“Accidental Racist” Opens a New Discussion on Race in America

402px-Brad_Paisley_at_the_White_HouseHold on to your gold chains and confederate flags because the discussion of race is once again front and center in the media. This time inspired by LL Cool J and Brad Paisley’s new song The Accidental Racist. Honestly, I just wish the whole race discussion would disappear. It pisses me off.

I know this is kind of strange coming from a middle-class white woman. I am the first to admit I am probably not the best person to be talking about race. If we are being honest, I haven’t been the victim of racism but I have seen the impacts on my community as well as friends. From having a pack of neo-Nazi wanna-bes in my high school, to being the only white girl in my circle of friends who can talk about hair wrapping. Taking a stroll down memory lane, ten years ago when I was in my last year of high school I founded a club called SHS United. It was a group for everyone, but mainly encompassed the members of the high school community who were relentlessly bullied, like LGBT youth, and many of the quiet kids. But if we are being honest, I wanted them to have a safe place. A place of their own, while we could give a big middle finger to the neo-Nazi kids who were walking around calling themselves The White Wolves.

But thirty years ago, Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney sang about living in perfect harmony in their song “Ebony and Ivory” which also happen to be nicknames for myself and my best girlfriend Monique. Back then there was little to no backlash over their lyrics or message. They sang:

We all know that people are the same where ever we go
There is good and bad in ev’ryone,
We learn to live, we learn to give
Each other what we need to survive together alive.

“Ebony and Ivory” was embraced far more than “The Accidental Racist” has been. Those lyrics say:

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.

(LL Cool J)
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 think we have all had a moment in time where we may have said, done, or even thought something which would have thrown us into the classification of being racist. The sad reality is, we need these songs because we still look side-eyed at each other when we do or say something others may not understand.

Me? I think the song is great. I think it is a positive thing that two high-profile musicians, in two very different musical genres, are coming together to once again open the debate. No matter what, everyone is going to have an opinion on it, whether it is negative or positive. But opening up the discussion is never a bad idea, in my opinion.

When my children ask about race I just teach them not to acknowledge it. We are all just human and I wish we would focus on that. But my hope, is that in another twenty years the race lines will fade and our children will never have to have this discussion.

For the full song, you can watch it below:

Image via Wikimedia Commons

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