Brad Paisley’s “Accidental Racist,” was it racist or a good-faith effort?

Brad Paisley’s new duet with rapper LL Cool J, called “Accidental Racist, is about the issue of race in America from the perspective of a southerner who doesn’t believe in racism, but also feels that he’s sometimes blamed for the sins of his fathers.

Perhaps it’s poetic justice, or simply an indication of where we are in this country on race (or really any controversial topic), that a song about troubled race relations seems to have troubled race relations.

A number of people have criticized the song for everything from its supposedly clumsy lyrics, to its possible suggestion that racism is all in the past, to even Brad Paisley’s selection of LL Cool J to do the duet – one writer called that selection by itself racist.

Brad Paisley

Brad Paisley

There was a hearty discussion about this in the comments to the post – one that was somewhat more heated than our discussion about why the women’s rights movement isn’t advancing of late.  And I also received an interesting email from someone from Georgia.  I asked him to expand on his email a bit, and he did.  I think it’s worth a read, especially in light of some of the criticism that claimed Paisley was just another southern racist.  It’s at the end of this post.

But first, a few of the comments that readers left alongside the post:

None of my relatives flew the rebel flag

Ron Robertson: I was born in the south, and virtually everyone in my background was born in the south, or lived there most of their lives. Not a single one of us ever flew the rebel flag. Yes, some of my relatives were racist, but not many. My grandmother, who was born poor in Mississippi always admired black people, and would recall to us how much she liked playing with them as a little girl, and loved to hear elderly black people talk (she said they’re so wise). I’m personally sick of all the bigotry, racism and homophobia in the south (and elsewhere), but I’m still not going to tar everyone as some rebel-flag-flying idiot. It doesn’t solve anything.

“Brad Paisley is my enemy for intentionally trying to distort history and spread racist propaganda”

Nik Marina: When desegregation was happening, Southerners flew the rebel flag in protest. They changed their state flags to include the rebel flag just to shout loudly to the world that they loved racism. And that’s not something that happened in the distant past. That’s something that happened in living memory. That flag is a flag of racism and fire hoses and lynchings. And those Southerners who made a conscious decision to associate the flag with racism are the ones to blame for it. I’m sick of hearing people whine about that flag. Every time they wave it, the spit in the face of people who had to fight for basic rights under our constitution. Brad Paisley isn’t an accidental racist. He’s an intentional one. And frankly, your defense of this song is utterly disgusting.

Paisley is my enemy for intentionally trying to distort history and spread racist propaganda. And no, I don’t accept the idea that any adult is innocently wearing the flag (unless they have developmental issues or just arrived in the country or something like that). Pretty much everyone in this country takes American history in school and learns about the civil war and slavery. The people flying the flag know full-well what it’s tied to racism and slavery. Paisley is blatantly trying to omit that history.

Shame on you for trying to carry water for that racist.

“Something can be a symbol of oppression to one group and a symbol of pride to another.”

Eve Wartenberg Condon: I’m Jewish and was raised to believe that the Jews have exclusive rights to Palestine; it was literally all I was taught, day in and day out, about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Because of this, I carried this belief into my 20’s until I had the opportunity to learn the other side of the issue–I had never had any exposure to a different perspective. You could say that the Israeli flag is to Palestinians what the Confederate flag is to African-Americans, but that doesn’t change the fact that a lot of regular people–not galloping racists, not willfully ignorant folks with hearts full of hate–see the Israeli flag as a sign of pride in their culture and religion. Something can be a symbol of oppression to one group and a symbol of pride to another. It doesn’t mean we should roll over and accept racism, but it does mean we won’t get anywhere with reductionism and anger. This is not a black-or-white issue, and it will not be resolved without meaningful dialogue.

“Yet another straight white dude whining about how hard it is to be a straight white dude”

RustyKC: The first problem I saw was that we have yet another straight white dude whining about how hard it is to be a straight white dude. The poor guy has to think about what he says and does, and has to deal with the consequences of his choices. The horror! I mean, who else in society ever has to do that?

If we all just realized how unreasonable we’re being that he can’t do or say anything he wants with no consequences, I think we’d all be a lot better off! For sure, he (and all the rest of the straight white dudes out there) would sure feel more comfortable.

“Brad Paisley is just a good looking redneck who can sing”

Hoplite I: Paisley is just a good looking redneck who can sing = country music star. He’s not running the conservative movement. He’s preaching to a wing of that movement. One that happens to buy his records and make him millions of dollars in the process. But that movement must be defined accurately. And since the confederate crowd is a big part of their movement it’s critical we brand it as it is. It’s our only chance. We don’t have the money, we don’t have the media, and we don’t have the luxury of letting them off the hook because sweet tea or biscuits.

