Is ‘Accidental Racist’ Accidentally Racist? Brad Paisley and LL Cool J’s Track Makes Waves

Country crooner Brad Paisley tackles racism in his new song, with a decidedly mixed reception.

  • Share
  • Read Later
48th Annual Academy Of Country Music Awards - ACM Fan Jam After Party
Mark Davis/ACMA2013 / Getty Images for ACM

Musician Brad Paisley performs onstage during the 48th Annual Academy Of Country Music Awards - ACM Fan Jam After Party at Orleans Arena on April 7, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

To the man that 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.

That’s how country singer Brad Paisley begins his new song “Accidental Racist,” an earnest tune Paisley ostensibly wrote as a means of helping to heal the nation’s continuing racial tensions. But with lyrics that appear to gloss over the South’s painful legacy of racism and slavery — although they’re probably sung with the best of intentions — the track is raising plenty of eyebrows. “Accidental Racist” appears on Paisley’s ninth studio album Wheelhouse, which debuts today; the video appears to have been pulled from the Internet, however. You can read the lyrics here.

Paisley maintains that his heart is in the right place. “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,” he told Entertainment Weekly. “I knew it would be, but I’m sort of doing it in spite of that, really.”

(MORE: Red Carpet Star-Gazing at The Academy of Country Music Awards)

The chorus of “Accidental Racist” reads:

I’m just a white man comin’ to you from the south land tryin’ to understand what it’s like not to be.
I’m proud of where I’m from but not everything we’ve done. It ain’t like you and me can rewrite history.
Our generation didn’t start this nation. We’re still pickin’ up the pieces, walkin’ on eggshells, fightin’ over yesterday.
Caught between southern pride and southern blame.

The song features a guest appearance by LL Cool J, shown in the video wearing a New York Yankees cap, whose verses includes the lyrics, “If you don’t judge my do-rag/I won’t judge your red flag.” and “If you don’t judge my gold chains/I’ll forget the iron chains.”

“This is a very sensitive subject, and we’re trying to have the discussion in a way that it can help,” Paisley told Entertainment Weekly. I just think art has a responsibility to lead the way, and I don’t know the answers, but I feel like asking the question is the first step, and we’re asking the question in a big way. How do I show my Southern pride? What is offensive to you?”

Unfortunately for Paisley, the Internet’s answer to that second question appears to be, “this song.”

The Huffington Post said “Accidental Racist” “will probably make you cringe.” The Atlantic Wire opined that “There is no way Paisley was actually unaware that wearing the Confederate flag is a symbol of racism. He just does not believe it should be.” Commenters at Rap Genius, a website devoted to transcribing and interpreting rap lyrics, have done a fairly hilarious job annotating Paisley and LL’s lyrics. And Gawker, meanwhile, simply called the track a “horrible song.”

Paisley, for his part, is sticking to his guns. “I wouldn’t change a thing,” he tweeted.

MORE: 10 Questions for Maya Angelou

MORE: Internet Saved the Video Star: How Music Videos Found New Life After MTV

110 comments
charlestonbro69
charlestonbro69

The Confederate flag is not a symbol of racism, it's a symbol of Southern pride. The war was not fought over slavery but over states' rights. The liberal textbook writers, liberal media, and many liberal brainwashers disguised as public teachers have led people to think the war was fought over slavery. If the war was fought over slavery, Lincoln would have freed the slaves much earlier than he did.

IJR
IJR

@charlestonbro69 While there are certainly more complex nuances when it comes down to why the war was fought, you must admit that slavery and the battle for control of congress between free and slave states was the initial catalyst.  Education is liberalizing, but it doesn't mean that they are lying or as you put it "brainwashing." to be frank you seem to be the one who has been brainwashed. I'm sure you were also raised in this culture, but that doesn't make it right. The Stars and Bars is a racist icon, there is no denying that. Also side note: The majority of Textbooks are produced in Texas, not exactly a liberal bastion... If you remember the scandal from a few years ago, the contents of textbooks produced in Texas was heavily influenced by a board of mostly conservatives who pushed them through at all costs. 

You sir do not know what you are talking about,

-Ignatius J. Reilly 

adkmt
adkmt

I like this song. I'm Southern and German. I can speak fluent German with a Southern drawl. On one side, I have people who fought for the Confederacy and on the other there were Nazis. I'm not proud of that at all. However, I am proud of where I came from and how far my family has come. I married a wonderful Jewish man and have the most beautiful biracial niece ever. When I do have kids I will teach them about the past and that we have moved away from that. I want my kids to grow up loving people for who they are not their skin tone, religion, or sexuality.

maxdout10
maxdout10

to those of you saying the confederate stands for slavery- you're wrong.  around the time of the civil war, less than %5 of families in the south had slaves.  only the rich had slaves.  and back then the rich were even more influential than now.  it was the rich few that didn't want slavery to end.  why would the average southerner, that had no slaves, even care about slavery?

