Accidental Racist and the limits to what a musican can do

So I’ve been following the arguments that people have been having over Accidental Racist and I don’t know that I have a ton to add.

Just like LL and Brad don’t have a ton to add to the conversation on race.

I mean really, “don’t judge my gold chains”- ok dude.  “Don’t judge my hat”- uh huh.  This isn’t terribly insightful stuff guys.  Maybe you should just stick to writing songs about girls.

Back in the day when We are the World came out and one of my relatives pointed out that the song made around $20 million dollars, which was nice.  But if all those rich rock stars had just donated a million each it would have saved the rest of us from having to hear that stupid song.

See a need, fill a need.  Or better yet, see no need, fill nothing.

Right around that time Chumbawamba’s first record came out- yes THAT Chumbawamba- Pictures of Starving Children Sell Records.

It’s a concept album dedicated entirely to mocking rich rock star charity projects.  It’s funny, occasionally insightful, but I’m not sure it’s exactly fair either.  Mocking a bunch of rich rock stars for using charity stunts to further their career is entirely fair.  Holding a bunch of rock stars responsible for the West’s sins in the third world is kind of ridiculous.  It would only be a decade before Chumbawamba would find out how much a rock group could do to change the world- not much.

We have reached a point where people in America have to try not to appear racist.  I know some people are like “I like it that it’s out there, now we can tell who the assholes are.”  To each their own, but I’ve heard enough racism in my life, and I don’t need to hear any more.  For this reason, I can stand having some glib denunciations of racism and lame songs extolling the virtues of getting along if it spares me a few of the conversations that I have had with racist people and would love to avoid in the future.

That’s about the extent of what music telling people to not be racist can accomplish- saving me a few moments of feeling like punching people.  It’s not going to result in desegregation, in equal opportunities, equal prison sentences.

I can understand how some people would be irritated with these feel goody songs that don’t solve anything.  My trouble with racism is mostly by proxy- people saying things about members of my family, not knowing (because I look white) that they’re talking about my mother, grandparents, etc.  To my knowledge I’ve never been denied a job or targeted by police for who I am.

I’m sympathetic to the argument that this is as good as it’s going to get from a country star.  Brad may have his heart in the right place, and he might actually be capable of writing something like:

But would his label put it on a record?  Doubt it.  Would it be a hit?  Doubt that too.  Did Stevie Wonder change the world with this song?  Doubt that as well.

So in the end, is a milquetoast denunciation of racism good or bad?  Good on the margins, probably pointless overall.  Does it make it less likely that things will change, because people are now satisfied with their own goodness and won’t do anything?  I doubt there’s a real answer to that question either.  Will it make people feel patronized?  Yep.

What’s my overall verdict?  Fuck, I don’t know.

So much for adding to the conversation.

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