In honor of Brad Paisley and L.L. Cool J's latest song Accidental Racist, I'd like to take this opportunity to say a few words about racism. You see, some folks think that because they are proud of where they are from, that they are unworldly or uneducated, or that they like a rebellious artist that somehow others should not be offended by the things they do. I can't abide this. So here, I'll say why I think anyone who wants to simultaneously use the icon of a failed oppressive regime and be accepted is missing the point, andhow you, as an ordinary, uneducated, and patriotic person can not be racist.
First, examine the following flags whose nations came and went, but are not fondly remembered:
Now, you may not recognize them all, but know that anyone walking around with these on a t-shirt or blazoned on their car is rebelling against the status quo, whether they know it or not. Why? Because these icons represent organized oppressive and violent ideologies that have had and still have a lasting negative impact on our world today. Sure, the confederate states of america (whose flag was the stars and bars above) is not a regime anyone can remember, at least not directly. The last people who lived during the civil war are now dead. That doesn't mean the image doesn't evoke memories of segregation, lynch mobs, and Jim Crow legislation which plenty of living people still remember. As such, this image is not supposed to be accepted, and wearing it means you aren't looking for acceptance. You are advertising your dissent, your defiance, and therefore when people don't want to talk to you (or even warm to you), that is your fault, not theirs.
The rebellious artist, like Lynyrd Skynyrd, uses images like the confederate flag because they are actively defying the status quo; they know that the image is powerful and don't expect people to easily ignore it. Neither should you, but if your beliefs matter enough to piss other people off, your right to do so is protected. Just know what you are about and stop trying to call your racism accidental. No one has to accept you for not accepting them.
Now, I know some people think that universal acceptance is a quality only educated, liberal, hippy or worldly folks possess. I cannot agree. Here are just a few ways regular folks can become non-racist:
- Serve your country! Our armed forces and government are a diverse group of people. When you join them, you work with people from all over the world and rely on them on a daily basis. If you think for a second that any war hero, elected representative, or justice of the peace has any reservations about working with people of any race or religion, you are mistaken.
- Play online games!Online everyone is free to be who they want to be, so your buddy in the arena or raid leader can be anyone. It turns out gamers are also a diverse group and now they can all connect with one another using the internet. It's a lot of fun to play with folks from places you never knew existed.
- Read a book! Do you like the Three Musketeers? How about The Exorcist? Or maybe Fifty Shades of Grey is more your speed? Well, each of these were created by minority artists. It turns out that most of what you read is influenced by people who might identify as a different race. Their creations are amazing, so why should you care what race they might be?
- Play team sports! Have you noticed that sports these days are diverse? There was a time when they weren't. But now we live in more enlightened times. So play some baseball, basketball, or futbol. I guarantee you'll meet players of all backgrounds worthy of your respect, and who are ready to compete along side you.
- Pursue success! If you are on the fast track to success, having no prejudice is a great advantage. If you have qualms about selling to or working with certain people, you can bet your bottom dollar there is someone to replace you who doesn't. If you want to be successful, there are no judgments, only the art of the deal.
- Be a good person! It is morally great to reserve judgment and have compassion for all people. While you can be self-righteous and still be racist, the virtuous do not judge. Be a better person and hold yourself to a high standard. It won't hurt your soul.
- Have a life! The more you get around and meet other people, the wider your circle of friends, and the more popular you become, the more diverse your acquaintances will be. Celebrities don't perform or act just for one audience. They aspire to big appeal and try to reach everyone. So if you want to be popular, you have no foregone enemies, only potential friends.
This is by no means a comprehensive list, but more or less everything positive you can do in life is hampered by a racist attitude. So even if you are accidentally racist, and I really pity you if you are, you can stop as soon as you want to. The moment you cast off that preconception and start showing people your acceptance, the sooner you'll be happier, more successful, more popular, and have more to do. It's not about privilege or eduction, having pride in your heritage, or giving up the music you like. It's about embracing more of the world, because that's where you are and where, most likely, you'll always be.
-f. f. white