“You are assuming everyone in the south, including Brad Paisley, is a redneck racist”

Ron Robertson: Are you being excessively tribalistic? Looking at what you wrote it seems you are assuming everyone in the south, including Paisley is a redneck racist. It is a poor idea to assume you know something about a person just because of their race or where they were born. There are some people who need to be knocked in the head (leaders of the Catholic church, everyone in NOM, etc.), but others are not vested in doing wrong (like Paisley), but are doing what they can to understand things better. Were you born knowing everything you do now? Some people learn early, some later, but they aren’t rotten racists because they haven’t learned everything already. Is your goal to improve the world we live in, or is it only to punish transgressions? Are you perfect? A little more understanding and genuine humanity can accomplish more with most people.

And here is the longer response from reader Josh Sewell of Carrollton, Georgia, filling in a little more background about Brad Paisley and his music:

I wanted to reach out regarding Mr. Aravosis’ story on the new Brad Paisley song. Though I’m not a big country fan, I enjoy Paisley’s work because he’s usually an extraordinarily talented songwriter and musician. Though “Accidental Racist” is ultimately clumsy and unsuccessful, I give him credit for the attempt.

Keep in mind the song isn’t completely autobiographical. He’s singing from the perspective of the character – namely, a guy who represents his target demographic. Without preaching, he’s explaining to a certain segment of his audience why they need to consider other people’s perceptions when defending problematic aspects of their heritage (e.g., the Confederate flag).

Again, I’m not saying he pulls it off; both Paisley’s lyrics and LL Cool J’s rap are extremely problematic. But, believe it or not, he’s still one of the most progressive voices in mainstream country music. Those unfamiliar with his work wouldn’t know how he regularly calls out the genre’s BS in his other work.

Paisley explores these ideas a bit more successfully in a song like “American Saturday Night,” where he sings about people partying on an “American” Saturday night by wearing Brazilian leather boots and getting into a German car to go eat pizza or drink Coronas (a wink to how the nation really is a melting pot, and we’re far more “international” than we realize). Or a song like “Southern Comfort Zone,” which discusses how Southerners can be small-minded, and how they need to experience the rest of the world. It’s especially interesting how he plays on the old, controversial lyric “look away, Dixie Land.”

But where Paisley’s progressive streak really shows is in his song “Welcome to the Future,” which came out in late 2008-early 2009. The first couple of verses lull the listener into a false sense of security. He talks about how he used to beg his parents to drive him to the arcade to play Pac-Man, but now he’s got it on his phone. He mentions that his grandfather fought the Japanese in World War II, but now our countries are allies.

Then comes the final verse:

I had a friend in school
Running back on a football team
They burned a cross in his front yard
For asking out the home coming queen
I thought about him today
And everybody who’s seen what he’s seen
From a woman on a bus
To a man with a dream
Hey, wake up Martin Luther
Welcome to the future
Hey, glory, glory, hallelujah
Welcome to the future

He’s singing about Obama’s inauguration. In a hit country song, that got massive radio airplay. And nobody boycotted or called him a communist — in other words, he didn’t get Dixie Chick’d. That’s amazing to me. What’s more, he performed the song for the President and First Lady at the White House shortly after the 2009 inauguration. I don’t think I can name another mainstream country artist who would put his or her career on the line by doing that.

That’s why I still respect Paisley and enjoy his music, despite his major misstep with “Accidental Racist.” If you take his previous songs into consideration, it’s a little easier to see that this is an example of noble intentions but bad execution.

Hate on him all you want, but he’s an artist who is attempting to teach his audience about race and intolerance in a non-preachy entertaining way.  And that’s something we should all welcome.

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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  • rachel

    the blood runs red for us all

  • gavbrown01

    This is why the South still fails. They are unable to acknowledge that they were wrong. I have yet to see any of them do it.

  • agee

    Self identifying as a “Southerner” has indeed been a creation of elite prejudice. Just because you choose to ignore your part in the situation doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Just because I raise points that broaden perspective of the discussion, doesn’t make them red herrings, they just don’t fit with the narrative of “you good, Southerners bad.” Who are you to imply that a whole region (since you didn’t qualify it in any way, shape or form) need to become “better human beings” That’s fucking chutzpa!

    I grew up in Cleveland, OH a city basically divided in half based on race. I have lived for the past 25 years in Brooklyn, NY (but thanks for assuming otherwise). I would be better off trying to convince the local constabulary to cease racially profiling via “stop and frisk” not to mention stop shooting unarmed African Americans on a regular basis (see also, LAPD, etc.).

    Then I’ll see if I can legislate to have the racist Israeli flag not displayed in public a short distance from where I work. Most people in this area don’t perceive it to be racist, though. See how this works? It’s not a cut and dried as you’d like it to be. Maybe you live in such a utopia of racial harmony that you feel qualified to create, and then cast aspersions on, “others”. I doubt it very much.

