Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A Brief Review of Brad Paisley’s “Accidental Racist” (featuring LL Cool J)

by C. Liegh McInnis

Brad Paisley’s song “Accidental Racist” is some of the most racist/hypocritical crap I’ve ever heard.  I guess he doesn’t realize that being a proud “Rebel son” is being proud of the history of racism.  “The red flag on my chest is like an elephant…”  Yes, it is.  It says that you support what was done in the name of that flag, especially since the Confederate Flag has only ever represented white supremacy.  So, what about that is there to be proud?  Is Paisley actually writing a song to justify the racism of the South and his racist tendencies?  Now, Paisley does say, “I’m proud of where I’m from but not of everything we’ve done,” but follows that with the lame, patronizing line, “It ain’t like you and me can rewrite history.”  So, African people should just “get over it” and ignore that Paisley’s pride in the Confederate Flag symbolizes his pride of the Confederate agenda?  With lyrics like these, I don’t know if Paisley is myopic, hypocritical, schizophrenic, or he just thinks that African people are stupid.  In either case, it is interesting that Paisley is trying to rewrite or re-spin history in the same way of former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour’s assertion of the White Citizens Council as a strictly non-violent, economic entity.  Really?  Well, if you believe either Paisley’s or Barbour’s historical notions of Southern history, I’ve got some oil-rich land in my backyard I’d like to sell to you.

“Our generation didn’t start this nation.  We’ll still picking up the pieces, walking over eggshells, fighting over yesterday.  Caught between southern pride and southern blame.”  Allow me to remind Paisley of one of his white ancestors, William Faulkner, who stated that “The past is never dead; it’s not even past.”  And to that, I’ll add a quote from the film Magnolia (1999):  “We might be through with the past, but the past ain’t through with us.”  In short, Paisley’s lyrics cause him to appear like a whiny racist who wants to celebrate the good ole boy days of when African people were three-fifths of a person while being miffed that African Americans are offended that he would find such joy in the Confederate past.  Yet probably the most subtle but powerfully racist line is “They called it Reconstruction, but we’re still sifting through the rubble after a hundred and fifty years.”  What makes this line so powerfully racist is that Reconstruction has long been the flashpoint for white southern anger that they have used as an example that African Americans do not have leadership qualities when in fact it was southern white militia groups that slaughtered thousands of African Americans to end Reconstruction, which, by the way, created America’s public school system, allowing poor whites to be educated.  So, if America is still sifting through the rubble, it is rubble created by white terror.  But, of course, Paisley never mentions that in his song of southern pride.

Now, LL Cool J’s rap is pretty well-crafted.  However, the one flaw in Cool J’s rap is that he makes the mistake of falling into the trap or allowing Paisley to frame the conversation so that Cool J states “If you don’t judge my doo rag, I won’t judge your red flag.”  The problem with Cool J’s analogy is that the doo rag began as an instrument for hair care a hundred years before it became a symbol of gang activity whereas the Confederate Flag has never symbolized anything but racial oppression.  So, again, to be proud of the Confederate Flag is to be proud of racial oppression because that is all the flag has ever symbolized.  A doo rag, on the other hand, may represent gang activity, but it also may represent the self-hatred of permed hair or just tacky taste.  Then, slipping into the ridiculous, Cool J states “If you don’t judge my gold chains, I’ll forgive the iron chains?”  What the hell?  We are now equating the vanity of adornment with the enslavement of an entire race?  I don’t think that this is Cool J’s goal, but this is what happens when one has a discourse on somebody else’s terms.

