Inadvertent racist.

Brad Paisley, who is a country star for those of you who aren’t fans of the genre like I am (don’t judge me, damn it! “Honkeytonk Badonkadonk” is LYRICAL GOLD), wrote a song called “Accidental Racist” and no, this is not a late April Fools’ joke; this is a real song with instruments and lyrics and producers and drums and everything!

Without meaning to, I’m sure, Paisley wrote one of the most racist, slavery-dismissive songs you will ever hear in your life. And not only that, he somehow managed to convince LL Cool J, a BLACK MAN who I absolutely love (Agent Sam Hanna is badass), to rap on the track.

Why is the song racist? Because it makes excuses for the Confederate flag. It compares wearing a do-rag to wearing or displaying the Confederate flag. It hints that if we white people look past the gold chains, the black people will forget about the iron chains that enslaved their people. It, in my opinion, insinuates that black people need to get over slavery already. It’s been 150 years, after all.

I feel I need to say this again … I AM NOT MAKING THIS SHIT UP.

I worked for a decade at minority-assistive nonprofits and I can tell you this … TOO. SOON. Yes, 150 years is too soon. A race enslaved. Families torn apart. Rights trampled on. Chains. Whips. Too. Soon. Until racism no longer exists, until black people stop getting a second look when they walk through certain stores in certain neighborhoods, and until the pay gap and the education gap close … TOO. SOON.

Read about the Confederacy. Eleven states saw Abraham Lincoln elected and said to themselves, “This man is a threat to our ‘right’ to enslave black men, women, and their children,” and they seceded, officially formed their own country, elected a president, and created an official flag — a flag that was the visual manifestation of their desire to enslave an entire race. Brad Paisley comparing that flag to a do-rag is head-deskingly ignorant and inadvertently racist and this song needs to die right the hell now.

That said, in an effort to find a somewhat local-adjacent angle on this story, KDKA decided to talk to some West Virginians about this controversial song, as Brad Paisley is actually from West Virginia. 

Let’s see what these West Virginian high schoolers and their teacher had to say about this song:

“I love Brad Paisley! He’s a really good singer and artist,” says Elizabeth Huff.

confused1

(gif sources)

“I think that he’s trying to make a statement that we can all live on this world together and not have to segregate and try to be different,” Shipman [their teacher] said.

confuse2

 

No, I’m pretty sure this song is saying, “Get over it already, man.”

“Bringing people together – that’s what music’s done for hundreds of years.”

confused3

“I think it’s a little risky, because most of the racist people are going to hate him now, but the people who understand it are really gonna like it.”

confused4

I believe the children are our future, and I am scared shitless.

P.S. “Scared Shitless” would be a great country song title. Get on that, Blake Shelton.

 





34 Comments

  1. Bar
    April 10, 2013 10:39 am

    So if blacks should ‘just get over it’ after 150 years,
    Shouldn’t the south ‘just get over it’ and ditch
    Their confederate flags?



  2. Wendie
    April 10, 2013 10:41 am

    What sucks for me is that Brad Paisley is widely considered a nice, nice, NICE, genuine, wonderful guy. Now this will be the thing that identifies him forever. Bad guidance, poor judgement. I’d expect something like this from that jackhole Toby Keith, but not sweet Brad Paisley. Ugh…



  3. Heather
    April 10, 2013 10:48 am

    First, I admit I haven’t heard the song so maybe that context changes something. But overall, I’d say that growing up Yankee gives one a very different view of the Confederate flag and its usage. Having since moved south, and lived in many different southern states and towns, I can say firsthand that most Southerners don’t view it the same way we do. Sometimes I wonder how that is possible, but it is. It’s not uncommon at all to see the flag displayed even by blacks in the deep south. I’ve been tempted to ask why they don’t find it offensive, but ultimately decided its not my business.

