After decades of tense, occasionally violent unease, relations between black and white Americans reached what could be called a lasting accord today, after everyone became united in peaceful agreement that Brad Paisley and LL Cool J probably shouldn’t have recorded “Accidental Racist.” The duet—a sad reminder of the pervasive intolerance that still to this day inspires terrible works of art—joins the likes of “Ebony And Ivory” and “It Ain’t Easy Being White” in a long lineage of songs that have fostered a new, post-racial society, founded to ensure gestures such as these are never necessary again. “We’re good. We can just stop talking about this now,” black and white people were quoted as saying in harmony—the actual kind, and not the version of harmony that is LL Cool J rapping over a Brad Paisley song.
Besides the desire to bring an end to years of unrest in the quickest and least taxing way possible, the duo’s country/hip-hop crossover was reportedly inspired by the minor controversy stirred after Paisley was spotted wearing a Confederate flag-emblazoned T-shirt for the band Alabama, which led to Paisley being branded a “racist” on Twitter. Paisley’s reimagining of that confrontation—here it’s a Lynyrd Skynyrd shirt that upsets a guy at Starbucks—sparks a long-overdue dialogue on where “Southern pride” meets “Southern blame,” and how a white Southern man can be “proud of where I’m from but not everything we’ve done,” but also be made to feel shame by so many baristas. “It ain’t like you and me can re-write history,” Paisley laments to this coffee shop patriarchy. “Our generation didn’t start this nation / And we’re still paying for mistakes / That a bunch of folks made long before we came.”
Indeed it is unfair that, in the year 2013, a man can still be judged by the color of the flag on his Lynyrd Skynyrd T-shirt, when the Civil War was a long time ago. But then LL Cool J arrives to present the opposing argument: that maybe the still-potent reminder of slavery is slightly more painful than a white man’s guilt. However, in the interest of equality, LL Cool J lets Paisley know that it’s cool; he also occasionally wears things that have racial connotations, which can lead to decades of entrenched misunderstandings that require crossover country/hip-hop songs to untangle. “Just because my pants are saggin’ doesn’t mean I’m up to no good,” LL Cool J rap-explains, before one-upping his promise not to commit one of those baggy-pants crimes by offering to let slavery and the centuries of oppression just kind of slide. That is if, in the trade-off, he gets to wear the stuff he likes without being further enslaved by the ol' side-eye. “If you don’t judge my do-rag, I won’t judge your red flag... If you don’t judge my gold chains, I’ll forget the iron chains,” he rhymes, sort of.
And so LL Cool J and Brad Paisley skip, hand-in-hand down their road paved with good intentions and adequate production values, until they arrive at the “new South,” where “bygones are bygones” and “all that’s left is southern pride.” So much so that LL Cool J is even compelled to give the shout-out, “R.I.P. Robert E. Lee,” tipping his do-rag that it's totally cool for him to wear now to the late general, who tripped on a tree root and accidentally ended up leading the Confederacy in a brutal war to protect the South’s rights to keep black people as property. (As Lee was often heard to say on the battlefield, “Whoopsy daisy!”) And thus, Brad Paisley and LL Cool J brought an end to racism, which will only now be revived ironically, during those six interminable minutes whenever someone chooses “Accidental Racist” at karaoke night.
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