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Southern Heritage

[ 254 ] April 9, 2013 |

…can, in fact, be celebrated without celebrating treason in defense of slavery:

Paisley wants to know how he can express his Southern Pride. Here are some ways. He could hold a huge party on Martin Luther King’s birthday, to celebrate a Southerner’s contribution to the world of democracy. He could rock a T-shirt emblazoned with Faulkner’s Light In August, and celebrate the South’s immense contribution to American literature. He could preach about the contributions of unknown Southern soldiers like Andrew Jackson Smith. He could tell the world about the original Cassius Clay. He could insist that Tennessee raise a statue to Ida B. Wells.

But this kind of thing is not what people tend to mean when they invoke “Southern Heritage.”


Comments (254)

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  1. Also too, Brad Paisley is from West Virginia, so this is most definitely not about *his* heritage.

    • NickT says:

      Rule One for Angry White Male Victims:

      What’s mine is mine and what isn’t mine should be mine and will be if I scream and scream until everybody else gives up in disgust.

    • Linnaeus says:

      Maybe some Confederates in the attic, there.

    • Manju says:

      You know who ELSE from WV used to talk about southern heritage.

    • LoriK says:

      We lived in West Virginia when I was a kid and I can testify to the fact that Brad is far from alone in not understanding this. It’s disturbing the number of people who seem to have flunked every single year of West Virginia history. I have a lot of affection for the place and the people, but the Stars and Bars fetish there is just *headdesk*.

    • Richard says:

      Except he went to college in Nashville and has lived there and in Los Angeles for a long time.

        • Richard says:

          Responding to the claim that because Paisley’s from West Virginia, the South is not his heritage.

          • McAllen says:

            Is LA really culturally Southern? Not a rhetorical question, I’ve never lived there so I don’t know, but I’ve never thought of it as part of the South.

            • Richard says:

              No, its not. But my point was that because Paisley was born and raised in West Virginia, that doesn’t mean he only has the heritage of a West Virginian. He’s lived as many years out of West Virginia as he has lived in West Virginia.

              • BL1Y says:

                I assumed your point was the West Virginia wasn’t part of the Confederacy.

                • woodrowfan says:

                  like Kentucky, WV joined the Confederacy in late 1865.

                • Richard says:

                  Then I stated my point poorly. I think Paisley is identified more with Tennessee, where he has primarily lived for the last 20 years, than West Virginia (although he has spent part of the time living in Los Angeles since his wife is an actress)

                • Nathanael says:

                  Woodrow, uh, no. Look up the history of West Virginia, which seceded from Virginia specifically so that it would not be part of the Confederacy.

            • djw says:

              Not even a little bit.

            • rea says:

              At the time of the Civil War, LA was a hotbed of pro-Confederate sympathizers.

              • Richard says:

                That’s true but I’m not making the argument that LA, where I was born, raised and still live, has much of a Southern culture.

                • Erik Loomis says:

                  True–although as historians have shown, the Southern migration to southern California did recreate southern culture in what became the LA suburbs. Of course, that has changed a lot since then.

                • Richard says:

                  How much of a Southern migration to Los Angeles took place and when was that supposed to have taken place? My impression is that it wasn’t much. There were a lot of Dust Bowl refugees who moved here during the Depression (my father among them) but I dont think there was that much from the deep South. I grew up part time in the LA suburbs (my mom lived in the Fairfax district but my dad, after their divorce, moved to Canoga Park in the San Fernando Valley) and I never remember hearing a Southern accent, never saw a Confederate flag and dont remember anything that was distinctively Southern.

                  The African-American migration to Los Angeles was disproportionately from Texas and not from the deep South.

                • Dana Houle says:

                  Migrants to Southern CA included a lot of people from the Ozarks and Southern Plains, which were confederate areas, or at least Confederate-sympathizing areas. In broad strokes, people mostly from Ulster, Cornwall and Northern England initially settled Southern Appalachia, the Piedmont and other non-coastal areas in the South. They or their descendants spread west to Northern MS and AL and to TN, eventually out toward the Ozarks and southern Plains, and then–especially from the 20’s through the 50’s–to Southern California.

                  I’ve seen some articles and linguistic maps and such that find connections between how (at this point probably older) natives of Bakersfield some accents and word usages with people from Southern Appalachia west to the Ozarks and Southern Plains.

