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“Accidental Racist”- White Privilege and Systemic Racism

Brad Paisley recently put out a song called “Accident Racist” with LL Cool J and as soon as I heard it, I thought that it would be a pertinent artifact for one of my concluding blog entries.

The song discusses the historial tensions between whites and blacks in the southern USA, and the racial tensions all over the nation. Towards the end of the song, he sings about how “I try to put myself in your shoes- it’s a good place to begin, but ain’t like I can walk a mile in someone else’s skin.” I felt like this had a lot to do with cultural relativism as a major topic in our class. That is, you can try and understand another culture from their perspective as much as you want but you cannot actually take the time to be them and fully understand the historical and systemic and environmental factors that shape the individuals and the culture as a whole.

He also talks about making the choice to be proud of his souther heritage but that is still a personal choice of his to support his own culture that has such a disgraceful past. This supports the ideology of choice- he determines his relations with others through personal choices, but because of these personal choices, he affects his relationships with others (those who are white and don’t agree with what the south did, and African Americans).

LL Cool J raps about how the white doesn’t understand what it is truly like to live in modern America being discriminated at every turn by the system and when southern American’s choose to display southern pride, it affects them in that it reminds them of that negative history.

They discuss the context of these relations- that this generation didn’t start these racial issues and both sides say that they want to not judge and put it all behind them but even in the modern context, history shapes everything.

At the beginning of the song when Brad Paisley sings about the “man at the Starbucks counter who served me today” it makes me think about power dynamics and how this line expresses and ingrained “power over”- that is, white dominance. In saying that he, the white country star, only interacted with the black man in the context of the black man being subservient to him by being in a menial server job, he’s asserting that as a white person, he’s more than definitely in a better place in society, even though there are countless successful and wealthy African Americans in the USA. He chose to use that example of the black man in the menial job to express the power-ower dominance dynamic that white people still have in American society.

This dynamic has a huge impact on African American health. Due to the stress of systemic racism, African Americans have been shown to have lower birthweight babies, higher infant mortality. They also tend to die younger than whites and have higher rates of chronic diseases, even when comparing amongst the upper middle class.

Systemic racism is ingrained in the health care system which creates powerlessness amongst blacks. It has been shown in several studies of hypothetical patients with identical symptom presentation and patient history, the black patient will receive a lower standard of care, even if the doctor does not identify with any racial prejudices. It has become implicit.

I think fo white Americans to have better relations with other ethnicities within their nation, especially those who they have historically marginalized, they must acknowledge the power differential that exists. Many white Americans deny that they have “white privilege” or just fail to truly accept that they do and reflect on that fact. To have humility, reflection is key- in regards to one’s own culture as well as the culture one wants to relate with.