The 10 Most Racist Moments from a Song About Ending Racism
You're going to have a tough time finding video of it, but that's fine, because there was never an official video anyway and the album comes out today, so video evidence will soon start popping up again all over the place like replacement heroin dealers on The Wire.
I'm talking, of course, about "Accidental Racist," a collaboration between country star Brad Paisley and rapper LL Cool J that somehow manages to set race relations, country music, rap music, the careers of both men, and just progress in general back by about 25 years.
If you think I'm employing hyperbole there, you're probably right, but just barely. You can't truly appreciate how terrible this idea really is until you've heard the song, or, barring that, at least taken a look at the batshit insane lyrics.
Or, if you'd like a more detailed rundown of the various hate crimes committed in this song, keep reading. Here are the 10 most racist moments from Brad Paisley and LL Cool J's song about ending racism.
Every Lynyrd Skynyrd Fan Loves the Confederate Flag
There are about 30 seconds of this song that aren't filled with unintentionally racist nonsense, and those would be the first 30 seconds of the song, before anyone actually starts singing. Once that happens, though, the floodgates burst wide open, and the first thing that comes rushing out is this line:
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
If you're not following, and you definitely are not, what he's implying is that some punk kid working at Starbucks mistook his Lynyrd Skynyrd shirt that just happened to have a Confederate flag on it as some kind of endorsement of the flag itself.
First of all, no one working at Starbucks "understands" Lynyrd Skynyrd. If they do, they're too old to be working at Starbucks. Second, wearing a Skynyrd shirt with the Confederate flag on it is totally an endorsement of the flag. The only way the "It's just a Skynyrd shirt" defense works is if there are no Lynyrd Skynyrd shirts available that don't feature a Confederate flag. That's not the case, though. The Confederate flag isn't part of the official Skynyrd logo. They do have T-shirts that don't feature that flag, and I can vouch for that fact because I own one.
In fact, when I searched Getty Images for Lynyrd Skynyrd pictures to use in this column, I was presented with 10 pages of results. After scanning through countless images of the band in all sorts of ...
... flag-waving glory ...
... the only Confederate flag I found ...
... was on that dipshit. That's a shot of a male model on the catwalk at a fashion show in 2006. The logical conclusion? Brad Paisley pays $400 for his Skynyrd wear and has been listening to the band for like seven years now.
This guy emailed him a playlist!
I'm not saying that Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Confederate flag are mutually exclusive. You will definitely see the two together from time to time. (Update: No you won't. The band very publicly denounced the Confederate flag back in September. Thanks for the tip, commenters!) To imply that you can't support one without supporting the other, though, is ridiculous.
It's Unclear Why the Confederate Flag Is a Problem
It takes exactly one more sentence for Brad Paisley to take the "implying that the Confederate flag is merely a band logo" situation from terrible to absurd. Check out this line (with my own added emphasis):
The red flag on my chest somehow is 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 ol' can of worms
Yes, Brad Paisley, somehow the flag that represented the side of the Civil War that fought for slavery has become a touchy subject. Here's hoping science can piece together that mystery for us someday. In the meantime, how about you solve the mystery of who in the fuck calls the Confederate flag the "red flag"?
If Brad Paisley had a tenth of the courage he thinks releasing this garbage makes it seem like he has, the line there would have been "the rebel flag on my chest." That's what a real racist would call it, but Brad Paisley has to cop out and throw in the "rebel" part a few lines later.
It's worth noting here that it took exactly one line for Brad Paisley to abandon the "It's just a Skynyrd shirt" defense and start sticking up for the Confederate flag itself.
Brad Paisley Sings of His Hard Racial Times
Alright, so Brad Paisley has established that he's offended "one of those people" (baristas) by wearing a band shirt with a Confederate flag on it. What to do now? The logical answer is to maybe examine the situation more closely to try and understand why his actions would offend this person.