                • Richard says:

                  No doubt there were many migrants from southern Missouri to SoCal. Thats where my dad and his family came from. But, despite the fact that the grandparents of those people might have been Confederate sympathizers, I dont see that much affinity between that culture and what we generally call Southern culture. My dad’s family certainly didn’t didn’t consider themselves Southern.

                  And, of course, there was significant Okie migration to Bakersfield bu, again, I dont see that as Southern. Also, Bakersfield generally isn’t considered Southern California.

                • Erik Loomis says:

                  I recommend the books of James Gregory on this topic. But basically, there was a lot of southern migration to California.

                  One problem with how we talk about this is using the term “Dust Bowl refugees.” Truth is that not very many of the migrants were really from the Dust Bowl. AAA migrants is probably more accurate–they were mostly sharecroppers from Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Tennessee. So plenty southern.

                • xxy says:

                  Not so much anymore – or maybe it’s a class thing? I could see it maybe in places like Simi Valley, Santa Clarita and Orange County. Definitely Santa Clarita. I see a Confederate flag and NRA stickers and trucks with super-high suspensions and huge tires every now and then there.

                  But as far as I know we are the liberal environmental enemy to people who blather on about “Southern heritage” and I like it that way.

                • sunkist says:

                  Orange County has some klan history but it was a backwater of oil fields and fruit groves until the 50s. The segregationist appeared to have been mainly concerned with Mexican migrant workers. The people who moved there between 1940 and 1960 when the population increased from 130,000 to 700,000 probably had more to do with shaping the political culture than either the Confederates or the dust bowl migrants

                  Plus the coastal cities in south orange county are all like .3% African-American now.

            • burritoboy says:

              Actually, Southern California has interesting historic connections with the South. (Northern California was always explicitly Union territory with a very close relationship to New England). As a whole, yes, now it doesn’t have much Southern identity, but that’s not true historically.

              One good book is Clark Davis’ Company Men: White-Collar Life and Corporate Cultures in Los Angeles.

              • Richard says:

                wWhen you historically, what time period are you talking about? As I say above, I grew up in LA in the 1950s, both in the valley and in the city, and dont remember any Southern influence.

              • Nathanael says:

                Thankfully the Mexican influence reasserted itself. The “Southern” influence in Southern California is perhaps best thought of as anti-Spanish or anti-Mexican.

            • Jon C says:

              Not southern enough for George Allen southern enough in the 1960s.

    • Jason says:

      The dude with the flag in the song is not meant to be Paisley himself. He’s not confused about West Virginian history.

      The song is super-problematic, sure. But criticism of it that doesn’t acknowledge that the “I” in a pop song needn’t be identical with the singer is not that productive.

      • Jason says:

        I’ll add that it’s often hard to evaluate pop songs absent knowledge of the context of its production. Paisley thinks he can get away with putting himself in the character of this guy because he thinks it’s common knowledge that he’s seen as on the liberal and cosmopolitan end of the mainstream country music world, that he’s written songs celebrating the Obama election as a transformative moment and supporting diversity, that he’s written lyrics about the confederate flag being a problematic symbol of pride which rightly offends people, that in so much as addressing racism at all he’s going against strict norms of mainstream country, and so on.

        Obviously he’s wrong that any of this is common knowledge outside of his world. The song is egregiously misconceived on any reckoning, and absent the context it sounds even worse.

      • Jean Louise Finch says:

        Exactly. I am not a huge country fan, but Paisley has some hilarious and clever lyrics (I wanna check you for ticks …). NPR loves him! In the context of his history, I am sad to see he will now be seen purely as a racist because of this one song. I am not defending him or the song, but he has done some good stuff that makes me think that perhaps his meaning or intent is being misunderstood as purely racist.

        • Richard says:

          You are grossly overestimating the power of the Internet. He’s getting some flack there (how many people actually read Coates’ articles) but he’s also appearing on tv shows, talk shows, to considerable acclaim. At most, some people are going to think he misfired on this single but he’s not going to be thought of as a racist. And the controversy will probably help him sell more albums.

          Fact is that he is very talented singer and songwriter and a guitar wiz and is going to have a long and prosperous career.

          • Uncle Ebeneezer says:

            I think Paisley also has a reputation for being one of the more openly liberal performers in the Country scene. And yes he is a true virtuoso on the geetar.

        • Cody says:

          Well, I also don’t think showing the Confederate flag makes me assume someone is racist. Though it certainly doesn’t make me think they’re people I want to know.