    I would never feel right or OK about it myself, but I have come to realize that a lot of people down here view it as historical and cultural rather than a secret sign of racism. I confess, though, that it’s usually my first thought. Guess you can’t take the Yankee out of the girl…



    • MattDC
      April 10, 2013 10:45 pm

      I understand your views, but I suggest an alternative. I think this website is read and commented on solely by white people, which is not objectionable per se, but is somewhat distorted, as Ginny would probably confirm.

      I work with many African-Americans up and down the East Coast, Boston to Miami, as my employees, my colleagues, and, most importantly, as my clients — the highest class of people in my life, i.e., those who actually pay my bills and put my kids through school. I can confidently assert that every one of them finds the stars-and-bars highly offensive, and I would never allow such overtly offensive symbols to appear in their presence, even if I DID like Lynyrd Skynyrd. The same is true of displaying Nazi symbols around my many Jewish colleagues, or the ubiquitous Washington Redskins paraphernalia around my native American colleagues. I have no intrinsic understanding of what is “racist,” but I do know what is “offensive,” just like the rest of you. If the word “Steelers” was an ethnic slur to Poles or Hungarians, it would have been purged many years ago. This is just simple common sense, requiring no deep thought by anyone. (“Free speech” does not protect yelling “Fire” in a crowded theater.) It isn’t really a matter for debate in 2013.

      When we gather over drinks and discuss our ancestry, only one of my clients admits that they descended from “either” West or East Africa — they can’t be sure which — on a boat — maybe “in the 18th Century” — which arrived in Charleston with half of its human cargo already starved to death, and the other half auctioned off as chattel. Only one of my partners can admit quietly that her parents met in the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp in Germany in 1944, and were found among the twelve sub-human survivors of their building.

      I have found that symbols can hurt deeply, and thus, defense of the same symbols — for any reason — can cut even more deeply. It doesn’t matter what the defender did or didn’t mean personally. The symbol is much bigger.



  4. Jim W
    April 10, 2013 11:19 am

    Did you see the appearance Louis CK did on Leno? He talks about the concept that white folks add a hundred years to the number of years since slavery was abolished whenever we talk about it. It’s a very funny riff on entitlement and privilege and it made me LOL.

    not sure how to do this right…but here goes: [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=derzWWYf3-w&w=560&h=315%5D

    and if THAT doesn’t work, there’s always the ol’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=derzWWYf3-w



  5. Jason
    April 10, 2013 11:25 am

    Many southerners see the confederate flag as a cultural symbol differentiating them from the north, not as a racist symbol. Just because some liberal northerners hate the south and its symbols does not mean southerners should apologize for it.

    Further, its well past time that white people are forced to apologize to black people and walk around eggshells around them. I found Paisley’s song to be insulting because he assumes white people in this day and age have something to apologize for. It is a politically correct mess.



    • Kerry
      April 10, 2013 12:22 pm

      Jason: A cultural symbol is unacceptable if the culture that it represents was one of violence, oppression, death and destruction. I don’t hate the South. I have family all through the South and visit several states several times each year. I had great-great grandparents who fought for the Confederacy. I am neither proud nor ashamed of that – it’s a fact. But it doesn’t make me want to celebrate my heritage by displaying a symbol of that “country.” Just as the Swastika is too polarizing an image in Germany, the same is true of the Confederate battle flag in the South. I’m not suggesting that it be outlawed, but I am suggesting that those who can’t understand why that “symbol” and what it represents are problems for many people should stop and think before they slap it on their bumpers or outside their houses. It means something – and for most people it doesn’t mean anything good.



      • Julia
        April 10, 2013 12:32 pm

        So their freedom of speech needs to be taken away because some people find their cultural symbol offensive? That’s not how it works. And for the record, I agree with the people here who are saying that the majority of Southerners don’t view the Confederate flag as a racist symbol, it’s simply a cultural thing. Believe me, you can have racists anywhere in the country, and they’re not always white, either.

