Jamie Mayes, AOE

Archive for April, 2013|Monthly archive page

There’s Nothing ‘Accidental’ About It

In Uncategorized on April 17, 2013 at 7:16 pm

terroreditedIf the beat drops and the artist is hot, music will make people do a lot of things. The uncompromising truth is that music and its artists influence nearly every level, ethnic group, and socio-economic group of the world. The music industry determines fashion choices, career choices, and these days, even sexuality. Music and its famous artists are the elements which connect people across the world. Music stars seemingly have more influence than political and religious figures. Therefore, when music artist generate lyrics that challenge the general beliefs and positions of a certain group in society, media frenzy ensues to understand the creator of such works. Mostly recently, one of country music’s most admirable stars teamed up with one of rap music’s most influential long-standing artists to release a song that has set off a myriad of opinions about its content. Many people acknowledge a sense of understanding for the alleged positive message attempt, while others question the true motive behind such a song. One general opinion has been that the manner in which the message is conveyed was poor in fashion. Yet, after listening to the song and reviewing the lyrics multiple times, I found a much deeper concept of the song.
As a born, bred, and current resident of the South, this song rang out lyrics to phrases I have heard since I was a child. Country men and women who rock the Confederate flag on their cars, swinging from the front of their porches, and pasted across the centered of their chest proclaim that “it is not prejudice; it’s pride.” I recall being a 4-H’er in Beauregard Parish where there were hardly any other members who looked like me. This was a constant quote issued to me in particular by those who assumed that the image made me uncomfortable. (The assumption was correct for I was a teenager at the time. Yet, I never posed a question or asked for an explanation.) It is understandable that one wishes to be proud of their heritage, as I am an avid celebrator of black culture and achievements; yet, the events, ideals, and statements which are frequently associated with this piece of American pride represent hatred and an unwillingness to acknowledge another race as free men. This flag has even served as the symbol of the KKK for many years. I cannot recollect any instant where an individual of the South made a public statement that they are disappointed with the connection of the Confederate flag to this hate organization. Let us not be contrary to the facts, many people who wear the shirt with the intention of simply paying their homage to their southern family members and pride. However, the popularity of this flag has been largely due to its representation of hatred and racism. Therefore, when an individual is offended or hesitant to befriend one who so publicly flaunts this image, it is not without fair consideration of the flag’s past representation and association with racism. It was only a few months ago that I saw a bumper sticker with a picture of a Confederate flag that said “Fighting terrorism since 1876.” There are several of people from the South who do not run around flaunting this image as a badge of honor yet they have love and respect for their heritage. Therefore, when I heard the lyrics of famed country star Brad Paisley’s new song “Accidental Racist,” I felt that there was no accident at all.
It was not merely the title of this song that appalled me, but also the lyrics. After listening to this song multiple times, I even more disappointed. Lines like “…it ain’t like you and me can rewrite history,” “We’re still pickin’ up the pieces, walkin’ on egg shells, and fightin’ over yesterday” and “And caught between southern pride and southern blame” made me a little furious! It doesn’t stop there. There is one line which states “…they called it Reconstruction, fixed the buildings, dried some tears…” This line made me stop and start the song over! Perhaps I was confused, but it seems that the implication here is that the Reconstruction Era was created for black people in efforts to wipe our tears and give us a place to stay. Brad Paisley, perhaps you should visit the history books. Although President Lincoln signed a piece of paper, America, the South in particular, did everything possible to revolt against this change. These revolts included lynching, murdering, making voting illegal, failing to fulfill promises, sending people from nothing to nothing, and even rejecting laws and keeping people in captivity! In addition, if adequately compensating black people were as simple as wiping tears and fixing buildings then perhaps America would be in a much different state day. It seems that Brad is implying “We set your free; now get over it!” Perhaps Brad needs to be reminded that after the Reconstruction Era also came the Jim Crow Era. After the Jim Crow Era came the Rodney King incident California. After the Rodney King incident came the James Byrd incident in Texas. After the James Byrd incident came the James Anderson incident in Mississippi. (Look it up if you have not heard about it.) It would be easier to get over the past if it was not a part of the present. Paisley goes on to state that we are “still siftin’ through the rubble after 150 years.” Really Brad? Perhaps the documents were signed 150 years ago, but even today African Americans are still fighting for equality and rights. Do you want some more Brad? Well, let’s keep going. The next line states “I try to walk a mile in your shoes and that’s a good place to begin.” This is one of my many issues with America; how dare you pat yourself on the back for “attempting” to walk a mile in the shoes of a person who was beaten, battered, starved, humiliated, oppressed, and denied the rights of any civil human being for 300 years. To pat oneself on the back for what you think is a civil act is arrogant and selfish. The blame for this senseless song does not lie solely upon the shoulders of Brad Paisley. He recruited a very well known rap star to support this ballad of American patriotism.
