Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Three Reasons Why Brad Paisley And LL Cool J’s Song About Racism Offends Almost Everyone (VIDEO)


By /Addicting Info

“How do I offend thee? Let me count the ways.”
– With apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
 A white southern country singer and a black northern rap artist get together to sing what they hope will be a thought-provoking ballad about racism. What could go wrong? Um… just about everything. Brad Paisley and LL Cool J’s duet, “Accidental Racist,” has proven to be a fuster-cluck; a whirling vortex of total suckage. And the song just came out less than 24 hours ago. Eric Dolan from Raw Story writes that “a mixture of mockery and condemnation greeted the online release of the song;” Melissa Locker from Time more tactfully mentions that “the track is raising plenty of eyebrows;” and Aisha Harris from Slate flatly snarks, “Brad Paisley and LL Cool J have good intentions. That’s not good enough.”
Paisley told Grady Smith from Entertainment Weekly:
I’m doing it because it just feels more relevant than it even did a few years ago. I think that we’re going through an adolescence in America when it comes to race. You know, it’s like we’re almost grown up. You have these little moments as a country where it’s like, “Wow things are getting better.” And then you have one where it’s like, “Wow, no they’re not.”
Maybe some of America’s problems with race have something to do with some southerners’ ongoing fixation with the Confederate flag and its accoutrements, plus the way they keep electing ossified racist jerks to run things. So what’s so bad about this supposedly well-meaning track, and a little straight talk about racism? Here are three ways “Accidental Racist” manages to backfire:
(1) The premise is gawd awful: The lyrics tell a sorry tale of how a Lynyrd Skynyrd fan walks into a Starbucks, wearing a T-Shirt with the band’s logo on it, only to discover himself as the object of the barrista’s abject scorn. Funny how tolerant people are so intolerant when it comes to intolerance. Paisley sings about how he didn’t mean to hurt anyone, he’s just trying to walk that fine line between “southern pride and southern blame.” Oh yeah, did I mention that the Lynnyrd Skynnrd logo consists of the band’s name masked over a Confederate flag? And that last fall, the sole surviving member of the original band — guitarist Gary Rossington — publicly declared that the Stars and Bars have racist connections (even though this ticked off many fans). Interesting how this self-described “southern white man” never discovers how offensive the Confederate flag — and all it embodies — is to many Americans until he ventures into that bastion of elitist, blue state liberalism: a Starbucks.
Lynnyrd Skynnyrd logo emblazoned with the Confederate Flag.
Is that a Lynnyrd Skynnyrd logo, or a Confederate flag? No, it’s two offensive things that look even MORE offensive together! Image from the Urban Politico.
(2) The song itself is gawd awful: Though it could have potential if it weren’t for the tune, the lyrics, the singers, and the subject matter. I had to listen so I could write this article. This task proved increasingly difficult as my flesh kept trying to crawl off my body and slither off into a deep, dark, silent crypt in our non-existent basement. What’s worse? The laboriously plodding rhythm? The slurring fiddle? The droning pedal steel guitar? Paisley’s mournful ballads alternating with LL Cool J’s aggrieved mutterings? How does this song manage to feel both insipidly cloying and corrosively offensive at the same time? Oh … I know … it’s because the music embodies the platonic ideal of mawkish sentimentality, while the moronic, self-pitying lyrics increasingly annoy the listener as each stanza lumbers tonelessly and obliviously by.
(3) The even MORE gawd awful lyrics: The lyrics are so unbelievably, embarrassingly BAD, I’ve included them below just in case you don’t believe what I’m about to describe. That awful bit about walking into Starbucks and being confused for racist (due to the Confederate Flag T-Shirt logo) when all the protagonist was trying to say is that he’s “a Skynyrd fan” is just the tip of the iceberg.
The former English major in me longs to deconstruct the following three lines, but she won’t:
The red flag on my chest is somehow like the elephant / In the corner of the South / And I just walked him right in the room
What? You mean Paisley hasn’t yet heard about the irrelephant in the room? It’s called the “Republican Party,” they’re all about “dog-whistles” and racism, and (thank God) they’re slowly-but-surely discovering that voters find racism unattractive.