lovessweetlife
lovessweetlife

I listened to the song and I've read quite a few of the comments here.  I was born and raised in the south but spent my entire adult life on the west coast.  I do understand that people would be proud of where they are from no matter where that might be.  Flying or wearing the Confederate flag is no different than black people claiming African pride by wearing African colors and hanging the African flag or Dominicans or Mexicans or any other person doing the same.  Perhaps to some the Confederate flag is racist and to others the African colors are a symbol of racism.  (Due to the fact that it could be understood that a person wearing those colors does not want to be here) Given the amount of misinformation distributed in our school, I am not surprised that so many people are ignorant to the truth of the Civil War.  Because of this misinformation the flag is associated with only slavery.  I guess what I am trying to say is.  Be proud that you are from the south.  Be proud that you are black.  Be proud that you are from the north.  But let's all of us try to look at this issue from the perspective of the other person both black and white.  Good night.

cherre8073
cherre8073

We can say & feel what we want but really its all about wht the people that went through it feel about it..i wonder wht all of those who died going thru this would feel & have to say about this weather its good r bad im just curious..u cant take back what happened & they wont forget it either so either way there will always b racism somewhere bcause a lot of ppl dnt know how r just dnt want to forgive

DanielGenseric
DanielGenseric

Sad thing is, Brad Paisley will never understand that Anti-racist is a code word for anti-white

LawrenceJDiggs
LawrenceJDiggs

It is easy for people to complain about the efforts of others to escape cultural imprisonment and a “race based reality”. I ask the complainers, what have you done TODAY to move us toward a "post race reality"? You can point out obstacles. What did you do to surmount or reduce them? You can complain about the "racism" of others. What did you do about your own? You may have academic debates about how “we are not there”. Irrelevant. What did you do to help get us there? You are part of the solution or you are part of the problem.

As for me, today I down played "race" in a conversation. I challenged the concept of "race" in another. I practiced ignoring peoples exterior as a measure of who they are. I focused on university rather than diversity. I looked for what I have in common with others rather my differences.

It is noteworthy that there is more difference between two people of the same immediate family than between any "races". We can exchange organs with people in other so called "races". We are literally, not figuratively, brothers and sisters. People can’t even say what features their “race has that all of the members of their “race” have and no one in another “race” has. What then is the meaning of “race”?

It is time to ignore the haters who are stuck in a “race based reality”. Those of us who are wanting and willing to move into a “post race reality” need cut these people loose and move on to enjoy life. We don’t need their permission. We don’t need to care what they think. Let’s just leave the light on for them.

SteveDelossantos
SteveDelossantos

PREsident MCkinley  yankee soidier  hate the civil war seen the uglyness of war  .There was   no war in his presidential office . 

SteveDelossantos
SteveDelossantos

Sound like a bunch of mumble jumble country music trying to heal the wounds  no not going to work good intention I  really dont think black people we ever tune in too country muscic ,pride in the south whats so great   of the south ?Southern fry chicken  very good I always think what Abraham did was wrong rapeing killing southern folk to get were he wanted to good .No brainer for the country boy.Yankee town USA.

CherylWernerGlaubinger
CherylWernerGlaubinger

I was born and raised in the Capitol of the Confederacy -- Richmond, VA.  I'm also white.  When I was five years old, I noticed that a local department store had two water fountains.  When I asked about it, I was told that blacks and whites had to drink separately.  I knew how stupid that was even at age five.  I began to lose trust in the adults who were running things and any "pride" that I may have felt for my Southern roots.  It got worse when, in fourth grade, our textbooks taught that the day slaves were brought to Virginia was "a red letter day for the Commonwealth".  This was not 150 years ago, as the song says, but barely 50 years ago.  I am a fan of both Brad Paisley and LL Cool Jay.  I think their intentions were good and it's important to continue to talk about race relations.  My objection is that, assuming the "red flag" in the song refers to the Stars and Bars Flag of the Confederacy, that is an offensive symbol to anyone who is not racist.  So the offer of forgiveness for the "do-rag vs. the red flag" is a grossly uneven exchange. So is "forgetting about the iron chains in exchange for tolerance of gold chains". 

ShalandaGlaspie
ShalandaGlaspie

I live in Jackson Mississippi and things do still occur here, I do think racism should be addressed. Some people still raise their kids to tolerate one another, because they have to be around each other... I think the song is a GREAT song and I don't understand why people got a problem with it, unless they are the ones that are racist...

