"Accidental Racist"

"Accidental Racist"

Updated Feb 12, 2014 at 11:08PM EST by Brad.

Added Apr 10, 2013 at 02:30PM EDT by amanda b..

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On April 8th, 2013, American country singer-songwriter Brad Paisley released select songs from his upcoming studio album Wheelhouse set to debut on the following day. One of the pre-released tracks was a duet song featuring rapper LL Cool J titled “Accidental Racist,” which attempted to explain why a Southern white man would still wear Confederate flag merchandise despite its stigma associated with slavery.

That same day, the music video for “Accidental Racist” was uploaded to YouTube and subsequently submitted to the /r/Cringe[3] subreddit on the social news site Reddit. However as of April 10th, the original video and most of the duplicate uploads have been removed or blocked in the United States.


An annotated explanation of the lyrics can be found on Rap Genius.[10]

[Verse 1: Brad Paisley]
To the man that waited on me
At the Starbucks down on Main
I hope you understand
When I put on that t-shirt
The only thing I meant to say
Is I’m a Skynyrd fan
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
Just a proud rebel son with an ‘ol can of worms
Lookin’ like I got a lot to learn
But from my point of view

[Chorus: Brad Paisley]
I’m just a white man comin’ to you from the southland
Tryin’ to understand what it’s like not to be
I’m proud of where I’m from but not everything we’ve done
And it ain’t like you and me can re-write history
Our generation didn’t start this nation
We’re still pickin’ up the pieces, walkin’ on eggshells, fightin’ over yesterday
And caught between southern pride and southern blame

[Verse 2: Brad Paisley]
They called it Reconstruction, fixed the buildings, dried some tears
We’re still siftin’ through the rubble after a hundred-fifty years
I try to put myself in your shoes and that’s a good place to begin
But it ain’t like I can walk a mile in someone else’s skin

[Chorus: Brad Paisley]
Cause I’m a white man livin’ in the southland
Just like you I’m more than what you see
I’m proud of where I’m from but not everything we’ve done
And it ain’t like you and me can re-write history
Our generation didn’t start this nation
And we’re still paying for the mistakes
That a bunch of folks made long before we came
And caught somewhere between southern pride and southern blame

[Verse 3: LL Cool J]
Dear Mr. White Man, I wish you understood
What the world is really like when you’re livin’ in the hood
Just because my pants are saggin’ doesn’t mean I’m up to no good
You should try to get to know me, I really wish you would
Now my chains are gold but I’m still misunderstood
I wasn’t there when Sherman’s March turned the south into firewood
I want you to get paid but be a slave I never could
Feel like a new fangled Django, dodgin’ invisible white hoods
So when I see that white cowboy hat, I’m thinkin’ it’s not all good
I guess we’re both guilty of judgin’ the cover not the book
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

[Chorus: Brad Paisley (w/ LL Cool J ad libs)]
I’m just a white man
(If you don’t judge my do-rag)
Comin’ to you from the southland
(I won’t judge your red flag)
Tryin’ to understand what it’s like not to be
I’m proud of where I’m from
(If you don’t judge my gold chains)
But not everything we’ve done
(I’ll forget the iron chains)
It ain’t like you and me can re-write history
(Can’t re-write history baby)

Oh, Dixieland
(The relationship between the Mason-Dixon needs some fixin’)
I hope you understand what this is all about
(Quite frankly I’m a black Yankee but I’ve been thinkin’ about this lately)
I’m a son of the new south
(The past is the past, you feel me)
And I just want to make things right
(Let bygones be bygones)
Where all that’s left is southern pride
(RIP Robert E. Lee but I’ve gotta thank Abraham Lincoln for freeing me, know what I mean)
It’s real, it’s real
It’s truth

Notable Developments

Twitter Reaction

In the hours following the video’s release, Twitter users began speaking out against the song, which amounted to 31,385 mentions[5] of the phrase “Accidental Racist” on that day alone. Later that day, Mashable[6] and the NY Daily News[7]compiled a handful tweets admonishing the songs and the artists for creating it.

