I don’t understand the fear and loathing over the song “Accidental Racist”. I don’t get the belligerence, and the rhetoric out here on the Internet. I’ve known accidental racists, you have too, some of you are accidental racists and you continue to entertain yourself through Black culture but then turn around and say something derogatory about Blacks or Latinos. If you don’t say anything derogatory your actions speak volumes about the true intent of your heart; everyone is struggling to come to terms with racism, Black and White, so everyone is bound to do something that will get under your skin.
This isn’t a conversation that America likes to have. This is supposed to be a “post-racial America”; why, because we finally have a Black president? Oh excuse me, a bi-racial president.
From what I can gather by reading the lyrics to the song the White man is politically incorrect and fails to understand why his Southern pride in all that stood for everything meant to oppress people should still be an issue when it is just Southern culture, and Blacks should just get over it. Those apologists that want to hide their Southern pride are the issue, not his sentiment for the Confederacy, or Lynyrd Skynyrd, which is it? The Black man is explaining why he is taking issue to this display of pride and while he is not against Whites getting paid he doesn’t want them to do it on the backs of African-Americans. We didn’t have much of a choice in the matter during slavery, but we are now free to express our dissatisfaction with the way you choose to express yourself.
These are thought provoking lyrics, the song is controversial, in part, because it is coming from a Country artist, and Country music is supposed to stand for everything that is All American, politically correct, and while some artists sing the blues about relationships and others talk about rural pride this isn’t a topic that this genre of music is meant to address. Country music addresses those tough issues every now and again, just like every other genre of popular American music.
The song deals in stereotypes and belligerence because that is how most people actually think. Most people don’t get really deep with their conversation, and even fewer think on a deep, profound level. So Confederate t-shirts, “du rags”, “saggin” pants, gold chains, slavery, and Reconstruction are all there to get your attention. The New South is supposed to have buried all that was embarrassing about the Old South and embraced African-Americans and, in some ways, has positioned itself to be even more progressive than the North, which has shown its true colors over the years. But every now and again that old racism comes out. Even though it wasn’t meant to be, this is just “accidental” racism that we dusted off and took off the shelf. Everyone does it from time to time, so everyone should be able to relate to this song.
Sure I could look deeper into this song and argue about whether an appreciation for Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Confederacy are one and the same. I don’t think they are, because I like Lynyrd Skynyrd, but I wouldn’t wear a Confederacy shirt because I’m Black. I’ve never been to Harbour Fest here in Virginia because I’ve been told it is a celebration of the slave ships that brought my ancestors here. That could just be hearsay though; but then, what am I really saying when everyone else wants to go to Jamestown and I would rather pass because I don’t want to be reminded about what happened 400 years ago?