Brad Paisley released his new song “Accidental Racist” this week and it caused quite a dust-up. All In w/ Chris Hayes covered it as did Touré on The Cycle in segments on their respective shows. The consensus seems to be that there are really no accidental racists.
My experience says otherwise. You decide.
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A few years ago, a local high school girls soccer team approached me, asking if I would donate my video editing skills for a parody video. Apparently it was a long-standing tradition that the underclassmen caricatured the seniors and showed them the video as part of their Senior Night celebration. As I sat down to edit the raw footage, I noticed that one of the girls had black marker marks on her face.
“What’s that?” I asked the girls. “That is Britney. She’s black.”
* * *
Later that year, at a major university in Ohio where a good friend of mine coaches, a BFA student was completing his senior art project way into the night and the wee hours of the morning. He finished at about 2:00am and went home to sleep.
When he woke up the next morning to put the finishing touches on his project, he found the area cordoned off with police tape and surrounded by local news trucks. His “art” project was a display of suicide, one element being a noose swinging from a low branch.
* * *
In the first instance, this was an opportunity for me to educate a half dozen high schoolers about blackface and minstrel shows. They had no idea such things once existed. In the second, all I could do was shake my head in disbelief as my friend told me about how the student had almost been arrested for committing a hate crime. I just could not believe he had made it through an entire BFA program without understanding the symbolism of a noose hanging from a tree.
Accidental racist or deliberately obtuse about racism? After hearing Brad Paisley’s song — with L.L. Cool J chiming in at the end — I’m not so sure anymore.