Reaction Videos

On YouTube, video bloggers followed suit with reaction videos discussing the covert racism in Paisley’s lyrics as well as LL Cool J’s rap section. As of April 10th, there are more than 2,300 search results for “Paisley Accidental Racist reaction.”[12]

News Media Coverage

The song was quickly picked up by several music and entertainment news sites like ESPN Grantland[4], Gawker[11] and Rolling Stone,[1] with many authors expressing ambivalence towards the meaning of the lyrics or describing it as “questionable.” On April 9th, editorial pieces on The Atlantic[8] and TIME[9] questioned the actual racism behind the song lyrics, citing LL Cool J’s lack of previous political involvement via lyrics. The same day, stories about “Accidental Racist” were shared on NPR[13], the New Yorker[14], Fox News[15] and the Washington Times[16], among others.

Artists’ Response

As early as 10 p.m. (ET) on April 8th, Paisley began responding to criticisms of the song via Twitter, where he shared[17] a link to a Tumblr post[18] containing some positive thoughts about the song. Upon the official release of the album on April 9th, he tweeted a series of messages hoping that the song will “evoke feelings” and “raise questions”[19] for the listeners while stating that he wouldn’t change a thing about it.[20] Also on the 9th, Paisley appeared on Ellen (shown below) and stated that Hollywood and talk radio had already covered race relations and it was time for music to have its say.

When asked about the mixed reception of the song in an interview with Entertainment Weekly,[2] Paisley was quoted as saying that “art has a responsibility to lead the way” when it comes to hard issues and that the song was meant to be an open discussion about a sensitive subject. Meanwhile, LL Cool J told CNN[21] he was proud of the song, calling it a “bold statement” in a field where artists don’t always push sensitive boundaries. He also defended Paisley for being brave enough to talk about slavery[22], as he claims no other artist, country or not, is discussing the subject.

Search Interest

External References

[1]Rolling Stone – Brad Paisley, LL Cool J’s ‘Accidental Racist’ Song Raises Eyebrows

[2]Entertainment Weekly – Brad Paisley talks about his LL Cool J duet ‘Accidental Racist’

[3]Reddit – /r/cringe: Brad Paisley – Accidental Racist (feat. LL Cool J) [Audio]

[4]Grantland – The Road to ‘Accidental Racist’ Is Paved With LL Cool J and Brad Paisley’s Good Intentions

[5]Topsy – Tweet Statistics for “Accidental Racist”

[6]Mashable – Brad Paisley and LL Cool J’s ‘Accidental Racist’ Song Causes Online Backlash

[7]NY Daily News – ‘Accidental Racist’ song by Brad Paisley and LL Cool J sparks outrage, ridicule

[8]The Atlantic – Why ‘Accidental Racist’ Is Actually Just Racist

[9]TIMEIs ‘Accidental Racist’ Accidentally Racist? Brad Paisley and LL Cool J’s Track Makes Waves

[10]Rap Genius – Brad Paisley – Accidental Racist Lyrics

[11]Gawker – ‘Accidental Racist’ Is a Real, Horrible Song by Brad Paisley and LL Cool J

[12]YouTube – Search Results for “paisley accidental racist reaction”

[13]NPRBrad Paisley’s ‘Accidental Racist’ And The History Of White Southern Musical Identity


[15]Fox News – Brad Paisley and LL Cool J’s ‘Accidental Racist’ ignites controversy

[16]The Washington Times – Brad Paisley-LL Cool J song ‘Accidental Racist’ stirs up controversy

[17]Twitter – @BradPaisley – Cool. It’s fun to get ya’ll’s take on this. Bring it.

fn18, Tumblr – mrbobbybones: my thoughts on the controversial song Accidental Racist

[19]Twitter – @BradPaisley: I hope the album rocks you…

[20]Twitter – @BradPaisley: ‘Cause I wouldn’t change a thing.

[21]CNNLL Cool J’s proud of ‘Accidental Racist’

[22]New York Daily News – LL Cool J on ‘Accidental Racist’ controversy: ‘Brad Paisley’s not afraid to express himself’

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