TimYoho
TimYoho

What I find funny about the reaction of Brad making comment about being from the South is that he IS NOT.  He was born and raised in Glendale WV which is above the Mason Dixon Line.  Contrary to what many people seem to know, WV broke away from the South and most fought for the North.  Although he may be promoting a Southern background for his music and living in Tennessee, he was born and raised a Yankee.

kittenlyric
kittenlyric

I love all the talk about the Confederate flag and comparing it to the Nazi flag. Actually Nazis looked more to out treatment of native Americans than our treatment of blacks. How many of these same people support Washington Redskins or Atlanta Braves, use Land O Lakes butter, drive Jeep Cherokees or talk about "the low man on the totem pole' or "Indian giver"? No when you talk native rights we are being too sensitive or too politically correct. Change the names of these teams, put OUR native people in the present and not kept in the past, then we can talk about the confederate flag. You can't pick and choose which race to stand up for. Either you support racism or you don't. 

vsd
vsd

I was born and raised in Southern Georgia, I am black, and I have only on one occasion in my life been offended by the Confederate Flag. The Confederate Flag is not offensive to me when it is flown beneath the American Flag where it belongs. The one time I was offended by the Confederate Flag, I was on my way to an appointment and had to meet one of my co-workers. He was giving me directions to his location and he said when you make the right by the confederate flag, the house is on the right. When I arrived at the destination, there were about 100 confederate flags covering a yard, trees, bushes and the trailer in the yard. The confederate flag in that instance was offense because that is what the person that lived in the residence intended.

Lathia
Lathia

I am  a Southern born and breed African American female,, 58 yrs of age.  When I was growing up we share cropped, or should I say worked in fields that weren't ours, fields that belonged to white farm owners (very close to a plantation).  My parents were uneducated because they had to work in fields to help support their families also when they were growing up.  We are not talking that long ago, the 1940s, 50s even 60s.  It wasn't because we were lazy or ignorant. For so many decades after the Civil War we were still oppressed by White America not the white south or the white north but White America.  Our schools were not as well equipped, we still had separate entries into buildings, separate sitting area, for a long time in the south after the Civil War there were 'Jim Crow' laws for Blacks.  If you don't know what they are look them up.  You have to look pass the Civil War to see why the Confederate flag is so upsetting to  some Blacks.  Were things so perfect in the North?  Of course not.  But in the North you had rights and you could find people White and Black that would stand up for those rights....not so much in the South.  That being said and a host of other things I could say...the Confederate Flag does not scare me.  I believe you have a right to your Confederate Flag, to your memories, to honor your ancestors whether they were Confederate or Union. I will hold on to the things that are dear and precious to me and everyone else should do the same.  Can we take race out of it?  I don't know but we should try.  If you have a rebel flag on your truck and you treat me with respect that is all that matters.  If you wear your sagging pants but you respect me that is what matters to me. Congrats to Brad and LL for starting a conversation. With any luck it will get bigger.  And if we respect each other it may get heated but we can keep it civil.

luxo1917
luxo1917

to brad paisley the conferate flag is equal to the nazi flag used by the germans to kill 6 million jews in ww2 , the conferate flag should be banned, in germany the nazi symbol is banned. just like tom petty, who wears a confederate flag on a cowboy hat , and who also wrote a song (like a rebel) brad paisley and tom petty join the ranks of  racists who happen to be stars. as for jj kool j  what would gill scott heron think of your sorry ass. and as for the main stream media, its ok to round up people (men, women and children) and throw them into a lime pit.  

cami0777
cami0777

I love Brad Paisley, and I think he did a great job trying to OPEN the conversation about the issue of racism in the south. As someone born and raised in the south, there is very little conversation about the issue of racism in the south. If you're not from the south, then you really cannot understand the depth and magnitude of this issue. Furthermore, if you're not from the south, you cannot understand how white southerners view the civil war/the confederate flag. I applaud Brad Paisley for trying to begin a conversation. It's more than most celebrities have done on this issue.

jssk
jssk

It's a forgettable song by its own merits, hard to imagine it could cause much attention if not for the so-called controversy. Though I don't find anything controversial or offensive in the lyrics. In fact both guys try to strike a conciliatory tone about the judgmental habits of our society. However, the title "accidental racist" gives the whole thing a bad smell. Accidental? Just because you were raised that way doesn't mean you are no longer responsible for your actions. An "accident" is never enough to explain away the miseries inflicted on the discriminated.

Hollamann
Hollamann

The thing about the Confederate Flag, the stars and bars, whatever you want to call it, is that it is racist.

Why is it racist?

Because the people who suffered and continue to suffer through racism said it is.

If you're a white man or woman, YOU don't get to decide what is and isn't racist.

And save me the "Well, they always play the race card!!1!!1!" rhetoric.

Certainly the 'race card' gets played far too often in this PC day and age.  This, however, is not one of those cases.  Whatever that flag meant to those who fought and died during the Civil War and to those who wanted to remember those who died, it doesn't mean that anymore.  Now all it represents is a time in American history where black men and women were sold like livestock and forced into labor because white men thought that was an okay thing to do.  Whether that is or isn't what you think it should represent is a moot point.  It does.  End of story.

