Not What We Meant by Racial Harmony

Brad Paisley and LL Cool J's moronic "Accidental Racist" song is a step in the wrong direction.

LL Cool J (Jason Merrit/Getty Images); Brad Paisley (Steven Lawton/Getty Images)
LL Cool J (Jason Merrit/Getty Images); Brad Paisley (Steven Lawton/Getty Images)

“I don’t know,” answered Paisley.

Analyzing the lyrics, which attempt to explain everything that’s happened in American since Reconstruction with allusions to do-rags and Confederate flags, is a job for a very patient seventh-grade remedial-English teacher. Suffice it to say that lines like LL’s “I’d love to buy you a beer/Conversate and clear the air/But I see that red flag and I think you wish I wasn’t here” are accidentally ridiculous.

The road to racial reconciliation isn’t paved with nursery rhymes. And despite their supposed best efforts, Paisley and LL Cool J are hardly the Simon and Garfunkel of the “Can’t we all just get along” sentiment.

But perhaps “Accidental Racist” has some rudimentary value. The song might prove — aside from the fact that “conversate” is still not a word — that there is a market for less-than-mediocre recognition of what’s right in front of our faces. Instead of wasting studio time trying to figure out what rhymes with “postracial,” Paisley & Co. at least tried to give voice — admittedly a tone-deaf one — to the often hush-hush subject of race.

Yes, “the relationship between the Mason-Dixon needs some fixin,’ ” as LL so profoundly interjects while Paisley intones, “Oh, Dixieland.” But are these the two to do it? No. And does the image of Paisley’s fan base belting out, “I’m just a whiiiiiite man” at his sold-out concerts scare me just a little? Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.

Still, however off-base and unintentionally hilarious “Accidental Racist” is, the song says something about the comfort level of guys with the guts to actually sing it anywhere — save the shower. 

Helena Andrews is a contributing editor at The Root and author of Bitch Is the New Black, a memoir in essays. Follow her on Twitter.