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.



4 responses

12 04 2013

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

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

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:

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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