Paisley ends by stating “I’m a son of the new South, and I just want to make things right.”  And in the background Cool J affirms, “The past is the past baby.”  While the conversation between Paisley and Cool J obviously falls well short of the conversation between James Baldwin and Margaret Mead’s Rap on Race (1973), I am inclined to give Paisley and Cool J some credit for engaging in the discourse.  No matter how much I think Paisley is trying to rewrite or re-spin history, there can be no progress if people are not free to be honest about how they perceive history and what they feel.  And, I’m sure that the “post-racial America” Negroes will want to canonize both Paisley and Cool J for their efforts.  I, on the other hand, am happy that Paisley tells me that he is proud of Confederate history so that I can be sure to avoid him and his Rebel desires to make me think that Gone with the Wind should be mandatory viewing for accurate Southern knowledge.  Yet, when Cool J asserts “…let bygones be bygones,” he seems not to realize that there can be no real forgiveness and reconciliation as long as we refuse to tell the truth.  Furthermore, just when I was ready to give Cool J a pass, he ends with “RIP to Robert E. Lee, and I’ve got to thank Abraham Lincoln for freeing me.”  He can’t be that damn ignorant of history.  We can debate the notion of whether or not Lincoln was a racist who asserted that the African race is inferior to whites and whether or not the “Emancipation Proclamation” was meant to free the slaves or was a military strategy to cripple the South economically by removing its free labor, but please don’t write to debate me on those two topics if your only source is Spielberg’s Lincoln.  Nevertheless, there can be no debate that Robert E. Lee was one of the most racist men America has ever produced, and Cool J is giving him a “shout out.”  Really?  That CSI money must be some really good money because I just refuse to believe that Cool J is that historically inept.  So, for now, I’ll give this song a “D+” for effort and an “F” for truth.  I actually want to give it a grade of “C,” just for having the conversation, but it is so historically flawed that I can’t.

*C. Liegh McInnis is the author of seven books and the publisher/editor of Black Magnolias Literary Journal.  He can be contacted through his website,

Comment from editor:
Actually, I think both of them may be just  about that ignorant of history, as I think a majority of folks may still be.  We were taught lies in school and most people accept the lies, although his thing about still picking up the pieces out of the rubble is something I'd like to think refers to the sorrow the southern people have put themselves thru by refusing to see the truth, accept it, right it and get past it (although I'm sure it's not). Coming to terms with something shameful is more liberating than trying to bury it - you can't really put yourself past it until you face it or it's a little worm gnawing away inside, making a person defensive (as Mr. Paisley obviously is). I feel a little reluctant sorrow for him, and for LL Cool J for different reasons. 

The white southern fight against truth has harmed us all, black and white, in ways many people have not yet realized or thought through.  In trying to fight against black folks having the same rights whites have, white folks have done themselves and the generations after them unbelievable harm and they don't even know it - they think they're fighting black folks, but they're really fighting themselves and their own futures as well.

It's hard for me to believe that I once accepted most of the bulls*t, but I know that I did, which gives me the opinion that anyone who hasn't actively read and researched source history, particularly the Civil War era, is probably as ignorant of it as they sound.  

 I have a confession, I never read the articles of secession before I got on the internet and started being jumped by those damned neo-confederates. I have to give them props for forcing me to go to the sources to see if they knew what they were talking about (not) instead of relying on the garbage I was taught in American History in Tennessee, where I grew up (and God only knows what they were teaching my generation down here in Mississippi). I don't know when (or if) they've quit that and where, much less the things we were taught by our parents, who really BELIEVED.  I truly thought that there were other important issues to the Civil War that impacted on it, even though I had gotten far enough away from the lies to say that it had to be mostly slavery. Duh, the Mississippi articles of secession make it clear over and over and over that slavery was the only real and important issue  and anyone who doesn't believe me can easily look those articles up online and see for themselves straight from the ancestral horse's mouth.  

I still bought at least some of the revisionist reconstruction history until about 15years ago when I read  Litwack's "Been in the Storm So Long", which relies on and quotes verbatim source material from the era. I'm still amazed that my eyes had been sewn so neatly shut by the faux history I learned at school and at home. Paisley and Cool J probably neither realize what reconstruction was really like and who was REALLY left picking up the pieces out of the rubble (what small pieces they were allowed to pick up) when they weren't part of the dead and buried rubble. Never underestimate the power of mis-education.

The truth just has to be  brought forth time and again until more people pay attention and realize how little they really know about our past or the impact it has on their present and their future lives.  People are beginning to wake up here and there, due to people like you who continue to persevere.

--C.W. Roberson

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