Nope. Instead, Brad Paisley goes on the defensive:
Lookin' like I got a lot to learn but from my point of view
I'm just a white man comin' to you from the Southland
Tryin' 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 can rewrite history
Our generation didn't start this nation
We're still pickin' up the pieces, walkin' on eggshells, fightin' over yesterday
So the problem here isn't that the Confederate flag is still widely viewed as a symbol of racism by a lot of people; it's that this Starbucks employee, what, just doesn't understand Lynyrd Skynyrd lore well enough? What the hell is the point here?
Speaking of points, it's at this one that I'd like to mention that this article was supposed to be a Quick Fix, which is the section of the site where we sometimes manage to contain our rants to 700 words or less. As of right now, we're at almost 1,000 words and are still just talking about the first verse and part of the first chorus.
I intentionally left the last line of that first chorus out when I posted it above, because it deserves an entry all to itself.
Brad Paisley Is Not Ashamed
Let's skip the melodrama and get right to that last line of the chorus:
And caught between Southern pride and Southern blame
Come ON, Brad Paisley! Who in the hell doesn't use the word "shame" there instead? It works just as well lyrically and rhythmically and all that, but it also sends the exact same message in a far less douche-y way. Using the word "shame" would at least imply that you understand the gravity of the events that people, for very good reason, associate with the Confederate flag. And the beauty of it is that you can use the word without ever having to specify if you, personally, are the one who's ashamed. You could just mean that you think it's a shame that slavery isn't a thing anymore. People would still take it as a conciliatory gesture, though, because that's how "Southern shame" reads to a non-racist.
On a side note: Is Taylor Swift a giant or is Brad Paisley half a person?
Instead, Brad Paisley went with the word "blame" because, at the end of the day, he's the real victim of slavery. An entire region of the country decided to rebel when the president said they couldn't buy and sell black people anymore, made a flag to indicate that they were indeed on a different side from the rest of us on that issue, and, because of all that, poor Brad Paisley can't wear that flag in front of "libs" without someone getting their panties in a wad.
And with all that said, Brad Paisley has every right to wear that shirt, because that's how this country works. What he's mistaken about, though, is that nobody has a reason to mind when he does.
Brad Paisley Still Has a Bone to Pick About the Civil War
The most baffling thing about this song is how it just keeps upping the potentially-with-a-chance-of-definitely racist ante with each passing second. You would think there isn't much more ground to cover in terms of being offensive. Not within the confines of a major-label-approved song by a prominent artist, anyway, but you'd be wrong. Have a look at this history lesson:
They called it Reconstruction, fixed the buildings, dried some tears
We're still sifting through the rubble after 150 years
Unless I'm missing something here, what Brad Paisley is getting at is that, despite the war having ended over a century and a half ago, people in the South still feel like things haven't been sufficiently resolved? I put a question mark at the end of that sentence because I'm hoping someone will chime in with an emphatic "No, that's not what he means at all!" The problem is, I don't think I'd believe them or him or anyone else. The only aim of Reconstruction was to fix the South after the war. "We're still sifting through the rubble" very clearly implies that things are still broken.
If that's true ... good. Don't fight for the right to own slaves if you don't want your part of the country burned to the ground. Surely Brad Paisley isn't waiting around for someone to apologize for that, right?
LL Cool J Apologizes for Burning Down the South
Right, this really happens. At least that's what LL Cool J is getting at with this line:
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
So LL Cool J is the one apologizing here? Not once has Brad Paisley said, "Hey, I'm sorry my ancestors owned slaves, but I wasn't there when it happened." But now LL Cool J is the one nervously explaining that he didn't torch the South? LL Cool J is the one who feels guilty? LL Cool J is the one who hopes people can look past the transgressions of those who came before him and see him instead for the all-around better person he is today?
And what the fuck is that "now my chains are gold" line supposed to mean? Is LL Cool J making a covert statement on the rampant materialism in rap music? Of course not; that would be kind of clever and interesting. Nothing of that sort is happening in this song. It's just all bad. And if LL is apologizing for the South losing the Civil War, what else is he willing to apologize for?