          Usually they’re just misguided or ignorant. Especially if they’re from the South, it’s hard to pretend they got any kind of education.

        • Origami Isopod says:

          NPR loves him!

          Nice Polite Republicans.

    • Jesse Milnes says:

      People keep making this point and I think it’s a little overly pat. Sure, as we all know WV broke away from Virginia and rejoined the Union as a separate state, but the newly formed state was hardly unified in this decision, and supplied a lot of soldiers to both sides of the conflict. I don’t think it’s ridiculous for a West Virginian to fly the confederate flag (at least not more ridiculous than it is for anybody to fly it! and it is… nobody should, ever.)

      All that said, the most ridiculous place I ever saw a confederate battle flag was way down in southern… Vermont.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Having spent enough time with Southerners, I think they’re truly trying to express solidarity with rural blue collar (white) Americans, and have no desire to reinstate the CSA or slavery (most of them). There are lots of other ways similar sentiments get expressed: NASCAR paraphernalia, wearing camo when not hunting, “SEC! SEC!” chants, etc. sporting the Confederate battle flag is way to stick a thumb in the eye of snobby Yankees and snobby genteel Southerners (which is why a Faulkner shirt is such a lame gesture). I approve of that much more excisable than, say, the Ron Paul supporter on my block who has a Stars and Bars flag in his front license plate holder (I live in Philadelphia – this coward knows what a battle flag on his car would get him – a curb job; instead he hides behind the more obscure official CSA flag)..

    • Corey says:

      Yes, exactly. It genuinely has nothing to do with (explicit) racism.

      *note: this comment does not contest the centrality of racism to much of southern life.

    • SEK says:

      Having spent enough time with Southerners

      I’m not saying I’m an automatic refutation of anything, but keep in mind that I am a Southerner, though I prefer “LSU! LSU!” to “SEC! SEC!” despite my narcissistic urge to chant the slightest variation of the latter under my breath sometimes.

    • ajay says:

      “SEC! SEC!” chants

      The Securities and Exchange Commission is Southern? Well, lethargic, inept, incestuous and mildly corrupt, I suppose.

    • Mike Furlan says:

      Having spent enough time with Southerners, I think they’re truly trying to express solidarity with rural blue collar (white) Americans, and have no desire to reinstate the CSA or slavery (most of them).

      But the CSA wasn’t about slavery, really. Ask them they will tell you.

      Modern wearers of the Stars and Bars just want their bigotry guilt free. Remember, it is the person who points out the bigotry that is the real bigot.

      Walk into a room with the Battle Flag on and you are saying, “hey, I’m in charge here. You got a problem with that? I didn’t think so.”

  3. SEK says:

    The idea of rocking a Light in August t-shirt strikes me as a little gruesome. I’m not sure what’d be on it, but I’d rather not walk around reminding people of a bloody and botched castration and a lynching.

  4. Anonymous says:

    meant “excusable”. Note that Paisley is from WV, which only exists because they wouldn’t join the CSA. This identity issue is why, say, Alaskans and Pennsylvanians can also sport the CSA without seeing any historical irony.

  5. Vance Maverick says:

    If “pride in Southern heritage” means “getting revenge for real or imagined denigration of the South”, then you’re likely to end up celebrating the things that earned denigration in the first place.

  6. J.W. Hamner says:

    My grandmother on my father’s side was a Lee, and that pride in your rebellious slave-owning forefathers really does get beat into you in a way most Yankees probably don’t understand. If you don’t think about it very deeply it does seem fairly innocent at first… so I do have a smidgen of sympathy for “Southern Pride”… people just don’t want to think that reverence of Robert E. Lee is reverence for a guy who betrayed his country to fight for the right to own black people. But unfortunately that is really what it amounts to.

    • Karen says:

      Exactly. It’s not all that easy to admit that my great-grandparents were, at the absolute best, catastrophically wrong. That my grandparents and parents agreed with their forebears did nothing to make this easier.

    • Lurker says:

      Personally, I think that General Lee’s case is an example of the extremely painful decisions one needs to make in a civil war. There is no completely honourable alternative. And in addition, please remember that at the time, it was not resolved whether the home state or the Union was entitled to the supreme allegiance. And I’m quite sure that Lee had given his oath both to Virginia and to the Union. He was bound to be a traitor and an oath-breaker, no matter what he chose.

