Is 'Accidental Racist' the Worst Song Ever

By Barbara Frankel

Is there anything good about “Accidental Racist,” the duet by country singer Brad Paisley and rapper LL Cool J explaining the white Southerner’s need to wear “racist” symbols, like the Confederate flag

The negative outcry from music lovers and the press has been huge. Critics have called it “the worst song ever” and “actually just racist.” And two days after it was released, the song’s video seems to have been taken down from YouTube.

Paisley even went on The Ellen DeGeneres Show to defend the song, which describes the meeting in a coffee shop of a white Southern man wearing a Confederate flag and a Black man from the city. In the song, Paisley sings: “Our generation didn’t start this nation/We’re still picking up the pieces, walking on eggshells, fighting over yesterday caught between Southern pride and Southern blame.” LL Cool J responds: “I’d love to buy you a beer, conversate and clear the air/But I see that red flag and I think you wish I wasn’t here.”

The irony of the song is that, according to both artists, it was an attempt at cultural competence, trying to walk in another’s shoes. But like many efforts in corporate America, if cultural competence and D&I training are done poorly, they defeat the educational purpose and just serve to further perpetuate negative stereotypes.

For example: “The red flag on my chest somehow is like the elephant in the corner of the south/And I just walked him right in the room/Just a proud rebel son with an ol’ can of worms lookin’ like I got a lot to learn.”

Paisley admits here, and later in the song, that he doesn’t know how to behave and is proud of his roots but not the “mistakes” made. Never does he acknowledge the unbearable pain of slavery and how the wearing of its symbol strikes a visceral chord for those whose ancestors suffered and died.

As for LL Cool J, he’s received criticism from some in the Black community for perpetuating stereotypes. He sings: “Just because my pants are saggin’ doesn’t mean I’m up to no good/You should try to get to know me, I really wish you would/Now my chains are gold but I’m still misunderstood.” And adds “RIP Robert E. Lee.”

Effective Cultural Competence

The key to getting well-intended messages of mutual understanding across is first not to alienate your audience. DiversityInc’s monthly Meeting in a Box, for example, features timelines and facts on demographic groups tied to heritage months, such as Blacks, Latinos, Asians, American Indians, women, LGBT people and people with disabilities. All comments, including our popular Things NOT to Say series, are vetted by members of those communities.

And that’s a lesson companies on The DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity increasingly learn: They use their resource groups as focus groups to avoid the kind of multicultural missteps that cause public outcries. Consider this positive use of resource groups by Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation to erase misperceptions of Blacks, Latinos and Asians about participating in clinical trials.

This is a very transparent age, so anything that is offensive or abrasive goes viral immediately.

Dr. Claude Steele, Dean of the Stanford University School of Education, has spoken to DiversityInc numerous times about the danger of “stereotype threat.” People from underrepresented groups are often so afraid of being viewed through the lens of a stereotype that they become paralyzed and don’t excel. The key to creating an inclusive workplace, he says, is to have an environment where stereotypes can be discussed and eliminated.

Latest News

Students Again Rank Abbott’s College Internship Program No. 1 in Healthcare Industry

Originally published on This summer, we were challenged to deliver a virtual summer internship program for our U.S. college interns that would enrich their professional experience while keeping them and our employees safe. Technology became the primary solution to our training, career development, and leadership interactions. Going beyond conference…

Cox Business and Henderson, Nevada Launch Energy Efficient Smart Lighting Project

Originally published on Cox2M IoT Business Line of Cox Communications will Pilot New Lighting Controls The City of Henderson and Cox Communications have successfully deployed the first stage of their smart community collaboration, starting with energy efficient lighting management and controls. Cox2M, the IoT business line of Cox Communications, and the…

Diverse hads unite

More Work Needed For Corporate Diversity Programs; Fourteen Disability Groups Unite to Promote Voting; and More

Corporate diversity efforts still have a long way to go, new report finds. In a report conducted by the research firm Clutch, nearly half of employees surveyed said their company isn’t committed to creating a more diverse workplace and hasn’t successfully improved diversity within the last year. Researchers with Clutch…

San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge

San Francisco Declares War on Racism; People 55 and Older Face Historic Levels of Unemployment; and More.

San Francisco begins a citywide war on racism and discrimination. Known as the birthplace of the “Summer of Love” and the counterculture movement of the 1960s, San Francisco has long stood as a bastion of individuality and inclusion. And now the city is continuing that fight with the launch of…

portrait of Abraham Lincoln

Was Abraham Lincoln a Racist?

Former Vice President Joe Biden’s mention of Abraham Lincoln’s name during the third presidential debate on Thursday, Oct. 22, was one of the most memorable exchanges in the final presidential debate of 2020. It also caused Lincoln to become a trending topic over much of social media in the hours…

BASF receives “CIIF New Materials Award”

Originally published on Novel modification of BASF’s PolyTHF for various applications First successful application for soft spandex fibers with Banglian BASF has received the 2020 “CIIF New Materials Award” focusing on innovation and granted by the China International Industry Fair (CIIF) in September, 2020 at the National Exhibition and…