        I don’t like country music, or rap, or a combination of the two, but I don’t see what the big deal is. It’s a stupid song – I’ve heard snippets of it – but it seems to be a bit over the top to be reading into it as much as people are doing on here.



      • YinzerInExile
        April 11, 2013 1:33 pm

        Not to get all . . . PoMo . . . But it really isn’t this simple, because your argument presupposes a fixed and forever unchanging interpretation of historical symbolism. And that doesn’t exist. We can only construct a concept of history within the confines of our own context, and in this case that context (that of the victors, as it were) is that the confederate flag represents slavery and, by extrapolation, is bad. Within the context of the historical narrative *at the time* the argument could be made that the flag represents a national pride–one that happened to be associated with slavery, but which was not exclusively associated therewith.

        I live in GA at the moment (have for some years) and can attest to what the poster up thread said about the existence of an entirely different *current* context to the flag down here. Many–but not all–supporters of the confederate flag do not associate it with slavery, exclusively. They see the larger context of a lost fight for sovereignty as their southern forebears understood it. Of course, some are also just racist assholes who enjoy its antagonistic properties.

        My own appreciation of the confederate flag is mostly detached and historical–it’s a symbol of a thing that happened–and I recognize the privilege inherent in that understanding. As a northern white girl, it doesn’t *have* to mean anything moe to me, personally. I also recognize and understand that prevailing context assigns it entirely negative associations, and emotionally I can’t say that I disagree with them. But I do think its valuable to remember that we are viewing it from a very specific position where victorious northern attitudes have *allowed* the elimination of any other consideration to seem reasonable.

        It’s an academic argument, sure, and people are going to feel about it now they feel, and I don’t begrudge them. I just urge people to remember that, although symbolism enjoys definition by consensus, it does not always mean the very specific thing you think it means to everyone else within their own contexts.



  6. Christina
    April 10, 2013 11:37 am

    This is an important and serious post and I really agree with you. But there is one more thing I have to say – sorry for heading for the funny side of things, but: the gifs are BRILLIANT! Cracked me up so much!



  7. bucdaddy
    April 10, 2013 11:40 am

    Dear Brad,

    You’re from Glen Dale, West By-God Virginia, dumbass. West Virginia was created in 1863, breaking away from Virginia to rejoin the Union. In case you missed it, 2013 is West By-God Virginia’s 150th anniversary as a state. A United state. West Virginia broke away from Virginia because the western 55 counties disagreed with Virginia about secession (plus they were usually getting the shaft from Richmond anyway). West Virginia is not a southern state except geographically. West Virginia sided with the North.

    And for that matter, Glen Dale isn’t even in the 52 West Virginia counties below the Mason-Dixon line. It’s in one of the three that are north of the line. And it’s pretty far north of the line.

    Here, let me illustrate how far:

    Glen Dale’s latitude is 39.948N.

    Another notable town’s latitude is 39.831.

    What’s the name of that town? Gettysburg.

    Therefore, you are not a southerner. So if you don’t mind, politely STFU about the Southern Thing. Drive-By Truckers, who are mostly form Alabama, do the “duality” bit much better than you can ever hope to do. (Listen to “Southern Rock Opera.”)

    So please, homeboy, take my advice and clam it.

    And if you have any Rebel flag T-shirts, burn them, asshole. You know damn well what it means to a lot of people. The Lost Cause was lost for a good reason: It was wrong.

    Thanks for listening.

    Oh, I listened to your song and it sucks.

    Cowboy Troy does the black country rapper thing much better. Check it out, Virginia, your new favorite band:

    http://tasteofcountry.com/cowboy-troy-i-play-chicken-with-the-train-video/



    • Summer
      April 12, 2013 11:26 pm

      THANK YOU! As a West Virginian, Paisley claiming to be a “rebel son” is SO ANNOYING. If there is any part of the Southern post-Civil War country that a West Virginian has no real connection or history with it is that damn Confederate flag.