    What’s with the emphasis on treason? No person alive today is guilty of “treason”. Look at the people who go fight in elite-dictated wars—plenty of them (maybe a disproportionate percentage) are “Southern”. That’s not treason—get off it.

    I am no fan of the confederate battle flag, but knowing Brad Paisley’s other work (which you obviously don’t), I give him the benefit of the doubt about at least trying to start the conversation about it—much more effective than your screed about apologizing for the sins of the fathers. A formal apology? That’s just silly—none of those people are alive today.

    Okay, I’ll tear down my shrine to confederate generals. Oh wait, I don’t have one, and don’t know anyone else who does. Are the statues any more offensive than any other bullshit tribute to those who undoubtedly engaged in the genocide of Native Americans?

    The folks who you look down on don’t have a hand in writing text books. Those works are created by those who serve elite opinion. That such misinformation is disseminated is useful to the elites, not the working-class. Racism has always served this function. How many of the traitors who fought in the civil war owned slave? A tiny fraction. Than, as now, the their utility to elite needs was facilitated by the use of racism to create a sense of shared interest, even though it only benefited the 1%.

    Heinous voter laws are not just a problem in the south. More than 30 states have enacted a form of such complete BS. Maybe you live in one of those states?

    Talking down to an entire region is no way to start a conversation, and your emphasis on treason, traitors and generals is a bit baffling if that is indeed your stated hope. I can’t think of a less effective way to have that conversation short of re-fighting the war.

  • gavbrown01

    Self-identifying as a Southerner is what lead to treason, it wasn’t thrust upon the South by outsiders. The rest of your post strikes me as nothing more than the usual dodging of responsibility and the raising of red herrings to distract from the topic at hand. You want to see the South regarded in a better light? Here’s some things you could do which might help dispel persistent negative images: 1) Stop referring to yourselves as Southerners and start referring to yourselves only as Americans. 2) Actively fight to get rid of the Confederate flag. 3) Advocate to your legislatures to issue a formal apology to the federal government for seceding and to admit that slavery was wrong. 4) Stop worshiping your generals – they were all traitors. Tear down all their statues. 5) Stop writing textbooks which characterize the war as being anything other than treason. 6) Stop trying to pass fake “voter fraud” laws which are obviously intended to exclude or hinder black people from voting. 7) Start having public discussions about all the above so as to educate the next generations to be better human beings.

  • there’s no way you can know that for sure. I’m in no way saying that I’m okay with the flag or that we shouldn’t raise objections when it’s displayed, especially at state and municipal buildings. But none of us can say with certainty that the only time it appears in the North is when transplanted Southerners fly it.

  • aha–hence the parallel. Got it.

  • agee

    Self identifying as a “Southerner” is easy when you’re made to feel “otherness”. Have you ever made fun of a southern accent? Do you assume, as many unfortunately do, that someone speaking with a southern accent is unintelligent? My dad is from Alabama, and when he got to graduate school at John’s Hopkins, he quickly learned that no educated person who is acceptable to polite society pronounces the English language the way “Southerners” do. He has had no trace of an accent in my lifetime (50+ years).

    Look at all of the stereotypes of “Southerners” that have permeated popular culture throughout the years. Racist, stupid, white trash, sore losers (in the context of history, 150 years is a mere blip compared to the ongoing modern conflicts with roots in the middle ages). When elite opinion creates a second-class status for any group, there is a somewhat natural tendency to bond in defiance of that situation. That the particular symbolism used in this defiance is with unacceptable connotations is undoubtedly true—assuming it means the same thing for all who adopt it.

    Consider the widely used term “black community”. There is no such thing as the “black community” except when used either as a construct by whites to assign responsibility for one person’s action to an entire group (defined by skin color) or among African Americans in response to being so grouped.

    Why do jews self identify as such? Several thousand years of history make that pretty clear. See also, Italian Americans (who weren’t considered “white” when the emigrated here); Irish Americans (who weren’t considered human when they emigrated here), etc. Even though these groups subsequently assimilated into mainstream, i.e., “white” society, I can still a St Patrick’s Day parade every March.

    Your means of addressing the problem serves to perpetuate it. You’re just another elite opinion helping to create a second-class group of people and then castigating them for their defensiveness. Heckuva job not understanding how to engage in constructive dialogue—instead feeding the beast you with to destroy.

  • gavbrown01

    The fact that Southerners cling to and defend the indefensible CF is a sign of at best 150-year-old-sore-loser-ism and at worst an expression of a tacit belief that slavery and treason were ok. Even the mere act of declaring themselves to be “Southerners” – an obvious euphemism for the Confederacy – is a tell on this point. This issue is far more important than being a mere debate over the CF – it is still to this day the central issue holding progress back in this country.

  • gavbrown01

    Even if it is true that he is not a rightwinger it does not in any way alleviate the fact that the CF must be denigrated as an acceptable symbol.

