The country star has just released a duet with rapper/actor LL Cool J, a slow crooning tune that laments how difficult it is to be a white man wearing a confederate flag on his shirt in the south. “To the man that waited on me at the Starbucks down on Main, I hope you understand,” the song begins, “When I put on that t-shirt, the only thing I meant to say is I’m a Skynyrd fan/The red flag on my chest somehow is like the elephant in the corner of the south.”
From there, Paisley offers up half-apologies and mea culpas for the Civil War, slavery and the region’s history of institutional racism, intoning that he should not have to bear the consequences of the South’s brutal past.
“Dear Mr. White Man, I wish you understood,” he raps, “What the world is really like when you’re livin’ in the hood/Just because my pants are saggin’ doesn’t mean I’m up to no good.”
The song has caught flack from around the internet. Gawker called the song “horrible,” and shames Paisley for his complaints about reconstruction, writing, “”Gosh, Brad, I don’t think you’re the one paying for the ‘mistake’ of buying and selling human beings, really.” Meanwhile, The Hairpin calls it “a lyrical disgrace filled with awkward non-apologies and faux-pensiveness over the history of racism in the south.”
Frankly, the line I am most surprised by is the one from LL that says “If you don’t judge my gold chains, I’ll forgive the iron chains.” As if the two types of chains are remotely equal, instead of one being a choice and the other enslavement.
But with that said, I have to say I can’t be too hard on the guys. It is very clear that their intentions were nothing but good. And they took a chance probably knowing the risk. I applaud that. Did they miss the mark with some of what they said? Absolutely. Missed it by a wide mark. But it is so obvious the guys teamed up to try to bring people together.
I applaud them for that. I don’t like all this punishment they are getting from trying to get people to look beyond our covers.
Here is the song: