Brad Paisley has stirred up an incredible controversy with a song on his new album Wheelhouse titled "Accidental Racist". It is a duet with rapper LL Cool J which attempts to justify the Confederate Flag and the assumptions that come along with it. The idea is incredibly risky, but risks are worth taking when you believe in something. Does it work?
"Accidental Racist" originates from Brad having an encounter wearing a t shirt with a Confederate Flag on it. As someone who frequently wears shirts and hats of the same manor, I know the type of encounter he is speaking of. Many people understand the pride and honor that the Confederate Flag represents, but many others see it as a racist symbol. Both sides have fair points, and Brad looks to blow down the barriers between those sides in this song. He discusses how its impossible to eliminate the past, but how we can't let that cloud our judgement and make negative assumptions. Are some of the lyrics an over-simplification of a complicated concept? Totally. Is the point still solid? 100% yes. In interviews, Brad has touched on the point that a big purpose of this song is to show that the south isn't solely responsible for slavery. He points out that New York voted primarily against anti-slavery legislation. Many confederate soldiers may not have believed in the cause they were fighting for, but joined out of respect and pride to their homeland. Sound a little like Iraq in the past decade? Anyway, slavery has been over for almost 150 years, but still we feel the effects: "Our generation didn't start this nation, and we're still paying for mistakes a bunch of folks made long before we came". Brad doesn't expect to end that tension in this song, but its a step in the right direction just to recognize the flag as a symbol of pride, not of hate. As Brad states in the lyrics, a message I wholeheartedly agree with, "I'm proud of where I'm from, but not all the things we've done".
I am a descendant of a Confederate solider who was a POW in the Civil War. I'm proud to have confederate blood in my veins. Am I proud of the fact that he was (probably) a slavery apologist? No. Am I aware that the Civil War was just as much about state rights as it is about slavery? Absolutely. The flag has evolved to represent southern and country culture, a rural take-care-of-myself attitude way of life. I judge people by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. I don't have "white friends" or "black friends", I have friends. However, I can feel the scorn from some when I pull in with my truck with a rebel flag license plate. This is the stuff "Accidental Racist" deals with. It's a touchy subject that good ole boys like me deal with everyday. How do you explain your flag to someone who sees it and immediately thinks of slavery (a fair comparison to make)? This song is a baby step to try to restore a tarnished symbol back to some glory. It's not meant to fix racism or make a huge statement. It's basically telling you not to judge a book by its confederate cover. Brad Paisley has some serious balls for releasing this. LL Cool J has some serious balls for being involved. Country music is all about meaningful music like this. Songs that make you think. I fully support Brad, LL Cool J, and the Confederate Flag. I'm deeply ashamed of some of our country's past, but I'm proud of its tomorrows. We are still "caught between Southern Pride and Southern Blame" as Brad says, but this song helps justify the pride we feel. Wave your flags proudly if you feel compelled. It's a simple cliche and and it has been over-used, but its message applies: "Heritage, not Hate"