      Any US citizen who has TAed in a state school has given an oath of allegiance to that state as part of the employment. (I once almost gave one, by mistake, but fortunately I read the fine print and as a foreigner, I was not required to give it.) That oath matters. Should one’s state secede, carrying arms for the Union would make one an oath-breaker.

      I also happen to know a few fellow scientists who were Soviet citizens when the Soviet Union broke up. They were faced with the choice of returning to their home republics and losing their jobs and scientific careers or continuing their careers as Russian citizens. Some chose honourably, some did not.

      • J. Otto Pohl says:

        This last paragraph makes little sense. What would be dishonorable about either choice? A lot of Soviet republics only exist as nations because the Soviet regime created them in the 1920s out of more amorphous ethniticies with no previously set borders. This was especially true in Central Asia. I fail to see why a Tajik should be required to return home to Dushanbe rather than stay in Moscow as a Rossiian citizen in 1991 or why either choice would be dishonorable. What if he was Tajik from Samarkand in Uzbekistan should he have gone to Uzbekistan to become a marginalized minority?

        • Lurker says:

          The colleagues in questions were from the Baltic states, which had been occupied by the Soviet Union for some 40 years. I agree with you that in Central Asia, the situation is more complicated, but when viewing the citizens of the Baltic countries, forsaking the ethnic identity for career is considered, both in these countries and the neighbouring Nordic countries, immoral.

          • djw says:

            I expect you may well be correct about the attitude in Baltic countries, but you’ve not offered a compelling reason to cross the is/ought divide and join them. To choose to not abandon your career, leave your home/family/friends/life in order to make some sort of abstract expression of solidarity with a national identity is ‘immoral’? No thanks.

            • Lurker says:

              Perhaps this must be understood from the nationalist ideology prevalent there. The first duty of a member of a small nation is not to assimilate into the Russian (or any other, for that matter) populace. (In Finland, this attitude is well documented from the 19th century and a similar attitude is still prevalent in all discussions of Finnish-Americans and Finnish-Swedes.) Instead, one must retain one’s language and culture even among other peoples. Becoming a citizen of another country is, simply put, an act of moral turbidity.

              In this particular case, remaining in Russia after the independence of the Baltic countries meant renouncing one’s ties to homeland. Becoming a Russian citizen is, in a nationalist view, a vile and abominable thing, if the alternative is to become an Estonian, Latvian or Lithuanian citizen. Fatherland is, after all, more important than life, health, work or any material well-being. In such situation, the only morally acceptable choice was to return to the home country to help secure its independence and to build its prosperity, even at personal cost.

              • djw says:

                Becoming a Russian citizen is, in a nationalist view, a vile and abominable thing

                I understand this as a descriptive matter, but that does very little as offering a defense for the judgement. Nationalist sentiment tends toward unreasonable judgement, and this is certainly seems to be no exception. Unless I’m misreading your earlier comment, I took you to be endorsing this judgement, which would require some arguments well beyond a description of the particular contours of Baltic nationalisms.

          • J. Otto Pohl says:

            Since the Baltic States were never legally part of the Soviet Union your initial post was in fact probably should have noted their origin. But, being as in the USSR from 1923 (foundation) to 1940 there were about 150,000 ethnic Latvians and 150,000 ethnic Estonians with Soviet citizenship it is not merely a matter of ethnicity. There is no forsaking of ethnic identity involved here. Citizenship is not the same as ethnicity especially in the Soviet/Post-Soviet context. The Soviet citizens of Estonian and Latvian origin in the USSR during the 1920s and 1930s did not lose their ethnicity. Nor do ethnic Russians in Estonia and Latvia who take the local citizenship cease to be ethnically Russian.

      • Data Tutashkhia says:

        What Otto said, but also: what’s with this ‘honor’ thing anyway? ‘Oath’ is a religious concept, a secular government has no business demanding or administering any oaths. Same goes for ‘treason’: it only makes sense in the case of a divine king. In our age of enlightenment oaths and treasons are meaningless, and ‘honor’ is idiomatic.

        • Jeshua ben Josef says:

          ‘Oath’ is a religious concept, a secular government has no business demanding or administering any oaths.

          Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: but I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne: nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.

          • Lurker says:

            An oath is not made, in the first place, to a divine being. It is an act whereby a person declares that his self-respect is unchangeably tied to the fulfilment of the oath or the pledge. As Atilius Regulus said: “Neither men or gods can free a man of his oath.”

