Brad Paisley, LL Cool J, And Fans Defend ‘Accidental Racist’ (VIDEOS)

An unlikely duet: Country singer Brad Paisley and rapper LL Cool J defend "Accidental Racist" in an interview on ABC.

An unlikely duet: Country singer Brad Paisley and rapper LL Cool J defend “Accidental Racist” in an interview on ABC.

 “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
—  William Faulkner

As some southerners in a handful of southern states celebrate Confederate History Month, a white southern country singer and a black northern rap artist tried to reach across the racial divide by singing what they hoped would be a thought-provoking ballad about racism. Instead, Brad Paisley and LL Cool J’s duet hit myriad sour notes, as listeners, music critics, and the chattering classes slammed its mawkish lyrics, perceived insincerity, mention of the confederate flag, and general icky-ness.

Within hours of “Accidental Racist’s” release, the sh*t storm of scathing commentary struck:

  • Raw Story: “a mixture of mockery and condemnation greeted the online release of the song.”
  • Time: “the track is raising plenty of eyebrows.”
  • Slate: “Brad Paisley and LL Cool J have good intentions. That’s not good enough.”
  • Salon (via @Salon on Twitter): “Accidental Racist”: Strong contender for the worst song of all time.
  • TMZ (via @TMZ on Twitter): Brad Paisley’s song “Accidental Racist is so awful … it’s a hate crime.

As I wrote previously in “Three Reasons Why Brad Paisley And LL Cool J’s Song About Racism Offends Almost Everyone,” the sorry tale begins as a Lynyrd Skynyrd fan walks into a Starbucks, wearing a t-shirt with the band’s logo on it, only to discover himself as the object of the barrista’s abject scorn … because Lynyrd Skynyrd’s old logo consists of the band’s name masked over a Confederate flag. Unfortunately, I can’t post a video or sound track for the song as a frame of reference, because some alarmed minion from marketing must have had every single one of them taken down. As Esther Zuckerman from the Atlantic acidly observes, “How Convenient: ‘Accidental Racist’ Just Disappeared From YouTube.”

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But, even as we liberals cringe away from this total fustercluck, we should be aware that there are lots of people out there who feel “Accidental Racist” is a step in the right direction, and who are willing to defend it. And they are not all southern, Confederate flag-waving racists by a long shot. Even Kalefa Sanneh from the liberal-learning New Yorker sympathetically describes the offending musical effort as “an awkward and earnest song.”  In my previous article, perhaps I should have been more gracious and given Paisley and LL Cool J some credit for attempting to address the third-rail issue of racism. I should also thank the mysterious censor who took all of the videos of this vomit-inducing piece of crap off YouTube. Oh wait, I’m sounding hostile again.

My big issue lies with Paisley’s portrayal of some clueless rube sauntering into a Starbucks and not understanding why someone might object to his having a symbol of centuries of terror and enslavement emblazoned upon his t-shirt. I mean, for heaven’s sake, even the sole remaining member of Lynyrd Skynyrd has publicly repudiated the Stars and Bars.


Lynnyrd Skynnyrd logo emblazoned with the Confederate Flag.

Is that a Lynnyrd Skynnyrd logo, or a Confederate flag? Image from the Urban Politico.

As AI reader Earl Flanagan commented on my previous article, if Paisley and other folks from the south really want to celebrate their dubious heritage:

Couldn’t you just celebrate something less patently offensive like Kudzu, BBQ or NASCAR?

Yet, “Accidental Racist” has its defenders. Among them are the folks from NBC’s Today Show. Yesterday, Hoda Kotb explained the controversy, and acknowledged this “latest attempt at understanding has hit a harsh chord with critics.” But her attitude clearly exuded sympathy towards the duo, as she compared their ballad to Paul McCartney’s and Stevie Wonder’s groundbreaking hit single from 1982, “Ebony and Ivory”:

“Now to the controversy surrounding Brad Paisley’s new song. It is a duet with rapper LL Cool J called “Accidental Racist.”  And this morning, both men are standing behind its message … It is a strong message, one we’ve heard before from Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder.”

Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder perform "Ebony and Ivory" at the White House in 2010. Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton.

Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder perform “Ebony and Ivory” at the White House in 2010. Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton.

Kotb also enthusiastically declared that “some fans love it,” and showed a couple of screen shots with the following tweets:

  • michelleinglis (@michellelaurie): Accidental Racist by @BradPaisley. Such a powerful song.
  • Kristen Holzer (@KirstenHolz): Accidental Racist by @BradPaisley feat. @llcoolj is brilliant, covering such an important issue #amazing #wheelhouse

A quick glance at an informal survey posted on the Today Show‘s website bears out Kotb’s claims. It asks viewers, “Do you find the lyrics to ‘Accidental Racist’ offensive?” At the time of this writing 9,999 people had responded to the poll. A scant 9% (862 respondents) agreed that, “Yes! They totally miss the point with those words,” and an overwhelming 91% (9,137 respondents) believe that, “No! They’re sending an important message.” Those of us who support progressive causes and seek to end racism should take note of this, because — unlike Rush Limbaugh’s and Glen Beck’s fans — people who watch the Today Show are fairly middle-of-the-road. Their viewers may sometimes even include some of us.

In the end, Hoda Kotb declared, “I’ll go on record saying I love that song.” Al Roker chimed in that, “It’s got people talking about this, that’s important,” as Matt Lauer and Natalie Morales murmured in agreement.

Here’s the video:

Paisley and LL Cool J have defended themselves with posts on Twitter:

  • (@BradPaisley): ‘Cause I wouldn’t change a thing. This is a record meant to be FAR from easy listening. But fun. Like life. Have a ball, ya’ll. love- brad
  • (@llcoolj): I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear. Martin Luther King Jr.

The duet also explained themselves at length in a more nuanced interview with ABC News. Paisley said he wanted to open a dialog, but it’s hard for any artist to make a point without offending someone:

Because it’s such a sensitive issue that as an artist, you always take the risk of offending someone when you make music current. But I think the important thing is that people are coming together and having that dialogue.

LL Cool J also clarifies that he didn’t mean to reduce the significance of the Confederate flag to that of a mere do-rag, he just meant that today’s kids may not be aware of these associations:

You can’t fit 300 years of history into a three or four minute song. The thing that I think is important is that people have a conversation … [today’s kids] wear the confederate flag like it’s a Memphis Grizzlies Jersey, because they’re too young to even be associated with that [America’s history of racism].

Here’s the video:

 


Elisabeth Parker Elisabeth Parker is a writer, Web designer, mom, political junkie, and dilettante. Come visit her at ElisabethParker.Com, “like” her on facebook, “friend” her on facebook, follow her on Twitter, or check out her Pinterest boards. For more Addicting Info articles by Elisabeth, click here.