  • gavbrown01

    This is proof that shame works

  • gavbrown01

    No disagreement that the Nazi economic plan was a bad one. But it was their plan. Slave labor in the work camps produced many goods for the German public.

  • gavbrown01

    I misspoke slightly – the Confederate flag can (rarely) be seen in the north. But it’s all done by transplanted Southerners.

  • gavbrown01

    I don’t believe their minds can be changed, and in any event, it is not my responsibility to try. I will rely on a younger generation to have a better mindset, that is how change will ultimately happen. The best I can do is heap scorn on the current generation of throwbacks until the Confederate flag is no more acceptable than the Nazi flag.

  • the Nazis didn’t benefit from the genocide apart from the looting of wealthy Jews’ homes. Germany’s regime wasn’t focused on the economy as much as on the culture–Jews were omnipresent in finance and commerce and you could argue that exterminating them crippled the German economy further.

  • oh yes they do. They most certainly do. That is an outrageous claim.

  • mtblaze

    I’ve always thought that America’s two “original sins” were the genocide of the indigenous people and slavery. We can all see that we are still staggering from the effects of those sins.

    Thanks for our post.

  • gavbrown01

    I like your idea and will use your term.

  • gavbrown01

    You’re missing the point. Nobody in the North today displays the Confederate Flag.

  • shame may provide external pressure, but it won’t change their minds about what the flag represents, so it doesn’t address the root of the problem.

  • gavbrown01

    You’re missing the point: I don’t want discourse, I want them to be shamed enough that they dare not display the Confederate flag in public.

  • Lisa

    I call it the Slavers flag. Join me, maybe we can make it stick.

  • Lisa

    Remember the Slavers were/are only the ruling class of the South, they are not the majority.

  • Lisa

    One of my favorite sights around here is the truck from “Dixie Produce.” It has as a logo two American flags crossed together. You can tell, obviously, that it used to be a Slavers flag crossed with an American one, and at some point they got embarrassed about it, but they’re still stuck with the truck so they had to adapt it somehow.

    It gives me hope.

  • Lisa

    If you see someone wearing a Slavers flag and they are old enough to buy their own clothes, you can safely assume they are a racist.

    We non-racists Southerners will not hold it against you, I promise.

  • Lisa

    It’s really not complicated. If you don’t want people looking down on you for wearing a Slavers flag, then don’t wear a Slavers flag.

  • “Free speech” is about all forms of expression, not just language.

  • Don’t you think the school is complicit in this by refusing to host its own integrated prom?

  • I get the comparison, but I’m alarmed by how we Yanks so vehemently distance ourselves from the history of slavery that this entire country condoned and participated in. The socially advantaged in America benefited hugely from the wealth and infrastructure created by the institution of slavery–go to Rhode Island and visit some of the mansions in Newport or Brown University in Providence if you don’t believe that the North profited handsomely from slavery. I feel like we’re trying to be morally superior by projecting all of the racism onto the South.

  • slideguy

    This isn’t the first time he’s written about race. He wrote this after Obama won in 2008, and he actually got to play this at the White House in 2009.

    I had a friend in school
    Running back on the football team
    They burned a cross in his front yard
    For asking out the homecoming queen
    I thought about him today
    And everybody who’d seen what he’d seen
    From a woman on a bus
    To a man with a dream

    Hey, wake up Martin Luther
    Welcome to the future
    Hey, glory, glory, hallelujah
    Welcome to the future

  • Shame extinguishes discourse. It would be a lot more effective to achieve understanding and epiphany.

  • slaves built the White House, lest we forget.

  • And also, a LOT of people had never even heard of Brad Paisley before this nonsense. They don’t know about his trips to Haiti, helping bring clean water to the people and the kids there. Or that he actually because friends with a little boy there who he ultimately helped get adopted by a Nashville couple. And he told the couple that he wants to see him on Thursdays. What a racist a hole he is right? NONE of you even know this guy.

  • For God sakes, people need to learn how to interpret a song! The song is from a Southerner’s point of view, saying that he is proud of his land, though not proud of everything that they have done, but to not mistaken him for a racist because of it. The public is only outraged because it is a white man asking not to be judged, because CONTRARY TO BELIEF, prejudice against whites exists, too. (Yes I am aware that African Americans likely to experience it more than whites.) But because he is a white man, how dare he ask not to be judged, when he is of the same race as the generations back that did the horrible things on southern land, so he, along with all the white race, is responsible and to blame, as well. How crazy is this? It does not matter how many of us (white people) disagree with what happened GENERATIONS AGO, we will ALWAYS be to blame, though we had no part in it. And NO, saying this does not mean that I do not acknowledge that racism and white privilege still exists, I understand that. But the same way that I (along with Paisley) do not judge someone from the color of their skin, i would not like to be judged for being a country bumpkin from the South. We are all equal. It is NOT okay to judge a race. BUT, according to the backlash that this song is getting, apparently it is OK to judge southerners and my whole race in general.
    People forget that there were northern states who were for slavery as well. And that is another point in the song, that he wishes that the south would not be seen as just a redneck, racist region of rebel flag toting white people. It’s not. And do not say he defends the flag, he does not ONCE in the song defend it. Actual Brad Paisley lyrics from another song: “The stars and bars offend some folks and I see why, nowadays there’s other ways to show your southern pride.”
    Also, because I have defended the song and artists, I have been called a “cracker” an “advocate for slavery” (what?) and a racist among other things. And I have never used a racial slur against ANYONE. So yes, prejudice against whites DOES EXIST. But, apparently, if we defend ourselves against it then we are racist for it.

