Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Accidental Fame

If you haven't heard the buzz yet about Brad Paisley's new song "Accidental Racist," then you're forgiven, because nobody likes to listen to Brad Paisley. He sucks, and he sucks very hard. This is Braid Paisley:


Paisley is part of a rising generation of nancy-boy country stars that like to sing about being masculine and redneck but who fail at in in real life. Honestly, it wouldn't surprise me to learn that Brad Paisley only drinks bottled water and probably applies several types of moisturizing cream before he goes to bed at night. There's nothing wrong with the latter, of course, except that he makes a living rebelling against this type of pampered lifestyle. That makes him a coward. Plus, his music is really terrible. 

Oh, right. He's a "coward." Well, not really, at least in one sense. Remember when Eric Holder told us we were "a nation of cowards" because we didn't talk about racial issues enough? Well, Brad Paisley is talking about them; he has done a song with LL Cool J that addresses race relations head-on. Consequently, if we're to believe Eric Holder's logic, that would mean that Brad Paisley and LL Cool J are effectively the bravest men in the country right now---a turn of events so improbable that I'm not quite sure how to really deal with it. I feel sick.

Anyways, if you haven't heard their new duet, "Accidental Racist," then you should listen to it. Like any Brad Paisley song, it sucks; it's instrumentally and lyrically uninspiring, and it's done by Brad Paisley. It's the content of the song---the story it tells---that's somewhat noteworthy. In it, Paisley and LL Cool J both sing from the respective perspectives of white southern and black northern man; both of them acknowledge each other's prejudice and their own, and confess that they hope race relations will get better soon. Paisley confesses that "we're walkin' on eggshells" and "fightin' over yesterday," and J wants "to buy you a beer, conversate and clear the air," if possible. "If you don't judge my do-rag," J says, "I won't judge your red flag." That's being a bit kind---the Rebel Flag and a do-rag are not equivalent in the slightest. I judge the Rebel Flag very harshly, and I would encourage everyone to do so. But anyway, the sentiment is there, and it's kind of nice, I guess. 

Regardless of the feelings behind it, the song sucks. It's just lame and slow and boring. But I kind of give the two singers credit for at least trying, however awkwardly and unsuccessfully, to shed some light on race relations in this country, and for trying to start the healing process or whatever. I also thought it was a good idea for Paisley to actually do the song with a black person instead of just singing about black people; it showed he was at least giving it an honest shot. And LL Cool J's heart was in the right place, even if he did a bad song with Brad Paisley. In short, I tip my hat to these two washed-up performers for attempting to do a good thing. 

But a good bit of liberal people seem incensed by the song, and not just because it's aesthetically offensive. The song is relatively new, so lots more liberal people will probably get angry at it in the near future. But there's a few choice instances of liberal outrage that I thought noteworthy. To wit, first we have Alexandra Petri over at The Washington Post:
I just like this because I want to know what ideas they rejected in the course of making this. Was the original song just Brad Paisley singing, “Hitler is great, and I don’t think racism is a very big problem” and LL Cool J rapping, “I concur in this opinion”? If so, this is an improvement, although a slight one.

Was the original song titled “Intentional Racist”? If so, this is, again, an improvement, but only a little.
Huh? Hitler has nothing to do with the American south, or with American racism. It's ridiculously offensive to suggest that Brad Paisley looks up to Hitler. What kind of a comparison is that? Progressives are at their finest when they reach for the reductio ad hitlerum right out of the gate.

From The American Prospect, Jamelle Bouie tweeted:

First of all: wow, that's Bouie's only thought on Accidental Racist. He must not be a very deep thinker. Second, Brad Paisley never even uses the term "Southern heritage" in the song, so the tweet is a non sequitur anyway. Third, within the song, Paisley grapples (however awkwardly) with the South's history of racism and race relations and its treatment of black people. It's not as if he ignores it. So it turns out Bouie's only thought on the song is hopelessly misguided.

Finally, over at Hollywood.com, Aly Semigran positively fumes
In his new, presumably very real song "Accidental Racist," Paisley sings about the horrors of the South. No, not those horrors. I mean, those were, like, a really long time ago and we should probably just let them go. No, it's about the horrors of being a white guy who gets judgmental looks for wearing a shirt with the Confederate flag on it. He just wants to take pride in the South, y'all!

But, don't you see, people of color? Those Confederate flags shouldn't have a negative connotation anymore despite having some very upsetting associations — everyone who has one is just a Lynyrd Skynrd fan! And they shouldn't have to pay for mistakes made by "a bunch of folks made long before we came." Time to forgive and forget.
Semigran sarcastically claims that, because of the song, "all is forgiven and racism will cease to exist." Of course, that wasn't the purpose of the song, and the lyrics even explicitly mention that things aren't really that better and the whole problem is very difficult. And Paisley doesn't even say that "we should probably just let go" of the sins of the past, as Semigran puts it---in fact, Paisley pointedly notes, "We're still pickin' up the pieces" and "paying for [the] mistakes" of our forbears. It's like Semigran didn't even listen to the song.

In reality, the problem that Semigran, and Bouie, and Petri have with "Accidental Racist" is not that it's an awkward and clunky song---which it is, as well as musically a bad one---but that it's primarily sung by a white person. Generally speaking, progressives hate when white people, especially white men, talk about race. It thus becomes clear what people mean when they say we need to have a "conversation" or a "dialogue" about race---namely, that whites really don't have anything meaningful to contribute to the conversation whatsoever and should just shut up. (To be fair, Brad Paisley contributes meaningfully to almost no topic or conversation, but that's another issue.)

So we see what happens when white people talk about race---they're accused of loving Hitler, for instance! Or their words are misrepresented (or completely fabricated), and the points they make are ignored and scorned. In truth, it's fair to say that "Accidental Racist" is a ham-fisted attempt by a fairly clueless person to try and tackle some sensitive racial issues; such criticism is warranted. But the outrage above directed at Paisley isn't constructive in the slightest; it's just a snarling mass of anger that basically says, "Don't even bother."

Whether or not a "conversation" about race is productive or falls flat, you'd think people would at least give Paisley credit for trying to have a conversation, while pointing out the ways he could learn and think more clearly on the topic. But that doesn't happen; Paisley is merely ridiculed. It's nakedly evident that the racially-minded demagogues in this country don't actually want a "conversation;" they just want a pulpit from which to shout everyone else down. 

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