Accidental Foolishness

Contributed by Walter Brown Reeves,Moore’s Ford Bridge lynching reenactor who also monitored and infiltrated KKK, neo-Nazi & other hate groups for almost a decade

I give Brad Paisley and L.L. Cool J credit for good intentions with their recent joint effort: Accidental Racist. However, as a “white man coming from the southland”, I’d have to say that the song is an epic misfire. Not in terms of impact. Both LL and Brad say their intent was to start people talking and they certainly succeeded in that. The fail here is in the quality of the conversation.

There’s nothing wrong with the idea of a duet wherein a white man and a black man try to talk out their differing perspectives on the South’s tortured legacy of racism. That’s a good idea not only on the merits but because, sad to say,  it is so unheard of as to be a novelty. What could be more desirable than to encourage black men and white men to have real conversations about racism? Trouble is, there‘s not that much real about the set up in Accidental Racist.

I may be behind the times, but I don’t think that the South’s history of  Racism is something that can be effectively addressed by a white Southern Country Music star and a black Yankee Rap star swapping lines over lattes at a Starbucks. If Paisley really wants to get straight on this history, seems to me he ought to be talking to a southern black man.  Someone who knows the brunt of that history and it’s present day effects firsthand. Someone who wouldn’t likely compare doo-rags to rebel flags or iron chains to gold chains.

It makes you wonder; doesn’t Brad know of any southern black rappers? I know I do. He should have given me a call, I could have given him some names.

It doesn’t help that Paisley’s own lyrics reek of the same old self indulgent, self pitying victim hood that Southern whites have been clinging to ever since the Confederacy gave up the ghost. Yes, the white south got the crap kicked out of itself during the Civil War but that wound was pretty much self inflicted. In fact, the historical burden that Brad complains about having to shoulder  as a white man from the Southland wasn’t put there by black folks. That was the work of white Southerners who spent the better part of a century  after the end of slavery waging a systematic campaign of racist terror and suppression against black southerners. Maybe he should complain to them.

I have to admit though,  Paisley has shined a light on the problem. Just not in the way he may have imagined. He’s accidentally put himself forward as a prime example of  how the South remains deeply divided along the color line. So much so that the only way he could imagine talking about race with a black man was to ring up Cool J. He’d have done better to look up some of his neighbors back home. Even if he had to drive across town to do it.

Accidental Racist lyrics

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
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
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 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

They called it Reconstruction, fixed the buildings, dried some tears
We’re still siftin’ through the rubble after a hundred-fifty years
I try to put myself in your shoes and that’s a good place to begin
But it ain’t like I can walk a mile in someone else’s skin

‘Cause I’m a white man livin’ in the southland
Just like you I’m more than what you see
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
And we’re still paying for the mistakes
That a bunch of folks made long before we came
And caught between southern pride and southern blame

Dear Mr. White Man, I wish you understood
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
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
I want you to get paid but be a slave I never could
Feel like a new fangled Django, dodgin’ invisible white hoods
So when I see that white cowboy hat, I’m thinkin’ it’s not all good
I guess we’re both guilty of judgin’ the cover not the book
I’d love to buy you a beer, conversate and clear the air
But I see that red flag and I think you wish I wasn’t here

I’m just a white man
(If you don’t judge my do-rag)
Comin’ to you from the southland
(I won’t judge your red flag)
Tryin’ to understand what it’s like not to be
I’m proud of where I’m from
(If you don’t judge my gold chains)
But not everything we’ve done
(I’ll forget the iron chains)
It ain’t like you and me can re-write history
(Can’t re-write history baby)

Oh, Dixieland
(The relationship between the Mason-Dixon needs some fixin’)
I hope you understand what this is all about
(Quite frankly I’m a black Yankee but I’ve been thinkin’ about this lately)
I’m a son of the new south
(The past is the past, you feel me)
And I just want to make things right
(Let bygones be bygones)
Where all that’s left is southern pride
(RIP Robert E. Lee but I’ve gotta thank Abraham Lincoln for freeing me, know what I mean)
It’s real, it’s real
It’s truth