Right? Because there's literally no deeper it can go. This is, at its absolute best, a song about clothing confusion between a confederate flag t-shirt and a du-rag. And that's wonderful, in a "aren't they quaint" kind of way.
Racial politics is often an exhausting conversation. So many of us are invested in its direction, so many of us are convinced that we've got it figured out, and that imagined insight is often titilating to debate. The result is that it attracts a lot of novices, and sometimes these novices get so into their own ideas that they make a country-rap song about it.
In the stressful and infuriating world of race relations, there are so few moments of hilarity like this. It's wonderful. It's like a supermodel's daydream of joining the Peace Corps, or a middle schooler paying attention to politics for the first time. We rarely get to laugh like this, together.
"Mason-dixon needs some fixin'." Oh, god, that one!
My biggest issue is that Rolling Stone is classifying the response to the song as a "furor." No one's responding with fury, Stone. We're having a great time. Even you acknowledge that. I'd hate for this moment of glee to be framed as "political correctness" or "oversensitivity" when really, a couple of dudes got to make this awesome dumb song and somehow no one said no stop that and now it's out there in the world. I'd hate it if this was framed as people silencing TRUE FEELINGSSS because we're uptight or whatever.
As ignorant as "Accidental Racist" is, I still firmly believe that any communication is a net positive. Not because this was a valid entry that deserves consideration -- but because it's absolute myopic dumbness is a great opportunity to dispel some myths and educate everyone else about the flaws in this argument.
The big one is LL Cool J, whose hat is like a shark's fin, asserting that if you "forget about my gold chain" he'll "forget about the iron chains." Meaning, if you don't judge him for how he looks, we'll call it even on slavery. Unfortunately -- and Morgan Freeman, you should note this too -- that racism can never be solved by everyone agreeing to start over fresh on the count of 3. That doesn't get rid of disproportionate poverty rates, incarceration, voter suppression, profiling -- whatever. All it does is let LL wear a du-rag and let Paisley wear a t-shirt with a flag on it that has historically been used to oppress black people.
That impulse to start a new is a common proposal that can only come from purely priveleged positions. If you're not aware of the uneven ground you're standing on, of course you want to call a do-over. It's like playing basketball with someone whose been cheating his way to a huge lead and then says, "You know what, let's stop throwing elbows at each other and start fresh. It's a new quarter, let's let bygones be bygones." Well yeah, of course you want to start clean now, you're up by 50 points and you started playing before I could get my shoes on. Meanwhile, he's still cheating except he doesn't pay attention to when he's doing it.
So of course LL Cool J can see forgetting slavery and clothing bias as a fair trade. He's a goddamn millionaire. He can afford to ignore the line that starts at slavery and continues into the modern century, through Jim Crow, through redlining, through mandatory minimum sentencing. He's face to face with the psychological effects of racism, the idea that racism is just an idea and if you "fix" the idea, then it will be gone. It's a layman's imagination of racism where it's not systemic, not difficult, and really just requires other people be better people.
The song has been eaten, digested and spit out by others. The responses from LL and Paisley are still fairly fresh, so let's see what the hell those guys were thinking:
"Music is about, and art is about, connecting different people, and building bridges and breaking the rules," [LL Cool J] said. "If it's not compelling, and it's not complex and it's not interesting, then what are we doing it for? So I think that's the right move."
Oh, dude, is that what you thought this was? Complex and interesting? Is that why you keep picking those movies?
"I'm not proud that people's ancestors were beaten and held in bondage," [Brad Paisley] says. "But I am sure as heck proud of the farm I live on and the Confederate soldier buried there. I don't know whether we reached an answer, but it's real interesting to hear LL say, let's let bygones be bygones and the past is the past."
Man, if you thought this was all about people holding a grudge over slavery, you are miles behind the conversation. The only time people get up in arms about slavery is when someone belittles slavery by, say, making a song that forgives it if you don't judge LL Cool J's headwear. When you minimize it. The concerns are about inequality, and the history of slavery is certainly a seed in that, but few people are really at NAACP meetings grumbling did you hear about what the white people did 140 years ago I can't believe that I don't even
"I'll tell you, asking the questions feels good."
And here's the problem. It's why articles on race blow up on the internet -- it feels good for everyone involved because we imagine that there's a taboo and when we talk about it we think we're in new territory. But it's a taboo that everyone breaks, every day, all the time, so it's not really as naughty as we think it is. Still, it lights up the amygdala, and as long as we convince ourself that other people are making us keep our GREAT OPINIONS PENT UP INSIDE then we'll always love gabbing about things we have a casual understanding of.
You can talk about race. You can even make a song about it. But if you don't do your research, if you're not prepared to defend your position with anything more than, "It feels good to ask QUESTIONS man we're really ripping through some lines here," then you will be getting roasted or criticized or just plain clowned. Whether it's in your personal life, because you assumed using racial slurs would be fine in the company of that new co-worker, or because you made a dumb song, if you have been found inadequate, you will get shut down. And that's not a taboo or censorship or people not asking the tough questions. It's people tired of your backwards, old, flimsy ideas.