“Accidental Racist” (2013) is a song by white country-rock singer Brad Paisley. In it he defends wearing the “red flag”, the Confederate flag under which General Robert E. Lee defended the American South’s right to keep blacks in iron chains as slaves. It features black rapper LL Cool J, who says stuff like this:
I guess we’re both guilty of judgin’ the cover not the book.
I’d love to buy you a beer, conversate and clear the air.
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.
The past is the past, you feel me.
Let bygones be bygones.
R.I.P. Robert E. Lee
- blacks are just as racist as whites;
- racism is all an honest misunderstanding;
- what a white man wearing a Confederate flag is to racism, a black man wearing a do-rag is to crime;
- forgetting the past will help make racism go away;
- a man who fought to keep blacks in slavery should be honoured in memory.
LL Cool J is an odd choice: unlike many rappers he has never done a song on racism before. Far from challenging Paisley or his white listeners, Cool J pushes white racist tropes – “Get over it!”, “Blacks are just as racist!” – and supports Paisley’s innocence in wearing the Confederate flag.
Cool J has drunk the Kool-Aid. Not surprising since he is a black Republican who supported Mitt Romney for president.
Paisley sings of the White South:
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
Our generation didn’t start this nation
We’re still pickin’ up the pieces, walkin’ on eggshells, fightin’ over yesterday
And caught between Southern pride and Southern blame
Brad Paisley is a well-meaning white: He thinks he means well, he thinks he is not racist – and yet when faced with the racism of his own actions, like wearing the Confederate flag, he defends it. He does not question himself or current White Southern opinion. He cannot: that would blow his cover of white innocence. Instead he sees blacks as oversensitive – as seen in his talk of “walkin’ on eggshells”. And, like most well-meaning whites, he puts racism mostly in the past – “fightin’ over yesterday” – instead of right here, right now, in himself and his (mostly white) listeners.
Preserving Paisley’s sense of white innocence is so important that we must:
- Excuse the wearing of Confederate flags, a symbol of slavery and racism to millions of Americans.
- Forget a past that shapes America still.
- Remain blind to current racism (apart from stereotyping).
It will never work. That very need for a sense of innocence is driven by a sense of white guilt. Why else make such a big deal about the past? I mean, if it does not matter and all. The only way to fight guilt is not through denying it, but through making things right.
- YouTube: “Accidental Racist” – has the lyrics
- The song was inspired by the films:
- The five walls of American racism