  • Agee

    While we’re all lumping Brad Paisley in with Hitler, and in effect call LLCJ a “House N******” (probably not to his face), consider the possibility that you too might be an accidental racist.

    Did you attend an Ivy League institution? One that has for several hundred years been responsible for forming acceptable elite opinion—attended by those that shape the dialogue about race—who, for that entire time, have used racism to pit one group of economically oppressed people against another group of economically oppressed people. It’s not limited to just white/black in the south, it was just as true in the industrial north, i.e., fostering animosity between subsequent immigrant groups and African Americans.

    Do you own anything with a picture of the Union Jack? I have some Irish pals who’d like a word with you (be sure to wear orange). Not to mention the Scots, Indians, etc.

    Hey Francophiles, your French flag goes over really well in North Africa and Vietnam—the events in those areas taking place just before the time that the stars and bars were being used as a reaction against civil rights in the USA.

    Think it’s cute to wear Soviet symbolism? There are millions of people who would like to bludgeon you for wearing the symbols of their oppressors.

    There’s an Israeli flag within a stones throw of my office. Isn’t that a symbol of European colonialism and Israeli racism for Palestinians and Arabs?

  • Agee

    I grew up around white people; I know what they say in private. It’s not just a “Southern” thing.

  • Agee

    I think a quick perusal of the internet would help you find out he’s not a right winger.

  • You mean, this morning?

  • That was my experience too, when I went down to Mississippi as a teenager in the early sixties.

  • gavbrown01

    I understand your viewpoint, though I am not sure I would classify Brad Paisley as “an ally” – and I wonder if it is a serious danger to even consider it. If I happened to come into a circumstance where I was talking to him I would still express everything I said here in these threads against the Confederate flag. Perhaps I might be more gentle than I have been here if he seemed to me to not be hardcore rightwing. But in general, I think a much harder line, with emotion and vehemence needs to be launched against any and all efforts to claim that a love of the CF is legitimate.

  • gavbrown01

    Excellent strategy John. Everyone should look to the gay rights folks as an exemplar of how to do it right. DADT wouldn’t have been overturned without the gays demanding it. DOMA wouldn’t be headed to the the SC for the same reason. It isn’t hard to understand: the squeaky wheel gets the grease :)

  • I agree about that, and I’ve had to debate those “you’re a pedophile” a-holes on TV until finally afew years ago I just decided no, next time someone brings it up I’m shutting them down and I did. But Brad Paisley is not the Family Research Council. He may have used a bad argument, but he’s not one of those people – I think you handle an ally who screws up differently than you handle a religious right hate groups, is what I’m saying.

  • Remember George Allen’s noose in his office?

  • i believe I read that the flag incident didn’t happen to him. He just wrote about it generally, might have made it up. That’s why I think it was a dumb story to write about.

  • I know. But the NAACP should be there picketing their whites-only asses. I wrote another post about lessons for women’s rights advocates from the gay rights movement. That’s one lesson. We’d kick their asses, publicly, and humiliatingly, until the entire country was watching them, and we’d guarantee their school was boycotted statewide and nationwide for sports events, for starters.

  • Oh, I mean I’ve not heard a supporter of the rebel flag yet who didn’t come off, to me at least, as a racist. ABsolutely. That’s why I’ve been saying i think it was a dumb move to use the rebel flag as his metaphor in the song.

  • gavbrown01

    I get your viewpoint about allowing people to come to the table with varying viewpoints, but I believe there are legitimate limits to the conversation. I would not engage in a conversation with someone who argued that adults should be able to have sex with children. I would in fact dismiss their viewpoint out of hand and shame and ridicule them to their face. I place the Confederate flag on the same level. It is a symbol of evil. It has no place in legitimate and polite discussion, it should be denigrated and shamed until it is no longer allowed in polite society.

  • NCMan

    re the “whites only” prom. It’s not a school sponsored event. If it were, it couldn’t be segregated. It’s a private party. The community has been putting on these “private” party dances, one for whites and one for blacks for all these years. When they desegregated the schools in the south, the whites who could afford to do so when to private schools. And, to avoid forced socialization, whites started holding “private” dances and proms instead of attending school events.

