Thank You, Brad and LL

11 04 2013

I consider where I live, college-town, Missouri, to be the pseudo-south.

I wrote the opening line of this post then realized I really do NOT know enough about Missouri’s slave and civil war history.  So I stopped writing and got down to reading.  I decided to actually read more than just other people’s opinion about the song “Accidental Racist” (a newly released collaboration of LL Cool J and Brad Paisley – lyrics available here).  I decided to read history.  Now, I am not going to claim it was in-depth research – it was Wikipedia.  But I am going to claim that I now know more than I did a few minutes ago.

I went and examined a little bit of history to see if it could shed some light on my current day perception of race relations in Missouri.

And, it did.

And for that I am grateful to Mr. Paisley and Mr. Cool J.

I am a white mother of a black son who thinks about race all fricken’ day long.  But I have never taken even 10 minutes to read the racial history of the state I am raising my trans-racial family in (hangs head in embarrassment).

I read modern-day writings on race.  I read modern-day rants on race.  And I feel all over the place.

I feel lucky we live in a community where we see other trans-racial families every day.

I feel grateful my son will go to an elementary school that has a significant African-american population and is also considered a great place for education.

I feel dumb-struck when I am jogging and see that one of my neighbors has a rebel flag hung in his garage.

I feel fightened when it is 5 am and my family stops at the single gas station open for miles only to find ourselves parked next to a pick-up truck that’s roof liner has been replaced with a rebel flag.

I feel angry when I notice a tattoo of the rebel flag peaking out of the extended arm hole on a young man’s t-shirt at the gym.  (I also feel grateful that tattoos hurt – I hope that one hurt a lot.)

The rebel flag, yeah, that is something that provokes strong feelings in me.  And it is the jump off point for “Accidental Racist”.

I always believed I knew what the rebel flag stood for, and it does not jibe with Brad Paisley’s claim of southern pride.  I guess that is okay.  Maybe the meaning of a symbol is actually subjective enough to be considered an opinion not a fact.  To some degree I think that is what Paisley and Cool J are proclaiming in their song.  And, everybody is entitled to an opinion.  But opinions are best when backed by education and experience.  (To read a variety of educated opinions about the song, go here.)

I am sure everybody who has heard the song has an opinion – most not as educated as they think.  I am sure there are even more people like me.  People who haven’t actually even heard the song (country/rap cross-over duet – I think I’ll pass) but who researched the lyrics and then formed opinions.  Maybe they even read an opinion piece about the song – probably written by somebody who looks like them – or is in the same place on the political spectrum as them.  My hope is that each of those people, (those with deep interest in race relations – and those who normally never think twice about it) –  will spend a some time educating – or re-educating – themselves in an effort to back their opinion.

Maybe we will all learn a little something.  Even if all the things we learn are random and not directly related to each other, even if we never come to a consensus, we will have advanced our understanding of race in this country, as individuals and as a whole.

Maybe that wasn’t Brad and LL’s plan.  But maybe it was.

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4 responses

12 04 2013
barb_aloot

I think the South needs a new symbol. I really try to get my head around that flag meaning something different to some people than it does to me, and for better or worse, I fail. And it upsets me so much when I see it used by people outside the US who have little to no idea (I hope) of its history. (And I do see it more than I ever expected in this part of Europe. And I cringe. And now, with my son… when someone thinks it just a symbol of the USA… UGH.)

12 04 2013
Eleanor

Okay, so I’m super behind the times (a country/rap collaboration?? what??), but I’m going to look up that song right now. I remember being very disturbed by the rebel flag when I lived in SW Missouri, but it seems to both me more now when we drive that direction with our sons in tow.

16 04 2013
Lauren

Ugh, the rebel flag as a symbol of the south/country/redneck pride, totally divorced from (or casually accepting?) its historical significance. Makes me nuts. And pointing these things out just makes me a pushy white northerner (or, in the Canadian context, easterner).

Totally unrelated, but the last image on this post made me think of you:
http://www.passiveaggressivenotes.com/2010/04/23/passive-aggressive-poetry-corner/

19 04 2013
Casa Bicicleta

Don’t know if you saw it but Stephen Colbert did thing on this song just this week. I thought of you.

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