Here’s what I’ll say about the song.
You know, the song. The one that has Twitter all a’twitter because it talks about race, racism, and racial differences and *GASP* does it in a way that’s not EXACTLY WHAT YOU WOULD HAVE DONE.
First disclaimer: I haven’t actually listened to the song yet. I logged onto twitter after work on Monday and after classless jokes about the death of Margaret Thatcher, I started seeing tons of references to something called “Accidental Racist.” It catches your attention, right?
Guess what? That’s the point.
It makes you curious as to what this song, in our 2013 ‘everyone is supposed to be politically correct, post-racial, our president’s a black dude’ world, is trying to say.
Again, that’s the point. It makes you want to peek behind the current and see who would have the audacity to openly talk about race relations, specifically in the south where the stronghold on racism is still quite strong.
Lets be honest, like me, you read the lyrics. You may have even listened to the song. I didn’t go into it with half-cocked brows, cynicism spewing at my lips like an animal with rabies, waiting and WANTING to tear it apart.
I read the lyrics. Read them again. Then thought “….what am I missing that the is such a big deal?”
I’m white. I’m a woman. I’m from the north. Is there something here that I’m missing? Something that I should be offended by and be ready to light torches and storm Nashville?
What I read was…
Could’ve been done better? Yes.
Torn about by every would-be music critic and race expert? Yes.
That’s the thing – there are people that wear rebel flags on their shirts because to them, right or wrong, it represents the south. And yes, there are a million people that will argue that they shouldn’t be proud of that because of what that flag originally represented. Those people aren’t wrong. But to act like pulling on a Lynyrd Skynyrd tshirt adorned with a southern flag is the same as pulling on a KKK hood is insane. Stop putting your predicted prejudices onto someone else. I was at a country country next to a guy wearing a shirt with a rebel flag and he was there with his black girlfriend. He grew up in Alabama, met his girl at school, and moved up here to be with her. I asked her, an educated African-American woman finishing up her masters, what she thought of the shirt and the flag. She kind of chuckled at first, “everyone thinks I should be upset, right? To him, that means nothing more than he’s from the south. Of course we both know the history and what it originally meant, but that’s not what it means today. I don’t mind it. I never think twice about it, to he honest.”
The lyrics are about acceptance, tolerance and maybe taking an extra minute or two to think about what we’re putting out into the world – with our images, with each comment we make, with each conversation we have. Things we say, do, or wear are taken in a way that in which it was not intended.
All I’ve seen is commentary, commentary, commentary. Snarky comments and retweets and pats on the back because on twitter we’re all OH SO WITTY.
What I didn’t see was a conversation. An adult conversation saying “you know what? Maybe my perception of you says more about ME than anything else. Maybe I need to take a breath and stop worrying about my 1500 followers thinking I’m cool and analyze a bit before I go in with knee-jerk reactions and jump up on that bandwagon because its what all the “cool kids” are doing.”
Maybe instead of witty one-offs, we can remember that there are large groups of people that live this story every day.
I’m not defending Brad Paisley, or LL Cool J for his part on it, or country music as a whole. What I am defending is the right to express yourself through art. What I am defending is the ability to disagree without degrading. What I’m defending is the courage it took to write and put out a song that you know is going to ripped apart, word by word, and doing it anyway because you feel it’s something that needs to be said. It needs to be addressed. This was their way of doing it.
After all, it got your attention, right?