The issue of race is something the world faces in almost every element of life. In todays society there are issues of racism in politics, crime and media. One form of media that can be looked into specifically is music. Kembrew addresses this in lecture by stating, “Music and culture flow across racial, socioeconomic, and geographic boundaries” (McLeod Week One). Recently a particular Brad Paisley song featuring LL Cool J has sparked some controversy for acknowledging racism in a country song. The song is titled “Accidental Racist” and is featured on Brad Paisley’s new album Wheelhouse. The song brings up racism in a genre that tends to avoid controversy and typical does not discuss race. The way this song is being viewed brings up many interesting cultural questions about todays country music and the history of the genre.
The song “Accidental Racist” uses many cultural symbols that tend to create controversy in todays society. For example one of the main symbols mentioned in the song is the confederate flag. The context of the symbol in the song, is that the white man walking into Starbucks does not want people to miss understand his shirt which features the flag. He would like people to know that the flag is only featured due to its connection with Skynyrd and him being a fan (McKay 2). The reason a confederate flag can be related to a Skynyrd shirt, dips into the genres audience and the history of country music.
Country music is typically associated with or discusses the conservative south. This is because country music of today and yesterday discusses rural southern living in its lyrics. Audiences also associate country music with the south because they believe all country artists are from the south. The cause of this logic stems from country artists’ accents. Geoff Mann writes “Country’s whiteness is a product of its accented link to the US south, which according to this reasoning is presumably a “white” region”(75). An important element to the authenticity of a country artist today is their southern accent or twang featured in their work. Geoff Mann explains, “The fact that non-southerners adopt it speaks not only to its commercial necessity, but also to its broader cultural-political significance to most country music audiences, inside and outside the south”(80). The artists also play a key role in determining the authenticity of the genre. For country the authenticity is seen as sounding white, or in more specific examples the rural south, the working class, faith and freedom. Because country relates to a southern conservative background, controversy is typically avoided. So when a song like “Accidental racist” appears in the country world, people are appalled and begin to talk.
The main point of discussion concerning this piece are the lyrics, and if they should be seen as offensive or not. A few lyrics under discussion are “If you forget my gold chains, ill forger the iron chains”(McKay 1) and “Caught between southern pride and...