April 9, 2013

Why southern heritage is just code for racism

I have friends who defend the "southern heritage" argument and who talk about the fact that most rebel soldiers didn't own slaves, that the flag was "battle flag," and of course, that the Civil War wasn't really about slavery.

The buzz is now about a duet between Brad Paisley and LL Cool J with the line:  "if you don't judge my do-rag, I won't judge your red flag" and "if you don't judge my gold chains, I'll forget the iron chains."

Sigh.  As Time's James Poniewozik notes, this may be the worst song on race relations since GOB Bluth wrote "It ain't easy being white or brown."

Ta-Nehisi Coates has the best take on why 'Accidental Racist' Is actually just racist.  His main point is that picking LL Cool J to represent all of black America is exactly what racism is, not what it isn't.  But his best point is one that seems so damn obvious, but not one I had noticed before:
Paisley wants to know how he can express his Southern Pride. Here are some ways. He could hold a huge party on Martin Luther King's birthday, to celebrate a Southerner's contribution to the world of democracy. He could rock a T-shirt emblazoned with Faulkner's Light In August, and celebrate the South's immense contribution to American literature. He could preach about the contributions of unknown Southern soldiers like Andrew Jackson Smith. He could tell the world about the original Cassius Clay. He could insist that Tennessee raise a statue to Ida B. Wells.
Every one of these people are Southerners. And every one of them contributed to this great country. But to do that Paisley would have to be more interested in a challenging conversation and less interested in a comforting lecture.
Exactly.  When all your Southern heritage is white you don't really get to claim that it isn't racist.

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