Ladies Love Cool James? Well, this song caused him to lose a lot of this lady’s love. Aside from the disappointment that he would even participate in a song like this, the lyrics that he belts across wavelengths with confidence made me nearly cry out “Don’t do it to us, LL!” But he did. LL Cool J filled his single verse with so many stereotypical and one-side black race assumptions that I had question that I am. The second line of his verse says “I wish you understood what it’s like when you’re living in the hood.” While I did grown up in the projects and I know a large number of people who live in what is considered to be the hood, I do not currently live in the hood nor do several of the other black people I know. Therefore, I was confused about why LL Cool J immediately associated the hood with black people. Is that the immediate perception that he has of his people? As a matter of a fact, I don’t think that he even lives in the hood. He goes on to say “Just because I’m sagging doesn’t mean I’m up to no good.” I will not deny that there is a large of portion black young men who sag their pants; there are also a large number of white young men who do the same and several black men who do not sag at all. Why LL would connect such a negative stereotype to his race and his own son is beyond comprehension. And nope, LL doesn’t stop there; there are references to gold chains and Sherman’s March. I struggle to understand what Sherman’s March specifically had to do with black people; most of our ancestors played no direct role in it. LL follows with the line “I want you to get paid but a slave I never could.” LL, what disrespect to the people who made it possible for you to be here! The truth is you could be whatever was assigned to you or be killed for disobedience if you were born during the slavery era. And for why would you want the supporters of the flag at this time to get money when the money was made by making your ancestors work 16 to 20 hours per day in a hot field. You wanted them to get paid when your ancestors got nothing, not even the freaking forty acres and a mule. (Yes, I brought it up!) Cool James follows up by saying that white cowboy hats make him uncomfortable; I’m sorry LL, I am from the deep South and a white cowboy hat has never made me uncomfortable- only a white hood. It makes me cringe to hear LL pay homage to Abraham Lincoln for signing the paperwork but failing to acknowledge the black men and women who had to put in the physical work to actually see these changes come to pass. I question whether LL actually wrote the lyrics or simply repeated them.
Perhaps Brad Paisley was attempting to mend a broken bridge between whites and blacks in society. Maybe LL Cool J wanted to be a part of a unity song to change the hearts of so many. However, this was an epic fail. If one aims to use such hard core information to write a song, it must be factually and civilly supported. It must be sensitive to both sides of the situation and embrace the ugly truth where it exists. The fact is that this song makes several blanket and general statements about a topic that is covered up by many but far from general. Perhaps, race relations could be better if the Confederate flag had not been used by the KKK as a symbol of hatred and racism for many years. If we lived in a society where generalizations and stereotypes were not so common maybe assumptions about one race or another would not happen as often. Perhaps, if America would not still have prevalent issues of racism throughout society of every level (social or corporate) much of the anxiety felt by black people could be removed. If the stories of the slavery and black contributions to the development of this country would be told just as often and clearly as the story of white contributors is told then maybe the eye of the black man would not be filled with much discretion. The biggest issue is that these injustices still persist in American society. Mr. Brad Paisley, how do you and your country counterparts feel about our black president? *Pause* Do not give the fake statements that those hiding behind masks use; speak the truth. In a perfect world, racism and stereotyping would not exist; America’s dirty past filled with slavery, hate crimes, and stereotypes is not much different from its present state. Race issues have not dissolved they have only morphed.
Ultimately, there is a way that every individual can actively be what this song aims to project (according to Paisley and LL). Individuals must be the person they want to see in others, exhibiting positive character regardless of the action or reaction of others. The goal of those who have gone before was to see equality for all mankind in this country. People must treat others well regardless of their personal opinions. Acts of kindness, humility, and love must be portrayed because it is a part of one’s character, not because it is proper religious or public practices. This is the only way that our country can become one. While society cannot dwell on the past, there is no way to make a better future without freeing oneself from the negative attachments to things that hurt or harmed others. In addition, one can respect the work our ancestors invested to build a better future for forth comers while harnessing aggression and anger. Ultimately, the goal of figures like Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. DuBois, and Dr. King was to live in an equal and fair society.
Therefore, I apologize to Mr. Paisley; I cannot take his lyrics in the manner that he alleges they were presented. Having previously been a fan of his music, I now will turn a deaf ear to his works. If the wish is for me and my people to let go of things of the past, then others must let go of racism and ignorance. For the Confederate flag may be only a symbol of pride to him, but it is wishful thinking for many others and a constant reminder of pain for me. Racism is not accidental; it is inexcusable, unreasonable, and disgraceful.

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