LL Cool J Apologizes for Wearing Necessary Hair Products
Because nothing is going to get resolved until black people accept their role in making the Confederate flag such a polarizing symbol, LL Cool J doesn't contain his apologies to the transgressions of the past. For example, the white man has to put up with seeing black dudes wearing do-rags all the time -- what's up with that shit? Is nobody going to apologize for that before the white man agrees to forgive?
Yeah, of course, LL Cool J is going to do it:
If you don't judge my do-rag, I won't judge your red flag
Did anyone else's head explode just now? Even if the only purpose of a do-rag was to intimidate white people, it still wouldn't warrant being mentioned in the same sentence as the goddamn Confederate flag. And besides, nobody wears a do-rag to scare people. They serve a legitimate purpose for people with a particular type of hair. Specifically, the type of hair you have to apologize to redneck twats for having so they don't feel uncomfortable putting their "I voted for slavery" stickers all over the place.
LL Cool J Is Bad at Starting a Dialogue
Before we get to those last couple points, let's pause to revisit something that, for the sake of continuity, I skipped over previously. This is how LL Cool J starts his verse:
Dear Mr. White Man, I hope you understand
What the world is really like when you're livin' in the hood
Just because my pants are saggin' doesn't mean I'm up to no good
Is "Mr. White Man" really the only phrase LL Cool J could come up with when trying to address the white race as a whole? Or was he just talking to racists? If so, are only men racist? Is that a new thing?
Also, if Brad Paisley started this song by singing the words "Dear Mr. Black Man" and then started running down all the reasons people in poor neighborhoods should stop worrying about police brutality so much, this song wouldn't have even made it out of the studio.
Am I saying there's some kind of double standard there? Sure I am. It's just a double standard I don't give a shit about. I don't need to start my speech to black people with the phrase "Dear Mr. Black Man," so what do I care if I'm not "allowed" to? It's not like doing that kind of stuff makes you look awesome, you know? Brad and James (Todd Smith) are learning that, among other things, right now.
Oh, and since I can't think of another good place to mention it, let's all just pause one more second to appreciate the absurdity of this Cool J line:
The relationship between the Mason-Dixon needs some fixin'
The area between "the Mason-Dixon" is simply a line known, of course, as "the Mason-Dixon Line." There are no people, places, or relationships on that line. There is nothing to fix. It is merely a line. You know, like the one that's about to be crossed in the next entry!
LL Cool J Makes the Worst Reparations Deal Imaginable
So LL Cool J has gone on record to reassure white people that, even if those who supported his right to not be property may have foolishly stomped that idea and the backwoods region that supported it into rubble, he wasn't a part of that decision. Where do you go from here?
There's only one way to top apologizing for fighting back against the tyranny of slavery, and that's to offer up the most lopsided compromise in the history of interpersonal relationships:
If you don't judge my gold chains, I'll forget the iron chains.
Motherfucking what?!?!?! I think I can just shoot down that deal on behalf of everyone right now. You'll forgive white people for slavery if they stop questioning your jewelry? Is that really the final sticking point when it comes to race relations? The white man's acceptance of fancy jewelry? If so, racism ended when the A-Team became popular.
This is the man who fixed everything.
Who knew it could be that easy? Surely this has to be it, though, right? Now we're done. How much worse can this get? There's not much left to do short of, I don't know, having LL Cool J give a shout out to Robert E. Lee?
LL Cool J Gives a Shout Out to Robert E. Lee
Sure, of course he does. How else are you going to end a song like this? By just stopping the tape somewhere in the middle and burning the studio where this crime against society happened straight to the ground? No, that would be too easy, and far too desirable of an outcome. Things this terrible just don't come to that kind of conclusion.
Instead, the last thing society's right to be outraged when rednecks drape themselves in Confederate flags sees before LL Cool J finally shoots it in the face is this:
RIP Robert E. Lee but I've gotta thank Abraham Lincoln for freeing me, know what I mean?
Yes, LL Cool J, we do know what you mean. We know exactly what you mean. If anyone doesn't understand what you're saying, it's probably you and Brad Paisley.
Adam hosts a podcast called Unpopular Opinion that you should check out right here. You should also be his friend on Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr.