|Image from: Band Shirt Archive|
So, as many of you are aware, Brad Paisley released a song a while back in which he attempted to address a concern that still plagues this country--racism. Since the backlash was much more critical than Paisley originally expected, Paisley has somewhat publicly wondered if maybe that was the wrong landmine to try to jump on.
Of course, part of the problem appears to be that he thought he could make some generally nice platitudes along the lines of “can’t we all just get along” and expected people to laud his praises as the bringer of peace between the races. Racism is a huge problem in this country because it’s such a complicated and complex issue. There are a lot of ingrained beliefs and practices that are racist that don’t seem immediately racist on the surface. Racism has gone underground in a lot of ways. I mean, sure, you still have southern politicians using phrases like “n-----r rigging,” but you’re not as likely to notice that people of color are largely unrepresented as actors and are not being featured on book covers--even when the story is about people of color!
There is also another problem with Paisley’s song, though. It’s his petulant whining is just that. He doesn't offer any solutions to the problem, and doesn't even actually correctly address the problem. His wording betrays a lot about what he thinks about the issue.
Let me give you an example.
The song starts with Paisley talking to a barista about his Lynyrd Skynard shirt, which apparently features a Confederate flag on it. He claims that he’s not racist, he’s just a fan of the band. And then he begins to expound on the situation, saying:
“The red flag on my chest somehow is like the elephant in the corner of the south
And I just walked him right in the room” [emphasis mine]
“Just a proud rebel son with an ‘ol can of worms”
There are two issues that this line brings up. We’re gonna talk about both. First is Paisley describing himself as a rebel son. According to Wikipedia, Paisley is from Glen Dale, West Virginia. West Virginia exists as a separate entity from Virginia because WV seceded...from the Confederacy. They refused to secede from the Union. Which makes Paisley’s claim that he’s a rebel son flawed from the very start.
But then there’s also a much larger issue: the idea that the Confederates were “rebels,” and even if they were, that one should be proud of them.
I’m from Arkansas, dude--a state that actually seceded from the Union. So let’s talk about the Confederacy.
“They called it Reconstruction, fixed the buildings, dried some tears
We’re still siftin’ through the rubble after a hundred-fifty years”
Boo fuckin’ hoo, Mr. Paisley. Boo fuckin’ hoo. I know people suffered in the south after the Civil War. It sucked. You know who could have helped a lot with that? Abraham Lincoln, who had expressed the strong desire to allow the Confederacy to rejoin, and he wanted to help the south readjust. He wanted to help them develop new ways to sustain their economy--because that’s what the federal government does for its people. Instead, a pissy little southern man decided that Lincoln deserved to be punished for his crimes of preserving our country. Seriously. We fucked ourselves over.
And that is the biggest problem with this song. Paisley claims that he wants to start a dialog and maybe heal some wounds, but he doesn't actually seem interested in hearing what it’s like to be a black man in America today. He doesn't actually want to talk about possible ways that we as a society could be fixing these issues. He just wants to whine about how he can’t wear a shirt that he wants.
And finally, Adam Todd Brown also brought up this little gem of a line.
“And caught between Southern pride and Southern blame
Come ON, Brad Paisley! Who in the hell doesn't use the word "shame" there instead?”Yeah, why wouldn't he use the word shame there? It almost seems like he doesn't feel shame. Maybe he feels like he’s getting blamed for something that has nothing to do with him, like when your sibling breaks a lamp and then blames you for it. And if he were wanting to separate himself from that whole Confederacy thing, then I could understand this sentiment. But because he also pairs Southern blame with Southern pride, he’s implying that he does want to be associated with the south. He's implying that dressing in the military regalia, using the same terminology of the era, glorifying the soldiers, the culture--right down to the goddamned rebel yell--everything EXCEPT the very foundation that all of that was built on.