      Also, even Lynyrd Synyrd has walked back from it a bit, although some of their fans got really pissed over it.

      Having grown up roughly 20 miles away from Glen Dale, this area is more a bedroom community to Pittsburgh than anything else. It has way more in common with Pittsburgh than Savannah. Paisley does indeed, need to STFU.



  8. Amy
    April 10, 2013 11:47 am

    I read the lyrics to make sure I knew what it said: I really think the intent was positive and was not trying to provoke anything negative from either side. That said, the song is clunky with its wording/phrasing by both LL and Brad, which is what I think is causing so many to get irked. I think there were better word choices to be had, but instead they forced the wording to fit the rhyme and tempo leaving it open to unintended negative interpretations. They should have known better.

    And having lived in both the north and south, I have to agree with Jason’s comment above: most don’t see the flag as a racist symbol, rather a cultural symbol of being southern. Just like most people who wear saggy jeans don’t realize its true meaning, which has nothing to do with being cool, hip or part of the hip-hop scene. Just ask any male who has been in jail- they can tell you exactly what it means. If anyone who wears saggy jeans really knew, they would pull them up right away.



  9. Amy
    April 10, 2013 11:49 am

    oh, and I love the .gifs too!!! Oh, Nathan and Ryan – my SUH’s!!!!



  10. Craig
    April 10, 2013 11:56 am

    As a native West Virginian who lived a few years in one of the above the Mason-Dixon line in counties the the Mountain state, more years in suburban Columbus, Ohio, attended college in Alabama and grad school at IUP, currently living in Georgia, and generally a fan of the funny version of Brad, I have to agree with Ginny’s take on this song. It is way, way too soon to think that racism is not an important issue, both here in the south and isn’t where else. The confederate battle flag is, and should be, a disgrace to those who fought and lost an evil idea and cause. There could be many great things said about this area of the country but for most of it’s populated existence it has been ruined by those who defend it’s history of racial injustice.



  11. bucdaddy
    April 10, 2013 12:07 pm

    And as for “Scared Shitless,” that’s in the chorus in DBT’s “Angels and Fuselage.”

    Video here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T8-cWwuMq3o

    Lyrics here:

    http://www.cowboylyrics.com/lyrics/truckers-drive-by/angels-and-fuselage-1226.html



  12. Dan
    April 10, 2013 12:20 pm

    The confederate flag does not represent slavery. It represents the confederate states. Have any of you done enough research to know that there were union states that still endorsed and allowed slavery? The war was not purely about slavery and opression of an entire race – it was about states rights. Read up on it sometime.

    Saying that a flag represents slavery simply based on the fact that the country that flew the flag allowed slavery is short sighted and is the reason that there is still racism – if everyone would just stop worrying about racism, it would go away – stop worrying about what black people might think or whatever – stop thinking of them as black people – just people – no color identifier – no african americans – no regional identifier – just people – just americans – and poof! Racism is a thing of the past!



    • Kelvin
      April 10, 2013 12:29 pm

      Hey! Everybody! Listen to Dan!

      RACISM IS A THING OF THE PAST!

      You all just worry too much. Quit worrying!

      Jeez!



      • Julia
        April 10, 2013 12:35 pm

        Way to only focus on one sentene of an entire paragraph that is completely irrelevant and out of context on its own. Jeez to you, too.



  13. Brandon
    April 10, 2013 12:45 pm

    There are actually 4 counties above the mason dixon line in west virginia. Better brush up on your geography lessons before you go sounding all “smart”



    • bucdaddy
      April 11, 2013 1:47 am

      Ouch. Good catch.



    • M
      April 21, 2013 6:49 pm

      Yes, geographically there are parts of West Virginia that are south of the Mason Dixon line. However as one of the previous comments stated, West Virginia was a UNION state, so they have no cultural connection or claim to the Confederacy or it’s flag.

      Better brush up on your American History before you go sounding all “smart”.