  • NCMan

    Did he just randomly pick the flag as a symbol? I thought the story said he actually wears a shirt with the flag on it and does so to show his love of Skynard and doesn’t want to be thought of as racist for wearing the shirt. I actually thought that the end result he wants to come to is that he gets to continue to wear his flag shirt and everybody else just starts to understand that it isn’t racist (for him anyway). That’s the part for me where the “accidental” part falls through. He wants to keep wearing the flag even after he’s made aware of what everyone else feels. That’s when accidental becomes intentional.

  • gavbrown01

    This in fact is the only thing the Republicans have going for them – a keen sense of how to push cultural buttons to manipulate people into voting for them. If they didn’t have this ability, every poor person in the South would vote Democrat. Just as gayness has receded as a cultural button (not saying it’s gone away, just that it’s lessened and is still lessening as we speak), and you now see more Republicans coming out in favor of it, we must keep pressing the unacceptability of the Confederate flag until it is a social pariah so that it cannot be used as a political motivator.

  • If they bring back the hoop skirt, I’m so outta there. As Carole Burnett might opine: “It’s curtains Ms. Scarlet.

  • gavbrown01

    That’s the best reason to hate it

  • NCMan

    I was using the fact that they both claim to have their own unique definitions of things generally thought to be offensive as the comparison. She claims her use of fag doesn’t mean what the general public thinks it does. He claims his use of the flag doesn’t mean what the general public thinks it does. They both believe that they get to have their own meanings for things that already have a globally accepted meaning.

    And, actually, if you listen closely to the supporters of the rebel flag, they will tell you that flying that flag is akin to free speech, thereby making the flag language in the eyes of its supporters.

  • Thanks for the perceptive response John. “And a straight person is a far better expert than I am on how straight people perceive gay rights.” Sometimes this comes with the irony of love. How often have we been called the boys by those straights close to us. We are in our 60’s. I long ago gave up the chemistry of such perceptions. But. we all know when we experience bigotry. I had a huge problem with the term ‘queer’ because in my generation those were fighting words. The gracious Naja P. pulled me into the 21st century with that one. Criticisms that come at you that are unfounded by your own beliefs have no weight—-just biting nats that come with such a prominent public profile. At my stage of the life game, I no longer give a shit what the ignorant think of the GLTBQ. What I do care about is the ability to strike and strike hard when confronted by the eminent dangers of bigotry.

  • Yeah, well, the Republicans are in cahoots with them on that one. And I think if anything THAT was the major failing of his song – not recognizing that a big part of the problem is the lingering institutional racism in the south, like that god-awful whites-only prom I wrote about the other day. Who the F even know that they still held things like that? I didn’t. That’s abominable. Though I also fault liberal groups for not shining a major spotlight on those kind of institutional abuses – they do on the rebel flag staff, but no school should be permitted to hold a whites-only prom anywhere in America.

  • gavbrown01

    I am aware that this was the case. A further example of the simplicity of this issue

  • You make some good points there, but I think Paisley failed to make his.

    And in one respect, I have to agree with the Rude Pundit: It’s a dreadfully written and executed song.

  • Yep, remember when the symbol of a noose was directly associated with the Confederate flag?

  • gavbrown01

    Until Southerners can get past racist memes (another one being their reverence for the Generals, a third one is rewriting their textbooks to “soften” racism or to deny the reason for secession, a fourth one being “states rights”), they will be rightly perceived as racist.

  • gavbrown01

    karmanot: Indeed. Anyone claiming the issue is “complex” is in denial.

  • If white men aren’t permitted to have a discussion about racism, then I fear the issue is never going to get better. Let’s not mock the man for trying to do some good here, regardless of whether he did it well. Not to mention, if we’re going to have a discussion about the complexities of race for southern whites, I think he’d know about it a lot more than the rest of us :) I just rebel, no pun intended, at the notion that no one is permitted to discuss an issue other than the minority involved. Because two people are involved actually, the minority and the not-minority. In gay relations, that’s gays and straights. And a straight person is a far better expert than I am on how straight people perceive gay rights. So they not only have a right to be in the discussion, they have a right to explain the complexity and the nuance of how straight people perceive gays – and there is nuance, they’re not all Fred Phelps. That does mean I give them a pass on any bigotry they might harbor, but it does mean that if they try to explain to me that there’s actually more nuance than I might imagine among straight people, in terms of their perception of gay people and our rights, I’d be a fool to tell him that he’s not permitted to have that opinion, or make that observation, because he’s straight.

