EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


April 15, 2013

A country song and a racial outcry


Ignorance is no excuse for Demetria Irwin, who savaged “Accidental Racist” in a piece on the black news and culture website TheGrio.com.

“I think he had good intentions. I think he genuinely wanted to explore a topic,” Irwin, who is black, said in an interview. However, “I don’t believe he doesn’t know what the Confederate flag symbolizes and what it means. There’s nothing accidental about that.”

“There’s also just a general entitlement that some white people might have, the whole white privilege thing, being totally unaware of black culture in a real sense,” she added.

The song’s black culture was provided by LL Cool J, whose verses were widely panned as shallow. Coates pointed out that while rap is full of artists who are passionate about racial issues, LL is not one of them.

“The only real reason to call up LL is that he is black and thus must have something insightful to say about the Confederate Flag,” wrote Coates, who is black.

“The assumption that there is no real difference among black people is exactly what racism is.”

Choosing LL, he said, is like “assuming that Paisley must know something about barbecue because he’s Southern.”

Being Southern comes with its own set of assumptions and stereotypes, some of them negative ones created by the low points of the region’s history. Southern pride is largely a defensive reaction to such stigmas, said Eric Weisbard, a music critic and American Studies professor at the University of Mississippi.

So while some might see “Accidental Racist” as a ham-handed attempt to start a dialogue, it’s part of a long tradition in which Southern musicians “try to talk about who they are in answer to what others dismissively assume they are,” Weisbard wrote on NPR.org.

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