Monday, April 08, 2013

Confederate "Heritage" Month 2013, April 8: Neo-Confederate symbolism marches on

Neo-Confederate symbolism is in the news today, literally, in Country star Brad Paisley releases bizarre "Accidental Racist" song by Daniel D'Addario Salon 04/08/2013

The Confederate flag remains a popular symbol of Southern pride even while stirring controversy among those who see it as a symbol glorifying slavery in the antebellum South. The singer Trace Adkins wore a Confederate flag earpiece at a nationally televised performance in 2012. Adkins wrote at the time: “As a proud American I object to oppression of any kind. To me, the battle flag represents remembrance of my Southern lineage – I am a descendant of Confederate soldiers who followed that flag into battle.” Members of Lynyrd Skynyrd, the band name-checked in "Accidental Racist," used similar language in defending their use of the flag in live shows: "Myself, the past and present members (that are from the South), are all extremely proud of our heritage and being from the South. We know what the Dixie flag represents and its heritage; the Civil War was fought over States rights." Though not associated with the flag, the band Lady Antebellum has come in for criticism for a name that references the slave-holding South pre-Civil War.
Sounds like stock whiny-white-guy stuff to me. I wonder why he bothered, although I guess having LL Cool J sing on it :

I'm just a white man comin’ to you from the southland
Tryin' to understand what it's like not to be
I'm proud of where I'm from but not everything we've done
And it ain't like you and me can re-write history
Our generation didn't start this nation
We’re still pickin' up the pieces, walkin’ on eggshells, fightin’ over yesterday
And caught between southern pride and southern blame

The song implies that Reconstruction was a failure ("They called it Reconstruction, fixed the buildings, dried some tears / We’re still siftin’ through the rubble after a hundred-fifty years"), while LL Cool J’s verse further muddies the water. Maybe people who judge those in "rebel" garb are the real racists: "So when I see that white cowboy hat, I’m thinkin' it's not all good / I guess we're both guilty of judgin' the cover not the book."
Paisley's song sounds like a lame-ass White Pride anthem to me. But then I don't have any romantic nostalgia about segregation.

(Just for the record, Lady Antebellum's name has never bothered me. I haven't encountered any of their songs that struck me as some kind of neo-Confederate nonsense.)

If he wanted to distance himself from the Lost Cause, he could have recorded, "While We Marching Through Georgia." But it's a duet with LL Cool J, so it must be all fine, right? But I'm not sure how up LL Cool J is on Civil War history though, because he gets the line, "I wasn't there when Sherman's march turned the South into firewood." As I mentioned in a post a few days ago, Sherman's famous March To The Sea left so many antebellum plantation houses standing it was kind of tricky for guardians of the Lost Cause to explain. The favorite explanation was that Sherman was having an affair with one of the ladies at the spared plantations. Although so many of them were left standing, that also makes him one of the most prolific lovers in the history of generalship. Our onetime Savior-General David Petraeus ain't got nothing on Sherman!

In that same post on Gen. Sherman, I included a YouTube video of Tennessee Ernie Ford singing "Marching Through Georgia". If Tennessee Ernie could do it...

I remember one my relatives who was into the White Citizens Council talking about how she was disgusted that Tennessee Ernie had a black singer on his TV show. "I don't mind if she sang a song, but he didn't have to pat her hand afterward," was how she put it. Seems to me like Tennessee Ernie could make a much more clear statement than Brad Paisley. "I'm proud of where I'm from but not everything we've done"? What you mean "we", white boy?

And speaking of Tennessee Ernie, here he sings the "Marching Song Of the First Arkansas Negro Regiment":

Or ole Brad might try this one, Let My People Go - Paul Robeson. Paul Robeson as a young man actually learned songs like this directly from former slaves and tried to preserve the style in good folk singer tradition. His recordings of songs like this are some of the closest we have to recordings of what actual slave ballads must have sounded like.

Or this one, Steve Earle - Dixieland (from a concert 09/24/2005):

Or he might try this one, Emmylou Harris : My Name Is Emmett Till:

It really ain't that hard to come up with something better that "Accidental Racism," dude.

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