    Honestly this reminds me of all the bisexuals who told me I was lying when I noted that most gay people I’ve already discussed bisexuality with simply don’t believe it exists (I happen to believe it does). They were ticked at me, and simply discounted what I was saying. When, in fact, I’m the expert on what gay people have said to me in private conversations for 20 years. And the fact that 99% of them have told me they don’t believe in bisexuals is a relevant piece of information that’s necessary to know if we’re going to help the community accept bisexuality. So that would be a perfect example of someone telling me I’m just wrong because I’m gay and don’t understand their issues, which is what I was told.

  • mtblaze

    Thanks for your response. I was stationed in Biloxi Mississippi during the 60’s. I remember the White Only and Colored Only water fountains. I thought the Gulf coast was a beautiful place and met many beautiful people. It’s often hard to separate the more cultural, institutional racism from the fact that many of the people were absolutely not racist when it came to one on one interactions with each other.

  • LOL Agreed :) I think it was a dumb idea using the flag as his metaphor.

  • I know she’s bi. I was just saying that as an aside, re the word ‘fag’. Yeah, but… even among those of us who think you can, sparingly, use the word “fag” if you’re gay, you still can’t use it in the nasty original meaning, or people will be ticked. When I read her tweets, they read to me like the original nasty meaning. That’s not generally permitted anywhere.

    And I think fag is akin to the n-word, it’s not a akin to the rebel flag. I’m not sure what is, but one is language.

  • exactly so.

  • We lost family on both sides of the Civil War, I see the Confederate flag and I see ‘traitorous.’ Nothing more exemplifies the dreck of Southern culture than “Gone With the Wind.’ Gone—thank god.

  • A vigorous defense of mediocrity is certainly compassionate, but does not, by that virtue, raise the quality of the object or elevate the discussion.

  • Thank you.

  • mtblaze

    For me, it’s not so much about the flag, but the message that often accompanies it – “Hell no, we ain’t fergittin'”.

  • He’s also a white American male, who is so attuned to racism —-please

  • So you been incarcerated in Joe Arpaio’s Arizona jail.

  • mtblaze

    That’s shameful? I’d better revisit my fashion choices.

  • Maybe she will embrace the word ‘Hag.’

  • gavbrown01

    One difference is your German friends did not wear Nazi flag T-shirts.

  • gavbrown01

    This is a typical rightwing reply. You have no coherent or logical argument to make in support of your position, so you try to divert the conversation into a smear on me, hoping to make me mad enough to reply in kind. Shaming of Confederate Flag defenders is entirely appropriate. Shame, for example, is the reason why rightwingers rarely spout open racism – because they would be shamed if they did it.

  • That’s interesting. I think that second graf, however, misinterprets the song. The song criticizes white people who judge black kids by their clothes, thinking they’re all criminals because of the way they dress. If we’re going to criticize Paisley for including that please for tolerance in his song, to an audience that may in part judge young black kids this way, then maybe the issue is hopeless. When I see arguments like that, it takes me back to the original post I wrote – about how it seems nearly impossible to discuss any of these issues because no matter you say you will end up in discussion about whether you’ve stopped beating your wife.

    And his song wasn’t about white Christians being under attack. It’s about all southerners living with the legacy of everyone thinking they’re all a bunch of racists. God knows I’ve had that thought before about southerners, so before anyone pretends the problem doesn’t exist, I cop to it right now. And it’s wrong to judge an entire culture like that. That doesn’t mean I think it’s akin to slavery or the Holocaust. But I do think that something is holding back race relations improving in this country – and one of the factors is discussions like this that quickly become non-discussions. If a man trying to write a song to discuss race relations, with a good heart, is pilloried for not doing it exactly right, then who’s going to want to have that discussion in the future? Now, some, like the guy I linked to above, don’t think a conversation is helpful. I happen to think it is. But I think our tendency on the left – and perhaps the right as well, but my expertise is on the left – to immediately go nuclear on any of these topics makes it next to impossible to ever really discuss them, and as a result, people who don’t fully understand us will never fully understand us or our issues. And that, in my view, helps perpetuate the problem, not remedy it.

  • NCMan

    Her explanation of her tweets was that her definition of fag was different that what the rest of the world thinks. Therefore her usage wasn’t offensive. It is the same as Paisley saying the flag doesn’t mean (to him) what it does to the rest of the world, therefore it isn’t racist when you display it.

    BTW, Banks isn’t straight. She says she is bi. But, since fag refers to gay men and not bi women she doesn’t get to claim usage of the word as being part of the community it refers to.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    And of course you should use the traditional means of shaming, smearing the offender’s shoes with a poultice made of blueberries, oats and goose poop and forcing them to wear their undies on the outside.

  • I don’t think I get the connection between Banks and this case. I’ve used the word fag. What I object to is people using the word fag in the way that bigots use it. On reading her tweets, that’s how her usage struck me. (I’m also not a big fan of straight people using the word, period – but that’s a different issue – same thing like white people using the n-word, I’m not sure they can ever get away with it.)

