“Accidental Racist” Will Be the National Anthem by 2018 or So

Brad Paisley, Sheryl Crow, and Luke Bryan perform onstage during the 48th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on April 7, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

“Accidental Racist,” the Brad Paisley/LL Cool J collaboration on country star Paisley’s new album, is every bit as incredible as a song with that title should be. Paisley’s character is a “white man living in the south land” who wears a Confederate flag T-shirt and has conflicted feelings about how it offends people. I’m pretty hard to offend, so I mostly buy it until Paisley’s character takes a brief detour into revanchism.

It’s this part:

They called it Reconstruction
fixed the buildings dried some tears
we’re still sifting through the rubble
after 150 years

How can the “accidental racist” be ignorant and yet have a sophisticated D.W. Griffith spin on Reconstruction? This line elevates the song from a little slice of kitsch to an oddly poignant statement of white pride—whites deserve some sympathy too, right, given that their secessionist war was answered by 15 years of occupation and forced suffrage of blacks, which was superseded by 80 more years of segregation and Jim Crow laws?