Country star Brad Paisley releases bizarre “Accidental Racist” song

The Nashville star records a tune apologizing for wearing the Confederate flag -- but justifying it, too VIDEO

Topics: Video, brad paisley, accidental racist, ll cool j,

Country star Brad Paisley releases bizarre "Accidental Racist" songBrad Paisley (Credit: AP/Robb Cohen)

Brad Paisley is among the biggest stars in the present-day country-music firmament, and his songs generally deal with such innocuous issues as partying, the Internet and drinking.

But with his newest song, Paisley has inserted himself into a racial debate.

“Accidental Racist,” a collaboration with the rapper LL Cool J, begins with Paisley’s apology to an unnamed Starbucks employee for wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the Confederate flag. “When I put on that T-shirt, the only thing I meant to say is I’m a Skynyrd fan.”

The apology is deeply conditional, though: Paisley calls himself a “proud rebel son” in the first verse, and feels as though he’s being “blamed” for what he considers ancient history. Why isn’t it OK to wear a Confederate flag without getting blamed, anyhow?

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

The song implies that Reconstruction was a failure (“They called it Reconstruction, fixed the buildings, dried some tears / We’re still siftin’ through the rubble after a hundred-fifty years”), while LL Cool J’s verse further muddies the water. Maybe people who judge those in “rebel” garb are the real racists: “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.”

The two parties come to a delicate accord, with LL Cool J rapping: “If you don’t judge my do-rag / I won’t judge your red flag / If you don’t judge my gold chains / I’ll forget the iron chains … Let bygones be bygones.”

The Confederate flag remains a popular symbol of Southern pride even while stirring controversy among those who see it as a symbol glorifying slavery in the antebellum South. The singer Trace Adkins wore a Confederate flag earpiece at a nationally televised performance in 2012. Adkins wrote at the time: “As a proud American I object to oppression of any kind. To me, the battle flag represents remembrance of my Southern lineage – I am a descendant of Confederate soldiers who followed that flag into battle. I advocate for the preservation of America’s battlefields and honest conversation about our Country’s history. To those who view the flag as a symbol of racism, that was not my message and I did not intend offense.”

You Might Also Like

Members of Lynyrd Skynyrd, the band name-checked in “Accidental Racist,” used similar language in defending their use of the flag in live shows: “Myself, the past and present members (that are from the South), are all extremely proud of our heritage and being from the South. We know what the Dixie flag represents and its heritage; the Civil War was fought over States rights.” Though not associated with the flag, the band Lady Antebellum has come in for criticism for a name that references the slave-holding South pre-Civil War.

And the idea that racism can be accidental and unknowing, the product of minority hypersensitivity of the sort LL Cool J disavows in the song (“I won’t judge your red flag”), has gained currency during the Obama administration. A CPAC panel called ”Trump the Race Card: Are You Sick and Tired of Being Called a Racist and You Know You’re Not One?” went badly awry this year.

The song, which claims a lack of knowledge as to why black people might be offended by the Confederate flag (hey, Skynyrd uses it!), is something of a mixed message for Paisley, too. The country star’s 2009 single “Welcome to the Future” name-checks Martin Luther King Jr. and was inspired by the election of Barack Obama. Paisley performed the song at the White House that year, wearing a white cowboy hat but no Confederate flag.

Daniel D'Addario is a staff reporter for Salon's entertainment section. Follow him on Twitter @DPD_

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 8
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Sonic

    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    Sonic's Bacon Double Cheddar Croissant Dog

    Sonic calls this a "gourmet twist" on a classic. I am not so, so fancy, but I know that sprinkling bacon and cheddar cheese onto a tube of pork is not gourmet, even if you have made a bun out of something that is theoretically French.

    Krispy Kreme

    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    Krispy Kreme's Doughnut Dog

    This stupid thing is a hotdog in a glazed doughnut bun, topped with bacon and raspberry jelly. It is only available at Delaware's Frawley Stadium, thank god.

    KFC

    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    KFC's Double Down Dog

    This creation is notable for its fried chicken bun and ability to hastily kill your dreams.

    Pizza Hut

    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    Pizza Hut's Hot Dog Bites Pizza

    Pizza Hut basically just glued pigs-in-blankets to the crust of its normal pizza. This actually sounds good, and I blame America for brainwashing me into feeling that.

    Carl's Jr.

    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    Carl's Jr. Most American Thick Burger

    This is a burger stuffed with potato chips and hot dogs. Choose a meat, America! How hard is it to just choose a meat?!

    Tokyo Dog

    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    Tokyo Dog's Juuni Ban

    A food truck in Seattle called Tokyo Dog created this thing, which is notable for its distinction as the Guinness Book of World Records' most expensive hot dog at $169. It is a smoked cheese bratwurst, covered in butter Teriyaki grilled onions, Maitake mushrooms, Wagyu beef, foie gras, black truffles, caviar and Japanese mayo in a brioche bun. Just calm down, Tokyo Dog. Calm down.

    Interscope

    7 ways Americans have defiled the hot dog

    Limp Bizkit's "Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water"

    This album art should be illegal.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>