The other day, on my way home from work, I heard about Brad Paisley’s new song “Accidental Tourist,” in collaboration with L.L. Cool J, from his new album, Wheelhouse. As a Texican (Mexican-American raised in Texas), I can’t say I was ever a huge country fan, but curiosity set in and I chose to listen to the song.
Race is a dialog we hate to address. As citizens in the 21st century, we want to believe that we’ve moved beyond cultural divisions between white, black, red and brown. But despite the evolving melting pot that is the Unites States of America, the color of our skin still matters. The country that defines our heritage still matters. The food we eat and the music we listen to still matters as they relate to personal identity.
“Accidental Racist” isn’t a perfect song. The lyrics can be broken down and interpreted however you wish, but the heart of the song should only be measured by the dialog it has created; a dialog that is long overdue. We can’t go back in time and change the past. It is what it is. But we can take a moment to look at the person across from us on the bus, at the store or a colleague, and ask honest questions to better understand a culture different from yours. How often does this happen? My guess, never or rarely.
“Accidental Racist” makes a bold attempt to address the conversation that’s been ignored, shoved aside and flat-out walked away from for decades. Sometimes, the things we wear and the symbols we hold on to can be misinterpreted because of what they once stood for.
The confederate flag once stood for the fight to keep slavery and oppression. So how should a black man interpret a southerner who wears it today? Does it make every person from the south that wears a confederate flag a racist? The hard truth is that it depends on the man or woman, and this is the point “Accidental Racist” addresses.
As music critics and fans, we can mock and debate whether rap and country are a good combination. In many ways, it is on odd combination. And yet, it’s this odd combination that we should applaud for the message it sends – two people from different walks of life choosing to come together to explore cultural differences.