Back in 1997, President Bill Clinton tried to cement his legacy as America’s “first black president” by initiating a national “conversation about race.” The conversation didn’t last long — or yield much.
More than a decade later in a speech during Black History Month, Attorney General Eric Holder called America “nation of cowards” when it comes to discussing race. And a few weeks ago when a Philadelphia newspaper ran a piece on “Being White in Philly,” Mayor Michael Nutter responded by calling for a formal rebuke of the paper.
This is what happens when political and media elites try to shape public opinion. Maybe it’s time to give a redneck and a rap star a voice in the conversation.
Country boy Brad Paisley, who was born and raised about 40 minutes up the Ohio River from my hometown, and rapper LL Cool J certainly want to be heard. They’re trying to bring enlightenment to the race debate through the lyrics of Paisley’s new song, “Accidental Racist,” which approaches the subject from the perspective of a white Southerner wearing a Confederate flag and black man in a do-rag.
Here’s a snippet from Paisley’s part in the duet:
And here’s LL Cool J’s take on the current state of racial affairs:
The song hadn’t been out long before stirring plenty of heated “conversation” about race. Hollywood is calling it “awkward” and a case of “colossal wrongheadedness.” Billboard offered commentary on “LL Cool J’s 10 Craziest Lyrics” from the song.
But Paisley expected as much and is standing by his decision to record “Accidental Racist.” “I’m not proud that people’s ancestors were beaten and held in bondage,” he told USA Today. “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.”
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