Thursday, December 10, 2015

Brad Paisley and LL Cool J – "Accidental Racist" (2013)

I'm proud of where I'm from
But not everything we've done
It ain't like you and me
Can rewrite history

The history of the United States is full of inconvenient truths.

For example, there’s Article 1, Section 35 of the original Oregon Constitution, which was approved by Oregon voters in 1857:

[N]o free negro, or mulatto, not residing in this State at the time of the adoption of this Constitution  shall come, reside, or be within this State, or hold any real estate, or make any contracts, or maintain any suit therein; and the Legislative Assembly shall provide by penal laws, for the removal, by public officers, of all such negroes, and mulattoes, and for their effectual exclusion from the State, and for the punishment of persons who shall bring them into the State, or employ, or harbor them.

You read that correctly – the Oregon Constitution prohibited free blacks from moving into or even passing through that state.  (That provision was not officially repealed until 1926.)

Author Rich Benjamin says that he saw a lot of Confederate flags flying in Oregon when he was there doing research for his 2009 book, Searching for Whitopia: An Improbable Journey to the Heart of White America.  

“There are a lot of refugees from the South who seem attracted to Oregon,” Benjamin said,  “because Oregon has a racial homogeneity and a conservatism and a gun culture that they really appreciate.”  (According to the 2010 census, only 2.0% of Oregon’s population is black.) 

I don’t know if there are fewer Confederate flags flying in Oregon today than there were before white supremacist Dylan Roof walked into a church in Charleston, SC, on June 17 and killed nine African-Americans.  Photos on Roof’s website showed him posing with a handgun and a Confederate battle flag. 

Dylann Roof
Only a few days after those shootings, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley called for the Confederate flag that had flown at the South Carolina State House since 1961 to be removed.  The state legislature quickly acceded to her request.  

The Alabama governor ordered the Confederate flying on his state’s capitol grounds to be taken down, while Florida removed the flag from its state seal.  Other states stopped selling license plates featuring Confederate flags.

Nikki Haley, Governor of South Carolina
None of that means that an individual can’t fly a Confederate flags on private property.  But within a week of the Charleston shootings, Walmart stopped selling items with the Confederate flag on them.  Target, Amazon, Sears, and eBay quickly followed suit.  

The politicians and the retailers seemed to be out in front of the general public on this issue.  A CNN poll taken a couple of weeks after the Charleston shootings found that 57% of Americans saw the Confederate flag more as a symbol of Southern pride while 33% saw it more as a symbol of racism.  Those numbers hadn’t really changed since 2000, when a similar poll was taken.     

It may surprise you to learn that there was really no difference of opinion between Southerners and non-Southerners on this question: 58% of Southerners viewed the flag as a symbol of regional pride, while 31% believed it was a symbol of racism.

Brad Paisley and LL Cool J
Brad Paisley and LL Cool J no doubt had good intentions when they recorded “Accidental Racist,” a 2013 song that asks the musical question, “Why can’t we all just get along?”  But critics found the song’s lyrics to be clueless, and it was harshly lampooned on Saturday Night Live and The Colbert Report.

Here’s “Accidental Racist”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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