            This is further shown by the fact that certain zealously secular governments, e.g. the former Eastern Bloc, were very big on solemn oaths.

            • Data Tutashkhia says:

              I know. They, communist governments, were trying to replace the traditional deities. Fine, if not religious, let’s call it ‘symbolic’. Not an enlightened way to make a decision, based on an oath you took some years ago. And, here in the west, we don’t have ‘honor’, only aristocrats had that. At most, we can have a reputation.

              • Malaclypse says:

                Fine, if not religious, let’s call it ‘symbolic’.

                Yes, oaths are traditionally made using language. Well done. As always, that is some powerfully incisive pretend Marxism.

      • rea says:

        I’m fairly sure that Lee was never in the service of the state of Virginia until after secession, and never took an oath to the state that would relieve him of the oath to the US he took as a teenage West Point cadet.

        I don’t begrudge him his statues. He was in some respects a good man, and of course a very good (though overrated) general, but ultimately weighed in the balance and found wanting.

      • Halloween Jack says:

        I think that you’re confusing a couple of very different things here when you’re talking about oaths. Virginia did require all free men to swear such an oath in 1777–before even the Articles of Confederation, let alone the Constitutional Convention–but in the present day, the most that anyone has had to take was a “loyalty oath” that mostly says that they don’t advocate the overthrow of the federal government by force. If you have different information, particularly of any oath that was in effect at the time of secession, feel free to link to it.

  7. Corey says:

    I normally like Coates, and think this song is terrible and mildly problematic (particularly in the framing of the problem as one of live-and-let-live). But the entire crux of his argument is based on the idea that inviting LL Cool J to guest on the song is itself evidence of racism:

    I can understand why an artist like Paisley would be attracted to an artist like LL Cool J. I can’t for the life of me understand why he’d choose LL Cool J to begin “a conversation” to reconcile. Rap is overrun with artists who’ve spent some portion of their career attempting to have “a conversation.” There’s Chuck D. There’s Big Daddy Kane. There’s KRS-ONE. There’s Talib. There’s Mos Def. There’s Kendrick Lamar. There’s Black Thought. There’s Dead Prez. And so on. […]

    The only real reason to call up LL is that he is black and thus must have something insightful to say about the Confederate Flag.

    The assumption that there is no real difference among black people is exactly what racism is.

    Good lord, that’s doing a ton of work. Maybe Paisley knows LL Cool J personally? Maybe they’re on the same record label and some suit wanted to do some cross-promotion? I don’t know, it seems to me uncharitable at best to assume that Paisley’s thought process was one of “we gotta get a black guy for this song, let’s get the guy from NCIS”.

    More broadly, I think it’s weird that lots of progressive seem intent on denying the fact that there exists a distinct culture of white low-to-middle class southerners, with its own language, music, literature, sports and everything else you’d associate with any other subculture. This culture really does exist and if you deny it I’m happy to introduce you to my extended family. The invocation of Faulkner as an alternative to pride in lower-class Southern culture is really telling – “NASCAR, country music, etc aren’t real culture”, in other words – and strange coming from a guy like Coates.

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      Fair point.

    • TribalistMeathead says:

      “But the entire crux of his argument is based on the idea that inviting LL Cool J to guest on the song is itself evidence of racism”

      Except it’s not. TNC is arguing that inviting LL Cool J means Paisley isn’t terribly serious about having a conversation about reconciliation. And when this song defines “reconciliation” as “assuaging white guilt,” it’s a pretty good argument.

      • Corey says:

        OK, that’s a distinction without a difference. The title of the post is “Why Accidental Racist is Actually Just Racist”, and Paisley’s choice of guest artist is central to why TNC believes that’s true.

        Look, I don’t deny that the song is problematic, but to treat the choice of guest artist as evidence that “Paisley isn’t terribly serious about having a conversation about reconciliation” is a stretch.

        • Richard says:

          Its very possible that Paisley is a friend of LL Cool J. Paisley’s wife is a well known actress and may very well hang in the same circles as LL Cool J.