  14. SteelCityMagnolia
    April 10, 2013 1:28 pm

    First, let me just say this: It is a SONG, people. It’s not going to change the world. In fact, all the bitching and carrying on about it is giving it more attention that it likely would have received otherwise. It may never have been released to country radio, but raise enough hell over it and guess what? The record label starts trotting it out to stations, they film a video, it gets a zillion downloads on iTunes, etc… etc… Don’t like the song? Don’t give it any attention and let it go away and die quietly. Sometimes bad publicity is the best publicity there is.

    Second, I’m from the south. Born, raised. Things are very different in the south than they are here in Pittsburgh. As mentioned in the comments, the Confederate flag does not mean what everyone above the Mason Dixon line thinks it does. And as I believe Dan put it, the flag IN AND OF ITSELF does not stand for slavery. Or racism. The Confederate flag flies all over the south, yet it’s the Yankees who scream the loudest about seeing it. If it was as offensive as some of y’all are making it out to be, don’t y’all think all the folks in Mississippi would be up in arms about their state flag?

    And third, LL Cool J agreed to sing on the song. ‘nuf said.



    • PicaU
      April 10, 2013 4:31 pm

      Thank you SteelCityMagnolia! I am a Southerner, born and raised too (and spent many years in Mississippi). The Confederate flag has nothing to do with slavery in and of itself, as you’ve said, but has conveniently been attached to that tragic part of our nation’s history. Believe me when I tell you that after 15 years here in Pittsburgh — which I love — I’ve seen more outward racism that I EVER saw in all the years of living in the South. Pound for pound, head outside of the city limits toward our southern counties of PA…bet you’ll see more Confederate flags than you can shake a stick at.

      PS – Mason-Dixon line or not, WVA is NOT the South. That doesn’t begin until you get to Kentucky.



  15. MattDC
    April 10, 2013 1:34 pm

    I read the lyrics too. Doh! What a dummy I am! That’s not a symbol of racist oppression to millions of people. It simply means that I like Lynyrd Skynyrd! Of course! Okay, so now, to show how much I enjoy the study of Sanskrit symbology, I will wear my swastika T-shirt to sit Shiva at the neighbor’s house. I’ll let you know how that works out.



  16. PittinDC
    April 10, 2013 2:30 pm

    I really didn’t take the song in the same way that you did. It really seemed like a song of two people trying to recognize that there are differences in the way they grew up and the places they live, and working through it together. I mean, the song is horrible. HORRIBLE. But it is just because it is a bad song. Maybe I am just not as offended because it is such a bad song, it is funny, and I have read so many things making fun of how bad of a song it is. I am a fan of both Brad Paisley and LL Cool J, and I think that they had good intentions, but just made a very bad song.

    I will say, I did think it was funny that Brad talked about growing up in the south, being that he is from WV. But still, WV totally identifies as southern now, even if they didn’t back then, so I guess it kind of makes sense?

    Rembert Browne wrote a great piece on the song at Grantland breaking down the song. Anyone who has heard the song should read it, as it is hilarious.



  17. Sooska
    April 10, 2013 2:49 pm

    Having spent a lot of time in the south with southerners, some of whom were family, some (many) close friends of many years, the Confederate flag is one of things that southerners try to use to hide their pervasive racism. “Oh no! it’s about states’ rights!” Which is a load of bull because THAT is about slavery and is the same thing as racism. Read history, people. It isn’t about independence, or anything else. It IS about racism and slavery. Clueless. Utterly clueless, my fellow Americans. andso is that dumbass song.



    • Bar
      April 10, 2013 2:58 pm

      I wonder how many of these people who have pride in a flag that not only represents support for slavery and treason against America have ever read the Cornerstone Speech by Confederate VP Stephens.

      “The new Constitution has put at rest forever all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institutions—African slavery as it exists among us—the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson, in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the “rock upon which the old Union would split.” He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old Constitution were, that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with; but the general opinion of the men of that day was, that, somehow or other, in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away… Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the idea of a Government built upon it—when the “storm came and the wind blew, it fell.”
      Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and moral condition.”