Then Paisley gently glosses over America’s vile and bloody history of institutionalized slavery and racism:
I’m proud of where I’m from / But not everything we’ve done
Then he laments being forced to walk on egg shells because he can no longer proudly wear the symbol of centuries of terror and enslavement emblazoned upon his shirt:
We’re still picking up the pieces / Walking over eggshells / Fighting over yesterday
Then LL Cool J takes up the mic to drop in these little nuggets of post-racial wisdom:
Dear Mr. White Man, I wish you understood
What the world is really like when you’re living in the hood
Just because my pants are saggin’ doesn’t mean I’m up to no good
You should try to get to know me, I really wish you would
Now my chains are gold, but I’m still misunderstood
He then magnanimously ventures, “If you don’t judge my do-rag, I won’t judge your red flag,” even though that’s basically like comparing a bandana to a scarf with a swastika.
Poor guy: the silver-tongued rapper’s triumph in replacing his ancestors’ chains of iron with chains of gold hasn’t prevented the white man from shackling him with lurching lyrics and clumsy rhymes unworthy of a seven-year old.
How did Paisley sucker LL Cool J into this dreadful mess anyway?
Here’s the video:
Here are the lyrics to “Accidental Racist,” from PopDust.Com:
To the man who waited on me
At the Starbucks down on Main
I hope you understand
When I put on that t-shirt
The only thing I meant to say
Is I’m a Skynyrd fan

The red flag on my chest is somehow like the elephant
In the corner of the South
And I just walked him right in the room

Just a proud rebel son
With an old can of worms
Looking like I’ve got a lot to learn
But from my point of view

I’m just a white man
Coming to you from the Southland
Trying to understand what it’s like not to be
I’m proud of where I’m from
But not everything we’ve done
And it ain’t like you and me to rewrite history
Our generation didn’t start this nation
We’re still picking up the pieces
Walking over eggshells
Fighting over yesterday
And caught between southern pride
And southern blame

They called it Reconstruction
Fixed the buildings, dried some tears
We’re still sifting’ through the rubble
After 150 years
I’ll try to put myself in your shoes
And that’s a good place to begin
It ain’t like I can walk a mile
In someone else’s skin

‘Cause I’m just a white man
Living in the Southland
Just like you, I’m more than what you see
I’m proud of where I’m from
And not everything we’ve done
And it ain’t like you and me to rewrite history
Our generation didn’t start this nation
And we’re still paying for the mistakes
Than a bunch of folks made
Long before we came
Caught somewhere between southern pride
And southern blame

[LL Cool J]
Dear Mr. White Man, I wish you understood
What the world is really like when you’re living in the hood
Just because my pants are saggin’ doesn’t mean I’m up to no good
You should try to get to know me, I really wish you would
Now my chains are gold, but I’m still misunderstood
I wasn’t there when Sherman’s March turned the south into firewood
I want you to get paid, but be a slave I never could
Feel like a new-fangled Django dogging invisible white hoods
So when I see that white cowboy hat, I’m thinking it’s not all good
I guess we’re both guilty of judging the cover, not the book
I’d love to buy you a beer, conversate and clear the air
But I see that red flag and I think you wish I wasn’t here

I’m just a white man
(If you don’t judge my do-rag)
Coming to you from the southland
(I won’t judge your red flag)
Trying to understand what it’s like not to be
I’m proud of where I’m from
(If you forget my gold chains)
But not everything we’ve done
(I’ll forget the iron chains)
It ain’t like you and me can rewrite history
(Can’t rewrite history, baby)
Oh, Dixieland
(The relationship between the Mason-Dixon needs some fixing’)
I hope you understand what this is all about
(Quite frankly, I’m a black Yankee, but I’ve been thinking about this lately)
I’m a son of the New South
(The past is the past, you feel me)
And I just want to make things right
(Let bygones be bygones)
Where all that’s left is southern pride
(RIP Robert E. Lee, but I’ve gotta thank Abraham Lincoln for freeing me, know what I mean)


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