The pop music world here in the U.S. has been abuzz (somewhat) about a new duet by country and western singer Brad Paisley and rapper LL Cool J (real name: James Todd Smith, because you know most rap singers can’t use their birth names). The song, “Accidental Racist,” is Paisley’s allegedly bold confrontation of the South’s deep-seated and lingering racism. If you listen to the media rhetoric, you’d think Andrea Bocelli and Leontyne Price had gotten together for a world tour. Now, I’d drag myself off a death bed to see that!
I’ll be up front and admit I’m not a big country and western music fan – despite being born and raised in Texas – and I don’t care much for rap or hip-hop. Paisley and J make a cute couple, but that’s about as much as either has going for them. I haven’t heard many songs from either man. But, if J’s singing is like his acting, I know Bocelli and Price have nothing to fear.
Paisley has come under the proverbial fire for his previous displays of the Confederate flag; an emblem of the “Old South” where Negroes and Indians were sub-human critters. Looking at Paisley, I have to wonder if some Negro or Indian didn’t sneak into the main house of his family many years ago. I mean, seriously, if you look at White people from the “Old Country” (e.g. Europe), they are nowhere near that dark-haired or dark-eyed. Not even Southern Europe! They just aren’t. But, I’m nitpicking.
Many White Southerners are still trying to redefine the Confederate flag as a symbol of some ancient noble cause; what they call state’s rights; what the rest of us normal people call stupid. The southeastern quadrant of the United States didn’t try to secede from the Union 150 years ago because of excessive taxation, or the charming “state’s rights” mantra. They wanted the freedom to keep Negro people in shackles, right next to the cows and mules. But, damn! Some of those old White Southerners won’t let go of that myth. They’ve been fighting the Civil War for all this time and still haven’t won!
Paisley apparently hopes to make us all realize that his inherently racist actions and statements aren’t deliberate; they are – as the song implies – purely accidental. In other words, that silly White boy didn’t know what the fuck he was doing! Hence, the innocuous placement of the Confederate flag on his tee shirt; a shirt that was probably sewn by a Chinese 5-year-old.
It’s really amazing how stupid people can be. Several years ago, while working as a customer service representative of a bank’s wire transfer division, a man asked me my name. When I told him, he replied, “Oh, well, let me speak to someone who speaks better English.” When I told him no one in the department spoke better English than me, he angrily said, “So, what do you have there? A bunch of dumbass Mexicans?!” I told him to close his account and hung up on him. Back in 2006, a young White police officer who stopped me for running a yellow light asked if I’d ever been to prison “with a name like that.” I got his badge number and filed a complaint with the Dallas police. But, nothing ever came of it. President Obama once said he knows what it’s like to be standing outside a restaurant, waiting for a valet to bring him his car, when a White person thinks he’s the valet and asks him to retrieve their own vehicle.
Accidental? No, none of it is. People really do know what they’re saying or doing in these situations. They just haven’t thought much about it and what it means. That’s no accident. It’s ignorant.