MartiWilliams
MartiWilliams

It sounds a lot like we in the United States could do with some dialogue with each race. I do not like the term confrontation, because it sounds adversarial rather than as a way to make peace. If  Brad Paiseley's song bring about an open dialogue that does begin to heal the rift that racism plays in our society, then it is a good thing. To simply say to southerners, 'you lost, get over it' misses the whole problem of racism and how all regions of the country can deal with its aftermath.

UnNFormedFan
UnNFormedFan

So do you refer to the flag if the confederacy or the confederate battle flag?

uchusky99
uchusky99

The Confederate flag does not represent racism? Ok...I'll pretend to go along with that.

But, what you call "Rebel Spirit" I call treason. People did not like who won the presidental election (because they were afraid he would limit their right to own slaves-but we are pretending this has nothing to do with race now.)

So, they shot on a US military base. Let me repeat that. They didn't like who won the election, so they attacked a US military base.

For whatever reason someone could possibly have to not like the fairly elected president-what gives them the right to attack a US military base? Even if it was not a horrific, racist, amoral cause reason they did not like the President.

We laugh at morons who tried to petition to leave the US after Obama was elected. Imagine if any of those nut jobs had attacked a US military base.

THIS IS WHAT YOU ARE HONORING! TREASON!

And, oh yeah...that whole owning people as the justification for such treason.

The actions of the Confederacy were shameful-even without the slavery aspect. They almost tanked this brilliant experiement called America.

Attacking a US military base is an acceptable form of declaring states' rights? NEVER as long as the Constitution lives.

HistorianInMe
HistorianInMe

Usually those who say "get over it" are people guilty of racist behavior themselves and just want a free pass to hurt as many people as they want because they believe its their god given right. Racism isn't just slavery or Jim Crow. It still goes on and pretending like things have improved since the 1960s is an extremely dangerous assumption. You may not do anything racist, but standing by and letting others makes you equally guilty. And for the record, the confederate flag is racist, if you think that is southern pride then good for you but it is the equivalent of the swastika.

missymiss8209
missymiss8209

This is outrageous! I was born and raised in Louisiana. I have a few Rebel flags in my house. Not because I agree with what it stood for way before my time. But because growing up I was taught it represented the South and the Southern way. Such as hunting, fishing, country music, and Southern manners. I'm not racist, if anyone walks by me with those stupid huge gold chains and the baggy pants, I'm gonna think you're about to rob or kill someone. I don't care if you're black, white or latino. No respectable person would dress like that. And as for  the white cowboy hat, every time I see those all I think about are rodeos or guys that wish they could be in rodeos. I learned recently that the high school I graduated from has done away with any clothing, accessories etc. that have the Rebel Flag on it. Prior to Hurricane Katrina, our school didn't care one bit. But now everything has to be so PC and if one little thing hurts one persons feelings then everyone has to suffer. I like the idea that these two men had and I respect them both for it. But these lyrics are just horrible! They need a major rewrite if they really want to make a difference. But kudos for trying guys!

IviHernandez
IviHernandez

What is it that you can't understand or are you blind to ignorance. The gold chains represents freedom as to iron chains represent imprisonment, "gold" to be free-live-learn-walk with your head held high, "iron" to be beat-hung-raped-labeled-owned... How is that not clear. The sad part of this when reading the comments most here talk about slavery didn't exist or that the confederate flag represent honor. SMH

bigdaddybud123
bigdaddybud123

i also think the only ones holding onto the past is those of u that r undercover racists.furthermore they r just saying get over it and there is nothing wrong with being proud of were ur from or your heritage...soooo all of u that have a problem with two well respected artists that were not afraid to speak out get over yourselves as someone said its over let it go and if u cant than your obviously a racist at heart

jayne
jayne

get over it black people. no one you ever knew was a slave. no white person alive is or knows a slave. go complain to the ghosts you have an argument with

TruthIsFree4U
TruthIsFree4U

"...with lyrics that appear to gloss over the South’s painful legacy of racism and slavery..."

As someone who has lived in NY and the Southwest (but never the deep South), I think *this* statement glosses over the reality of the North's painful legacy of racism. The also held slaves, they just woke up to the evil sooner...but waking up sooner does not absolve one as if you have higher ground. It was in NYC that black children were hung during the Draft Riots in 1863 (link to original NTTimes story below). 

I used to live two blocks from one of Harriet Tubman's stops on the Underground Railroad. This was over 100 miles north of NYC. She wouldn't have had to be so covert had the North not been just as likely to cause her and her travelers harm.

This is not a Southern problem. It's an American problem, and the North has some owning up to the real past to do, too.

http://www.nytimes.com/1863/07/14/news/mob-new-york-resistance-draft-rioting-bloodshed-conscription-offices-sacked.html?pagewanted=all