    As for the flag, I think it was a poor metaphor/example to use in the song since it suggests that he was saying the flag is actually okay. I’d be curious to interview him about that point and see if that’s what he was intending to say.

  • I’m not convinced that that was his point. He’d have to be, well, a foreigner, and even then, not to understand that African-Americans see the flag as a symbol of racism. So I’d argue that that was clearly not his point. If anything, I think what he’s trying to do – whether he accomplishes it is another thing – is write a song about what I might compare, in my experience, to what it’s like for German kids today to be German. What I witnessed my German friends face in Paris when we were studying abroad together in 1983. The older French HATED them, publicly ridiculed them, gave them Hitler salutes. These kids were 19. I absolutely get why the French did that, and I absolutely sympathize for my friends because it wasn’t their fault. I think that’s the point of the song – the lingering hate that’s legit, understandable, but also not entirely the fault of the new generation that had nothing to do with it (though there are some who still deserve the hate, like that school that holds whites-only proms). I think the Rebel flag, sadly, was a red herring – a poorly chosen object for the song, that sent the conversation immediately off the deep end.

  • gavbrown01

    You cannot separate the Confederate flag from racism and treason. It is the single most recognized image of the Confederacy. It is forever linked to them, and anyone who claims otherwise should at best be laughed at and shamed.

  • NCMan

    If we are not going to let Azaleia Banks claim she has her own non-offensive definition of the word “fag” that shouldn’t bother us, then we shouldn’t let Paisley claim he has his own definition of what the Confederate Flag stands for that isn’t racist.

    And finally, you can’t continue to claim your racism is accidental if you don’t stop displaying the flag once you have been advised of what it actually means. After that, it’s intentional.

  • I rather liked this weigh-in on the issue from the inimitable Rude Pundit. A few of the more savory paragraphs:

    If you haven’t listened to it, you should know, before any interpretations of the thing, that it sucks. It sucks so hard that if it was a whore, it would be the most popular one in the brothel. It’s
    lugubriously slow with shitty instrumentation and faux meaningful lyrics and an embarrassing rap by LL Cool J that is somewhere between bad Schoolhouse Rock and Uncle Tom freestylin’.
    Paisley’s defense of the ignorance of white southerners isn’t the greatest sin of the song. It’s the idea that somehow African American fashion that whites might find offensive is equal to support of racism. It’s this notion that we have to tolerate intolerance. When the fuck did this happen? When did we have to be careful about offending the racists?
    Yesterday, the Rude Pundit was on The Stephanie Miller Show, discussing a piece he wrote where he says, flat out, if you oppose same sex marriage, you’re a bigot. It doesn’t matter where you got that belief, be it church or political organization or your parents. You are intolerant and a bigot. A caller was outraged, outraged, damnit, that we would dare say that he is a bigot because he follows his church’s teachings on gay marriage. The Rude Pundit wouldn’t back down, telling the caller that his church was bigoted against gays and lesbians. “You’re persecuting me,” he said. “You’re persecuting me for my beliefs.” No, the Rude Pundit said, he wasn’t being persecuted. He’s allowed to belong to any hate group he wants. But the rest of us are allowed to say it’s a group of bigoted fucks.

    This notion that Christians or whites or straights are persecuted or under attack is utter bullshit. Is anyone taking away any rights from you? No? So you’re equating “persecution” with someone saying “you’re wrong.” The thing is that white, straight, Christian (mostly) men are shit-scared of their power dwindling so they have to make themselves into victims. They have to shut down progress because they see it as just an attack on them.

    The whole post is here:

  • I don’t hate Brad Paisley, and I don’t think any of my remarks could be construed as accusing him of actual racism. I just thought, and still did, that he must surely be wearing massive blinders if he’s unaware how African Americans (and others) perceive the Confederate flag as a symbol of racism, segregation, and slavery — and with good reason.

  • gavbrown01

    My comparison is apt. Two regimes economically based on subjugation, torture and murder.

  • gavbrown01

    Actually, there is one difference: the Confederate flag signifies treason, the Nazi flag does not

  • SkippyFlipjack

    I think it’s a little more complicated than that, but thanks for jumping to Nazis in only the 3rd comment. Saves some time by getting right to the end of the conversation.

  • gavbrown01

    If someone were to wear the Nazi flag, there would be no question about this. I don’t see the Confederate flag as being any different.

  • slideguy

    FWIW, I’ve been listening to Paisley for years, and there’s not a racist bone in his body. Listen to “Welcome To The Future”. “Accidental Racist” isn’t a great song, but I think he took an honest shot at saying that our racist past is far more complex that people want to believe, and he’s getting shot at by the narrow-minded from both sides.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    I like the email by the guy from Georgia. What does it say about Paisley’s “demographic” that the Dixie Chicks get blacklisted for criticizing President Bush’s policies while Paisley is “putting his career on the line” by writing — get this! — that it’s good news that we have a black president.

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