          And this isn’t the first time that Paisley, an incredibly talented guitarist and song writer, has raised questions about race. There’s this line from Welcome to the Future:

          I had a friend in school
          Running back on a football team
          They burned a cross in his front yard
          For asking out the home coming queen

          I haven’t heard the song yet (but will pick up the new album today) but, given his track record, I’m going to give Paisley the benefit of the doubt and am grateful for any country artist who raises questions about race in songs intended for commercial play (even if the song may not be the most artistic exposition of contemporary race relations in the South)

      • Linnaeus says:

        I was going to say something like this. Coates explains in the same post that a number of rap artists deal with race and racism extensively in their works- it’s a central theme of the genre, yet Paisley collaborated with an artist whose work deals relatively less with that theme. Which is not to say that LL Cool J has to or that his work isn’t good, it’s just that he may not have been the best artistic choice for a song like this and opens up the question of how far Paisley was willing to go.

        • spears says:

          If it was 1995 and the choice was between LL Cool J
          and Chuck D then he would have a point.

          No one knows how or why Paisley chose LL Cool J but I don’t believe he ever said it was because of the latter’s extensive history of using his music to deal with race and racism.

    • runasone says:

      I didn’t get the sense that Coates was arguing that NASCAR and country music aren’t part of Southern culture. Instead, I think he was arguing that they are what has become defined as “Southern Culture” at the exclusion of many other aspects of Southern culture.

      • Corey says:

        Right, but it’s clear that Paisley’s singing about the lower and middle-class white southern culture that I described. What does it mean when TNC suggests he sing about Faulkner, instead?

        • Richard says:

          Actually, Coates only recommends that Paisley wear a Faulkner t-shirt, not that he sing about Faulkner (the thought of a song about Faulkner is fairly ghastly).

          I find Coates’ praise for Faulkner in this context to be somewhat strange. Faulkner was an incredible writer and his books are complicated, thoughtful works on race and the South but he gave a famous interview during the height of the civil rights struggle where he said that if forced to choose between the South and the North, he would stand with the South.

          • Richard says:

            Here’s that interview:

            “For example, he admitted in an interview that if the North attempted to force desegregation on the South, “if it came to fighting, I’d fight for Mississippi against the United States even if it meant going out into the street and shooting Negroes.”

            • delurking says:

              I’ve always been uneasy with Faulkner’s work, especially when it comes to issues of class and race and gender, and the older I get the more uneasy I get. He doesn’t, in fact, seem all that thoughtful to me, on any of these issues. A writer of talent, clearly. But thoughtful, no. More like your standard defender of the status quo — that is, of white upper-class male supremacy.

              • Richard says:

                I dont get that from his work. I dont see him as defending the status quo or attacking it. I definitely don’t see him as extolling or romanticizing the society he writes about. He’s, IMHO, an apolitical writer but a brilliant writer. I’m of the opinion that Sound and the Fury and Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night are the two greatest novels of the 20th Century.

                • Nathanael says:

                  I actually think Faulkner is a bad writer. Books are meant to be comprehensible, and his aren’t.

                  I’m told in the Deep South all the code is easily comprehensible. But not in the rest of the English-speaking world.

                  And when you decode them, you find stories about nasty people being nasty to one another because they’re nasty. To the extent Faulkner describes anything real about the South, the South is disgusting and abhorrent and its culture should be wiped out. So one hopes his descriptions are entirely fictional.

          • Lee Rudolph says:

            the thought of a song about Faulkner is fairly ghastly

            On the other hand, a song about Pearl Buck…

        • runasone says:

          Faulkner is just one of the alternatives he mentions. I’d say that celebrating MLK’s birthday, which is another example of his, would be a great way to recognize the culture of the poor and the working class.

    • McAllen says:

      NASCAR and everything aren’t really what progressives are complaining about when they talk about Southern culture (well, OK, some progressives are complaining about those things, but they’re not what I complain about, and I don’t think they’re what Coates is complaining about). They’re talking about the things that are tied up with racism: The Confederate flag, Antebellum nostalgia, worship of Robert E. Lee, “The South will rise again.” etc.

    • SatanicPanic says:

      Paisley did guest on LL’s upcoming album. I have no insight on why or how that happened though. If he really wanted to discuss southern pride, he could have picked a southern rapper, it’s not like there aren’t plenty of well known ones.

      • Jon H says:

        Just as a guess, his labelhe may have wanted to collaborate with someone “safe” and family-friendly, who has name recognition among middle-of-the-road white folks. Not known for legal trouble, or drug use, or woman trouble, or anything.

