A brouhaha has erupted over the release of a song by Country Music artist Brad Paisley. The song is entitled “Accidental Racist“. The song has created a stir not just in the Country Music world, but in the nation as a whole. It’s more than just the name of the song that has ignited the fervor.
Traditionally Country music has been stereotyped as being songs about cars, trucks, NASCAR, losing lovers, and drinking. The classic joke “What happens when you play a country song backwards?” “You get your truck back, you get your dog back, you get yer girl back and life is good.” While this is still true in today’s Country music songs. It is what has always defined the genre. However, today’s Country music artists have tried to dispel those stereotypes by producing artists such as Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, and Lady Antebellum. These artists have all had songs that are not just played on Country Radio, but on many more mainstream stations and have all garnered national notoriety for their music.
Country music has not been without its own controversy. Back in March of 2003 at the start of their “Top of the World Tour”, the Dixie Chicks made a statement at a concert in London stating “Just so you know, we’re on the good side with y’all. We do not want this war, this violence, and we’re ashamed that the President of the United States is from Texas.” This sparked not only a national debate on whether or not they were patriotic, but also got them banned from being played on the radio.
During this time, prominent Country Music artist Toby Keith stated his displeasure at the Dixie Chicks’ Natalie Maines stating her opinion of his song “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue” by saying “It’s ignorant, and it makes country music sound ignorant.” Taking into account the time period, this controversy arose during the ramp up to the Afghanistan War. Reportedly, the feud has never officially ended.
In a similar fashion, “Accidental Racist” can possibly create the same amount of controversy, not just within Country Music, but across the entire United States.
“Accidental Racist” is a song about a man who is prejudge when he walks into a Starbucks and is labeled a racist all because he was wearing a Lynyrd Skynyrd t-shirt. The song is an appeal to have others not decide how a person is, just by their outward appearance.
The song, featuring LL Cool J, does take look at both sides of controversy. The first being from the protagonist who is labeled as a racist, strictly because he has a Confederate Flag on his shirt.
I find these to some of the most poignant lyrics:
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
Our generation didn’t start this nation
We’re still pickin’ up the pieces, walkin’ on eggshells, fightin’ over yesterday
And caught between southern pride and southern blame
These lyrics eloquently capture the state of the nation. We have not resolved many of our lingering issues. The Confederate Flag has long been held as a symbol of the bigoted and racist Confederate States that approved, as well as condoned, slavery as a right.
Symbols do hold significant meaning for many individuals. Symbols hold more than just meaning, but they also evoke an emotional response. This is the basis for why a particular item is a symbol in the first place. Symbols can distinguish and individual as well as groups. These symbols are easily recognized throughout the world. To name a few examples, Jesus on the Cross, The Rainbow Flag, and The Star of David and the Swastika. These are merely a few of millions of different symbols throughout the world.
We are all aware that racism still exists, particularly in the south. However, this does not mean that we must continue to perpetuate the hate, bigotry, and racism that is apparent within the United States. The bigotry and prejudicial nature does not stop at skin color. America has yet to fully uphold the Bill of Rights that states “All men are created equal”.
We as a nation still need to face, head on, the issues that have been dogging us for generations, they have not gone away, no matter how much we may wish them to disappear. America has not yet resolved the issues that are still evident from the Civil War. Not even 150 years after its end and the abolition of slavery. The nation has made great strides in providing equality for all, however we have not yet reached our goal. The inequality extends to anybody who is a “minority”. This includes women, gays, lesbians, transponders, and every single race. Many still feel that America is continuing to echo sentiments of its forefathers and not really changing anything.
As the song states, “And it ain’t like you and me can re-write history”, no, we cannot. However, we can change how future history books are written, if we actually take action we can change the course of history. We need to take on the hard challenges and show the world that we can rise above the stereotypes that the world has of the United States. Nobody will do it for us, it is something we must take on ourselves. Ultimately, the song may not prove to be as contentious as some may make it out to be. If the song merely ignites the conversations to occur about how we, as the United States of America, can move forward then the song has done its job.
Lyrics from: AZLyrics