Slavery Was No Accident ... A Response to Brad Paisley

A Response to Accidental Racist

"Never judge a book by its cover," that’s true, but some of us have been “reading” the book a long time and discernment is a trait of those who have. I’m not a youngster, not of your generation, and I won’t tell you all the stories of racism in my life because I’m tired of not only telling the stories, but that the stories continue in the 21st century. So, we’ll take your song line by line and I hope that you hear this with a strong heart, a heart willing to change and to be an example of the change we need here in America.
You ask the man at the Starbucks down on Main to understand that the Rebel Flag T-shirt that you wear honors Lynard Skynyrd rather than the South that once enslaved men, women, and children who looked like him, assuming that the man at the Starbucks was black. I guess I would ask if the Starbucks was located in the South because that’s important, too. I’m from Texas and don’t dislike your flag, I abhor it and what it has represented. It is not a flag to be shared by all. Instead it represents as you so aptly put “proud rebel sons with an ol’ can of worms.”
And I so agree with you that you have a lot to learn because the lessons you’ve learned came from other proud rebel sons. And it is true that until we start learning from one another, the lessons will never be learned. They aren’t easy lessons and they certainly aren’t easy conversations, but I do honor your willingness to try with this song and your collaboration with L. L. Cool J.
I’m not judging you, rather I truly am trying to understand. I believe your song was not written to people who look like me, but to those who look like you who are tired of the racist moniker they are often saddled with. No, not everyone is racist, or their intentions, racist, but you fail to understand that systemic racism is what is alive and well in this country. Look at what our President, yours and mine, endures on a daily basis. You will never understand what it is like to work twice as hard to be considered half as good.  
Brad, I actually like your music, but then I like country as did my mother, by the way. You state that you’re proud of where you’re from, but “not everything we’ve done.” I can honor that pride and your consternation of the things done by your ancestors. As a Texan, I, too, am proud of my roots, but filled with sorrow of its history. And while you are caught between your Southern pride and the Southern blame, knowing that reconstruction did not fix everything … for you it’s only 150 years. For me, it is 600 years to overcome.
You say that your generation didn’t start this nation, but now you must understand something that maybe wasn’t understood before; that what you do today affects SEVEN generations, not just the next. You are actually the seventh generation, and so maybe it’s up to you to fix this, but not just by saying let bygones be bygones. Yes, you’re paying for the mistakes, but we’re living with the wounds as if they happened just yesterday.
What have you learned? What do you know? And by getting an African American man to stand with you, I applaud you, but because of systemic racism, you can’t begin to understand that it is not enough. You also need to understand that L L doesn’t speak for us all, only for himself. You’ve only just begun. One man or twenty, people of your generation talking together is a start. Yes, you should.  But have you considered talking to an elder of the Black Community? Would you be interested in putting yourself in the uncomfortable position of knowing the real pain inflicted on an enslaved people? There are not enough gold chains to overcome the chains of slavery, or the horror that came with enslavement—from separation of families to horrific lynchings.
I guess Accidental Racist is a good beginning, but slavery was not an accident. It was intentional. It was wrong. And it will not be healed with one song. Again, I concede that it is a good beginning.
Where do you go from here? You tell me.

P. K. McCary is a writer and peacemaker living in Houston, Texas. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter.


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