Many of us who don't listen to country music hadn't heard of Brad Paisley until last week. Now that he's released a song called "Accidental Racist," even us non-country music fans were intrigued enough to listen to find out what lyrics could possibly follow that title.

No matter how many simplistic examples or comparisons you sing about, I'm not convinced there is any such thing as being accidentally racist. Being accidentally racist is really being intentionally ignorant. More than anything, Paisley's song, featuring legendary rapper LL Cool J, shows a surprising level of ignorance about deep and pertinent issues that perpetuate racism in America.

Paisley's lyrics cheapen the complexity and challenges of living in a nation with deep and abiding racial wounds. Addressing the problem of the racialization of America cannot be belittled to a wealthy, famous white Southern cowboy apologizing to a nameless black coffee shop barista for wearing a T-shirt with an iconic slavery-affirming image on it. Nor is it about swapping beats and raps with a horribly stereotyped image of a black man. The two options of viewing black people in this song are either as a nameless menial-job holding person or a gold-chain wearing, hood-living, pant-sagging rapper saying ridiculous things like "If you don't judge my gold chains / I'll forget the iron chains," and "The past is the past (You feel me) / Let bygones be bygones."

Paisley reflects on being a proud Southern boy caught with "the 'ole can of worms" of America's enduring racial complexities ad injustices. From his perspective, Paisley and the rest of modern America are simply caught in something none of us started. "Our generation didn't start this nation / And we're still paying for mistakes / That a bunch of folks made long before we came." This leaves Paisley (and I assume others like him) unsure of what to do about the existing racial tensions, tightly woven into the fabric of American culture like cotton.

In "Accidental Racist," Paisley meant well, but unfortunately, well-intended actions can still end up causing more harm than good. He reveals his unawareness (or chosen ignorance) of existing circumstances and nuances, putting himself up to derision and ridicule across the Internet, so much that it was removed from YouTube (the label cited copyright reasons). Paisley must now rise to the challenge of listening to, learning from, and apologizing where necessary to those who are not "just a white man."

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My concern is that Paisley's song encourages people to wrongly believe that:

· Racism is something people only deal with on an individual basis and in isolated instances.

· Racist actions are never intentional because after all these years surely purposeful racism is over, gone with the iron chains of slavery, so people can not be held responsible for their racist actions.

· Individuals claiming to not be racist can separate themselves from the collective national problem of racism and the structural and systemic injustices perpetuated by inequality. If "a bunch of folks" from a long time ago are to blame for today's ongoing injustices and inequalities then who bears any responsibility to make changes?

Viewpoints like those expressed in Paisley's "Accidental Racist" lets people too easily off the hook and able to say, "We didn't start this problem. We are not racists. Systemic injustice is not our fault."

The other deeply disturbing aspect of this track is LL Cool J's collaboration. I am not sure if his presence is supposed to assure Paisley's fans that black people are okay with his faulty line of logic. Again, someone should remind this "white man comin' to you from the Southland," that one black person cannot speak for all black people. If all it takes to fix racism is to quit judging someone by their appearance, gold chains, and gaudy T-shirts then please, let the reconciliation games begin.

Addressing racism in a meaningful way is difficult and requires actual investment or time and energy. One must also be open to critical self-reflection and when necessary, confession and repentance. But such requirements are problematic, since no one wants to feel uncomfortable with their own actions or perspectives. No one wants to acknowledge that there are more racists ("accidental" or otherwise) in the mirror than anyone may care to imagine. The first steps in "tryin to understand what it's like" begin with being honest with ourselves and with the social and structural realities of the country we live in.

Racism and classism doesn't take place as a series of isolated incidents. It results from a structural system that's been in place for centuries and continues because its existence permits a select few to maintain economic and political power. Unfortunately, those disenfranchised from that system often have the most realistic vision about it. When you have been placed on the margins, for whatever reason, it's easy to see what's going on at the center, what's happening in the space you are barred from, the space allocated as the very hub of existence. Whereas, if you're at the center, you could go your entire life without the faintest idea what happens at the margins. You are already where the decisions are made in your favor.

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But as Paisley puts it:

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

Umm, no. We work for justice and equality today. We are all responsible, including evangelical Christians and other groups with a history of ignoring the reality of race problems in America. The church's initial encounter with black people was to save but still enslave… equal before God alone. White consciences were then alleviated of any other responsibilities to their black brethren. Centuries later, most evangelical Christians don't believe there still exists any race problems today, according to research by sociologists Christian Smith and Michael Emerson, in their 2000 book Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America.

Paisley crones, "I try to put myself in your shoes and that's a good place to begin."

Slow your roll, cowboy. A good place to begin would be to stop singing and try listening to the person whose shoes you're trying to wear. And LL Cool J is not enough. You feel me?