Looking back, that was not a great album cover choice.” How did you just get the memo?

I vote we all stop listening to this song. Mostly because it sucks, and partly because the idea of being an accidental racist is laughable. But yeah. Mostly the sucking part.

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