Photo Credit: Kevin Mazur/WireImage
Country singer Brad Paisley says he's not trying to be provocative with his song "Accidental Racist" -- and we don't believe him! The track, which appears on Paisley's new album Wheelhouse and features rapper LL Cool J, is a plea for the Southern white man and the black man to get along...by forgetting that slavery ever happened. Obviously, there's a backlash. Still, Paisley swears he didn't record the song just to ignite controversy.
"This isn’t a stunt. This isn’t something that I just came up with just to be sort of shocking or anything like that. I knew it would be, but I’m sort of doing it in spite of that, really," he told 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 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.’"
But is Paisley really helping the cause? "Accidental Racist," which disappeared from the Internet this morning (though you can read the lyrics here), begins with the singer wondering if the black man who waited on him at Starbucks was offended by his Confederate-flag T-shirt. Paisley complains that he shouldn't have to worry about that, because "I'm just a white man comin' to you from the Southland" and "I'm proud of where I'm from but not everything we've done, and it ain't like you and me can re-write history."
Yes, he's saying that if black people could just forget about slavery, racism would disappear and we'd all magically get along. Sigh. He's not the first person to suggest that not talking about racism will make it go away, but the argument is absurd -- as anyone who has experienced actual racial discrimination would know. (See #3 on this blog post.) Obviously, Paisley didn't actually try to have a conversation with that Starbucks barista about this issue. We wonder if he actually reached out to any black people while writing this song. Did he even have a real conversation about it with LL Cool J?
And yes, the appearance of Cool James on this song is a real head-scratcher. It feels like Paisley is trying to play a "get-out-of-jail-free" card: I'm clearly not racist, because look, here's a rapper! If anything, L.L.'s lyrics are even more cringe-worthy (example:" If you don't judge my gold chains, I'll forget about those iron chains"). Here's a great commentary from YouTube personality KevOnStage:
The unfortunate thing is that Paisley's experience could have been the start of a great discussion. Instead, he's chosen to play the victim card, bemoaning that he's an "accidental racist" and hiring a well-known black man to back him up. We can only hope that the controversy helps launch the conversation that Paisley thought he was having in the song: "two guys that believe in who they are and where they’re from very honestly having a conversation and trying to reconcile."