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The entire premise of the song, right from its very title, is garbage. There is no such thing as “accidental” racism. On an individual level, a White person may unintentionally say or do something racist, because they are cloaked in the ignorance of unexamined privilege. But that doesn’t make it accidental. That is the result of an entire culture carefully built around structural racism that privileges Whiteness and viciously defends White people’s ability to coast through life never having to become familiar with any perspectives or lived experiences but their own. That is no goddamn accident.

It is also the result of individual White people choosing to lazily bask in the luxury of their racial privilege, despite the fact there are all kinds of opportunities to question the white supremacist narratives with which we are all socialized. The luxury to know those narratives are bullshit is not one that it shared by people of color, and it is a choice to start the lifelong journey toward understanding (and not trading on) one’s Whit privilege, or to sit in the comfortable easy chair of unexamined privilege. That, too, is no goddamn accident. It is a choice.

It isn’t a fucking accident for a White man to put on a shirt with a Confederate flag. It isn’t a fucking accident for a White man to say he’s “got a lot to learn BUT.” It isn’t a fucking accident for a White man to whine about “walkin’ on eggshells” and “fightin’ over yesterday,” as if racism is a thing of the past and not something active and present in the here and now. It isn’t a fucking accident for a White man to say “we’re still paying for mistakes / that a bunch of folks made long before we came,” as if White Southerners’ lingering discomfort with slave history is the same fucking thing as the structural effects of slavery that inform the lives of Black USians’ to this very day. It isn’t a fucking accident to compare the Confederate flag to a do-rag or saggy drawers. All of this is thoughtfully conceived and deliberate bullshit.

Marginalized people don’t owe privileged people non-judgment and tolerance and indulgence of their gross redefinition of symbols of oppression in exchange for basic decency. The inherent power imbalance between privilege and marginalization makes the entire idea of an “equal exchange” of good will reprehensibly absurd.

If White people want Black people to trust us, then we should make ourselves fucking trustworthy. That means releasing our stranglehold on a lot of symbols and images and words and practices with racist origins, even if we like them a lot—boo fucking hoo!—instead of trying to argue selective context. Especially when there are always plenty of White folks who still value the embedded racism in those things. Brad Paisley, you are literally expecting Black people to be able to read White people’s minds and magically discern whether this one White guy is wearing a Confederate flag just because he has Southern Pride, ahem, or because he hates the fuck outta Black people.

That wildly unreasonable expectation is no accident, either.

Melissa McEwan, “Whoooooooooops I’m A Racist!”, Shakesville 4/9/13
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