  18. Mike B
    April 10, 2013 2:56 pm

    So let me get this right in my simple mind. All the people who are mad about the song and seem to be a little one sided mad at Brad Paisley, are they mad because both LL and Paisley are being offensive and turning the clock back on racism. Or is it something else.
    Now I could be wrong, but last i checked there song doesn’t advocate unequal protection under the law, or taking away anyone’s rights. So that would leave me to assume (you know what they say about that) that many of the people just want those 2 men to shut up. They dont like there opinions on how to make some relationships better, and because they have “the wrong opinion on how make things right”
    Well we better just throw a temper tantrum to shut them up, and do it fast.
    So this would be the part where that intolerant person, would start to call names “hillbilly,stupid,racist” etc. etc.
    All those who FREAK OUT because they don’t like there opinion, are the same people, who constantly say “we need to be more divers and tolerant of other peoples opinions”. Well i mean “the right opinion”. Then you have the talking heads on tv, every 5 minutes on the news network talk about intolerance and racism and how “we need to have a serious and open discussion” Oh wait we are out of time there is a hard break coming up. We will have to take this discussion up on anther day. “Next on the news, a puppy gets stuck in a pond. Wait for the funny and amazing video”.



  19. RIL
    April 10, 2013 4:50 pm

    Is the confederate flag racist? Yes. Is the song shallow and misguided? Yes

    However, much of today’s entitlement policies have been and are driven by white guilt over slavery. Whether these policies should exist on a normative level is open for debate. By normative, I mean it depends on values of society. It is subjective in nature and reasonable people can disagree.

    A bigger question, in my mind, is whether these policies are effective in helping blacks escape the poverty that resulted from slavery and promulgated by Jim Crow laws or whether they perpetuate cycles of dependency that ultimately lead to statistics such as the continued high poverty rates among blacks and the fact that 70% of black children are born out of wedlock?



  20. don
    April 11, 2013 7:00 pm

    If you want the pay and educational gaps to close it will take more effort from the minority. We have spent billions on educational projects to help them and billions more have been committed, by both private and public enterprises, to hire minority candidates who may or may not have the qualifications to do the job. Continuing to flush more dollars down those rat holes is insanity. You know, doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

    Enough with the poor me perspective. It is time to step up and prove value as well as a fit with today’s society. Screaming racism or for more and more assistance is not and never will be a real answer to this issue.

    I ran a global division of a firm and had absolutely no success with forced minority hires. In the end I just rejected the nonsense HR tried to sell me and hired the best candidate for our bottom line. That was the best decision for the firm and the productive employees on staff. It certainly made sense to the board and shareholders when the quarterly and annual financial data came in.



  21. FormerPittsburghGirl
    April 12, 2013 1:52 pm

    I’m not fond of the combination of country and rap – shouldn’t mix like oil and water. However, two things are correct: the Confederate flag is part of our history and slavery is part of our history. Both topics cause painful memories and controversial dialogue, but I do not necessarily see the Confederate flag the sole representation of slavery. The flag is a respresentation of that era of history as well as a cultural set of beliefs for a region of states. I grew up in the North and currently live in the South – I see the Confederate flag displayed in various areas of my town and on vehicles and I don’t take offense to it. I’m white and I have a lot of African-American friends – I am not offended by the flag and neither are most of my colleagues. I feel strongly that this song represents dialogue that can happen and should happen – may not make a lot of people happy, but it should be allowed to occur. It is 2013 – we will never expect people to forget what happened nor should we ask anyone to “get over it,” but we should be able to have intelligent dialogue and discuss freely without being shot down by those afraid to discuss racism. Yes, racism still exists, but it is those immature and uneducated minds that will block freedom of speech and display disrespect towards those unafraid to have an intelligent discussion.