mark corece on some other ish: “accidental racist” is actually racist

April 12, 2013

Earlier this week, the media had a field day with country singer Brad Paisley and hip-hop legend LL Cool J’s twang-induced song Accidental Racist (Over it already, I know I get it). For a second I thought SNL or The Onion (although The Onion has had it’s accidental racist days too) had created a comedic masterpiece. But to my surprise this ish is REAL and they are happy about how “uncomfortable,” said LL, it’s making people—their job is done.

By Mark Corece, AFROPUNK Contributor 

The irony of this song is not how hackneyed the lyrics are; or how formulaic, uninspired–or should I say uninspiring–the entire composition is. It’s how racist the song actually is.  For starters, when one is trying to transcend any form of social oppression, don’t use stereotypes and problematic symbolism to attempt to normalize the larger problems of systemic oppression.

People should know the “red flag” has a very specific historical meaning. It reeks of a segregated country that was purposefully racist and struggled to break free of inequities and of the capitalistic nature of slavery which had a lot to do with ones locale and, oh yea, the confederate flag. The red background with the starry, blue X married with the white-caped bandits of our familiar past, cannot be integrated into society as southern pride and reimagined folklore—it all sounds a little too much like white supremacy which needs no nurturing.

Instead of visiting the conglomerate “Starbucks” (not removing myself from this here) to engage in a cultural exchange, maybe, perhaps, the song could have taken a critical stance at the Prison Industrial Complex that continues to feed and the very privilege Accidental Racist tries to evade. Oh and by way LL Cool J, do you know who H.K. Edgerton is? Well, on the remix of the track I think he’d be happy to position do-rags as the ultimate symbol of black maleness too. Back in ’07 Edgerton received flack for marching in honor of the confederacy. Is this accidental internalized racism? When can we call it sheer ignorance?

The argument about shaking off the wrongdoings of bigoted granddads—who are probably still alive by the way—and the ugly parts of history is a great idea. Except, while Black folks without boots are continuously looking for the straps to pull and are still paying for that time in history in a way that doesn’t involve guilt around receiving privilege.

I know inner-city crime, failing school systems, violence in music, and troubling media images experienced by people of color are often blamed on them—but wouldn’t it have been more compelling if the song was called: ‘Damn, my people are Racist’ and LL Cool’s rap would have examined the adverse effects of hegemony and how we as a society internalize the messages that are continuously spewed out just enough to keep the foundation of racism alive and well. Now that would have made us royally uncomfortable.

Some call it Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome, while some see it as a blatant hindrance from true prosperity. If we took the playbooks from financial institutions like banks adding on interest to what’s owed (or even doubling on stocks to dividends) then the number of mules and acres owed to descendants of slavery are exorbitant; and the level of empathy, and compassion, from the world about the Black condition still isn’t present—thank goodness for zeal of the 60s and 70s, or else we’d have no solid framework on how to approach the silent beast we call inequality.

Popular images today show progress Yes this is true, lynchings have ceased and laws are in place to at least flinch at what used to be acceptable forms of discrimination. For example, 20-somethings have totally, and an unavoidably different, relationship with race. In fact, you can go to plenty of 20-somethings-only parties and swear it’s UN propaganda because of its uncanny disregard of what doesn’t occur in everyday interactions: queer people, racial and national variety, multiple gender expressions, and even varying abilities might be popular sites at these gatherings. However, this mostly isn’t the case everywhere and the true worldview still doesn’t reflect this utopian imagery.

The critical response to the song isn’t about discomfort. Nor is anyone saying the sentiment behind the song shouldn’t be attempted. The uproar is about how wrong they got the story and the indignation of both Brad and LL who both seem unwilling to reconsider and really be a part of the conversation in a way that is transformative and really about change, intentional change. But then again that sounds like accidental racism and patriarchy to me.

A few lists have come up about this like Global Grind’s “Accidental Racist” & 10 Songs About Race Relations (list), I’ve come with a popular topics in the media that appear to be accidental, but actually are, oppressive:

Ray-J – I Hit It First

The annoying song’s chorus goes like this: She might move on to rappers and ballplayers, but we all know I hit it first. I hop in the club and boppers show love, and I don’t even put in work
I hit it, I hit it, I hit it, I hit it, I hit it, I hit it first. If this isn’t objectification at it’s best I don’t know what is. I wouldn’t care if he was talking about an imaginary person—he claims this isn’t about Kim K—it’s an inappropriate boast about a woman he had that has been apparently tossed around by various men with superficial status—this is actually sexist and indicative of a person who has the career of “wait isn’t that Brandy’s brother?”

Stop and Frisk

On a recent episode on the weekly WWRL 1600 show I co-host, we discussed the controversial law Stop and Frisk  (listen here) we talked about how the law has good intentions (think the adage about the road to hell). On paper it points in the right direction but truly, the execution is bewildering and flat-out prejudice. It’s policing at its worst and it does nothing for the notoriously poor relationship NYPD has with communities of color.

Tyler Perry Movies

I’ve realized Tyler has kind of become the proverbial punching bag for critics. From Temptation to  I Can Do Bad All By Myself  to For Colored Girls,  Tyler seems to have a real problem with women being truly empowered (and not the damsel in distress) and has an Oscar Micheaux approach to colorisim—the darker you are the eviler you are. I really, really want to like Tyler Perry’s films, but it’s really hard when the plots are reductive and so insular people walk out of the theater every time.

The Gun War Conversation

Guns are bad, but people are worse. My biggest argument is that they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. We need to have a better relationship with gun owners and more accountability as a whole. Despite my personal views on guns (I’d be happy if they all perished) I respect and understand the principle of those who want to keep them.

The LGBT Rights Conversation

I’m not really sure what we need to talk about here; speaking of accidental bigotry well this one has been on the books for a while. If we can respect religious freedom then know embracing same-sex marriage is of the same cloth plain and simple. It’s never ok to impose your views onto anyone. Let’s take a note from NFL wide receiver Danté Stallworth where his support for all people has “triggered a desire to do his part to make the world a better, safer place and that includes for LGBT individuals in sports.”

Mark Corece is a radio personality for WWRL 1600, where he’s a cultural critic on politics and pop culture. He works in visual media and he’s also a contributing author and co-editor of “For Colored Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Still Not Enough.”