Disclaimer: I am a Brad Paisley fan. His music is the perfect blend of Wal-Mart country, old school country, and more effortlessly soulful than so-called soulful country artists like Vince Gill or even Ronnie Milsap. And he has just the right amount of facial hair that tell dudes he’s not to be fucked with, but not too much to scare off the kids and the ladies. As for LL Cool J, well, I like his pre-millennium work and he has a nice chest.
As for the somewhat controversial track, Brad’s part is very simple and in a way, honest and poignant – which is a trademark of most of Paisley’s songs. He does sound earnest, and I am sure there are white people like him all over the country. However, there are white people and people of other races that do stereotype – and this song makes it sound that race relations are simple and everyone may have a few bad thoughts or fear – but America and the entire world are free of all stereotypes, which cannot be farther from the truth. The whole world operates on stereotypes. It is why men want to fuck Black women, but rather date and marry Asian women, and then trade them in for newer models when the Asian women age. It is why men of other races try to punk Asian men, why Black men are feared, and why Latinos shaved their heads so they can be feared. Race relations, racism, prejudice, our reactions, and our history are more complex than this paragraph I just typed. I praise Brad’s honesty and I think he means well, but shit ain’t really that simple. There is a balance, as not too many people would say what I said above, but in some ways, we should “walk on eggshells,” if it shows respect and understanding — but that’s the point that Paisley, with his good intentions, is missing. No one wants to really understand and empathize, it is too easy to say that we should not walk on eggshells and just let history be history. The balance between open dialogue and respect and understanding is one where nobody really wants to visit.
LL’s part is well, simple and corny (“Gold chains” and “iron chains,” and “can’t re-write history, baby,”) , I mean, what do you expect from an old rapper whose one of biggest hits in the new millennium included the line, “Paradise is very nice.” If Paisley’s part feels honest and poignant, then LL’s part feel a bit contrive and he tried too damn hard to sound genuine. It also sounds like a person of color, who has it good in life, and is just reflecting on some history of racism or distant racism he has experienced. There is no way a person who is still encountering overt or subtle racism in the office or in society would write something like this. It is easy to “let bygones be bygones,” when you are comfortable socially and especially, economically. Would anyone really try to mess with LL Cool J? And he’s been LL Cool J since Ronald Reagan was president.
After LL’s part, the bridge pours on the sentiment a bit too much and it is saccharine overload, then it is like a John Singleton movie — we get the message — can we move on already. “Accidental Racist” is not the best pop music song about white guilt, white confusion, or racism, I still would take Jamiroquai’s “Manifest Destiny,” and it is not the most blunt song about race, see Cree Summer’s “Curious White Boy.” (I’m still waiting in vain for an Asian female artist to do a version of this song from their perspective. I probably have a better chance seeing my Clippers win an NBA title.) It is not the rawest song about race either, hip-hop heads, remember “Illegal Aliens,” by the Convicts.
However, I still give Brad Paisley props for bringing up the topic. Just because we have a Black President, and one-third of the country doesn’t speak much English, does not mean racism is dead. If Brad can make people who hold the keys to power and people who do not normally think of race relations, racism, or stereotypes — think about them – even for six minutes; then he has done his job.