        Some other safe-for-Nashville people of color: Hootie, Lionel Richie

    • Hogan says:

      More broadly, I think it’s weird that lots of progressive seem intent on denying the fact that there exists a distinct culture of white low-to-middle class southerners, with its own language, music, literature, sports and everything else you’d associate with any other subculture.

      Absolutely, but the marker of that culture that Brad Paisley invokes is not NASCAR or South Carolina barbecue; it’s the Confederate battle flag. Which has had exactly two periods as a widely circulated symbol: the Civil War, and the period of the civil rights movement and its aftermath. If you’re going to deploy historically freighted symbols this way (and I don’t mean wearing a T-shirt; I mean writing a song intended to open up a conversation about race in the US), then “It just means I’m a Lynyrd Skynyrd fan” is a cheap copout.

      • Corey says:

        I want to be careful here in stipulating that I do not believe the Confederate flag is an appropriate symbol of one’s culture. I have a younger cousin – I think he’s 21 now – who decorated the back window of his truck with a giant decal of the stars and bars; I gave him so much shit about it that he took it off.

        But here’s what I do think – the young people flying that flag – Paisley’s audience – are not doing so out of racism (at least, not the ones I know). Where I grew up, it was just as common to hear 50 Cent booming out of trucks as it was to hear Trace Adkins or Toby Keith, black kids and white kids intermingled a lot, and the experience of explicit racism was minimal.

        What I think is going on is simple: white southern teenagers and young adults feel quite acutely that their culture is markedly different from the mainstream (and, indeed, it is). They are defensive about the way they’re portrayed in popular media (as either bumbling hicks or racists). They sense, pretty accurately I think, that many doors are closed to them at the top of American society. And this culture that they’re born into has a name and a ready-made symbol, and I think it’s natural to some degree to gravitate towards it.

        Now there’s a separate question of whether they know what else that symbol can stand for. I don’t believe they do. It wasn’t until my upper-division undergraduate history classes, at a school quite popular with genteel southerners, that I really got what slavery and Jim Crow were. I mean I knew they had happened, but the way they’re taught in southern public schools is very rarely with any emphasis on the human cost or the enduring effects of these policies. You leave those lessons thinking, man, it must’ve sucked to use a separate water fountain, or jeez, slaves had to work really hard – southern institutional racism is cast as inconvenience, not a violation of fundamental human rights.

        Does ignorance excuse the offensiveness of the symbol? Of course not. But that’s why conversation is valuable.

        • Anonymous says:

          Young people brandishing naughty, rebellious symbols are doing so because there’s pushback against it and no one’s Gon’ Tell Them What to Do. That doesn’t mean it isn’t racist, and their intent does not magically erase the racism inherent in the flag-waving.

          By defending the flag and equating it with otherwise innocuous things like do’rags, Paisley is not holding a “conversation.” He’s suggesting that PoC lighten up; after all, he’s allowing them to have their kooky hairstyles and listen to their Hippity Hoppity, or whatever.

          Finally, PoC are regularly marginalized in this culture. Not white dudes. So, coupled with your testimony as to the “minimal” amount of “explicit” racism you experienced (100 to 1 you’re white) with the whinging about underrepresentation smacks of minimizing racism in favor of placating wounded white folk’s feelings.

          • Anonymous says:

            Further to para one, the fact that people know it’s offensive, know it’s deeply painful for PoC, and especially black Americans to have the confederate flag rubbed in their face in public places, and the fact that the same flag-wavers are all the more eager to do so does not suggest to me an oppressed and confused subculture: it’s suggests brazenness, a lack of empathy, ignorance, and anger. If you want people to understand the motive, don’t ignore, erase, or apologize for that.

            Confederate flag-wavers know what they’re doing, and apparently enjoy the negative reaction and the positive feeling of comraderie they elicit by making their explicitly political feelings known. Sanctimonious, self-pitying songs about “accidents” deliberately obfuscate all that, and that’s a dishonest way to “start” a “conversation” about “race,” particularly when it’s the white male party who feels like he gets to dictate that conversation to begin with.

            • jb says:

              I think this is the key point here.

              There is a long history of whites, especially white Southerners using the Confederate flag. Maybe sometimes, this is an expression of regional or cultural identity, but it has often served as a way to express racism. And a certain segment of the white populace seems to delight in baiting minorities.

              • jb says:

                Moreover, there’s also a segment of the white populace, often the same one that feels, in an inchoate way, that minorities have done them wrong, and sees things like the Confederate flag as a way to stick a finger in the eye of white liberals and minorities.

  8. rm says:

    I’ve heard that Brad Paisley gets credit for being a progressive artist who supports Democrats and liberals. In the actual songs I’ve heard, he’s always relentlessly insisting on very stereotyped old-fashioned gender roles. Like, relentlessly and insistently portraying gender stereotypes as charming. Like, maybe insecurely protesting too much.

    So I’m not surprised that he’s especially clumsy in an attempt to say something constructive about race and Southern whiteness. The problem is that “Southern white” is an identity category at all. There is nothing else that ties West Virginia to Louisiana to Florida any more than to California or Maine.

    • Corey says:

      Jeez. It’s country music. Romanticism – outdated gender roles and all – are central to the art form.

      • Malaclypse says:

        Jeez. It’s a minstrel show. Blackface – outdated racial roles and all – are (sic) central to the art form.

        • LeeEsq says:

          I get what your saying but the sheer amount of high culture and pop culture thats not going to meet the standards of this test is huge. Even most pop culture produced today isn’t going to meet this standard.

        • Jon H says:

          Except blacks weren’t the main audience for blackface minstrel acts, whereas the main audience for mainstream Country music is women (and men) who presumably want traditional gender roles in their entertainment ( along with patriotic lip service like hourly repeats of the national anthem, and lots of songs extolling being “country”.)

          Little bit different there. The audience isn’t asking performers to mock an Other, the audience is asking for their preferences to be validated or celebrated by the performers.

        • joshua buhs says:

          Well, there’s the argument made by WT Lhammon that black face–or, minstrelsy–is a decisive contributor to both modern rap and the sit-com. And the argument by Lhammon as well as Eric Lott that even the outmoded racial (and gender) roles–were more than simplistic denigrations of black culture.

          • Richard says:

            Minstrelsy, like many things in real life, was complicated. Racist, of course, but an art form that spread black culture around the world. And, of course, there were all African- Americam minstrel groups as well

        • HP says:

          As a music historian who has spent a fair amount of time immersed in minstrelsy, I can say without fear of contradiction that all of American popular culture, and all of the international forms of pop culture derived from American pop culture, are pure minstrelsy. You show me an aspect of pop culture today, and I will show you Mr. Interlocutor, Mr. Bones, and Jim Crow.

          [cf. European-derived pop culture and Commedia del’Arte; British-derived pop culture and Punch & Judy.]

          The legacy of minstrelsy is ubiquitous, and is as much a part of hip-hop and rock as country music.

          • Nathanael says:

            Electronica. Find me the connection. It’s uniform British-to-US, and I assert it has roots in NEITHER Punch and Judy NOR minstrel shows NOR Commedia del’arte. It has its own history derived from tinkerers fooling around with electronics….

            • Nathanael says:

              I don’t disagree with the roots of rock or hip-hop, but a statement like this is just asking for a counterexample:

              “I can say without fear of contradiction that all of American popular culture,….”

              It took me all of ten seconds to think of a solid counterexample.

    • Richard says:

      I dont think you’ve listened to enough of his songs. I have all his records and I’m a fan. Yeah, some of the songs can portray gender stereotypes as charming but many of his songs go much deeper than that. He’s one of those artists who can appeal to the fan base, which want to be bothered with anything but stereotypes, but can go far beyod that. He alienated some of his fan base with the interracial dating line from Welcome to the Future and probably did the same thing with the LL Cool J song. Good for him.

    • Jon H says:

      ” Like, relentlessly and insistently portraying gender stereotypes as charming. ”

      I suspect the demographics of country music listeners tend to prefer that. And I believe the country audience is mostly women. Breaking gender stereotypes happens in country music but only in certain limited ways (the Dixie Chicks’ “Goodbye Earl”, taking revenge on an abuser, that sort of thing.)

      That’s what the Nashville industry wants, and if you don’t play to that, you don’t get the airplay and you don’t get the award show appearances and you don’t get the big bucks.

  9. rm says:

    I wrote that while Corey wrote the comment above it. To be clear, I don’t deny this culture exists, or deny anyone their pleasure in NASCAR or SEC basketball. (Although I gotta remark that spectators at the basketball games are not in danger of being crushed by flying debris.) The problem with “celebrating Southern identity” though is how much the creation of that culture is inextricable from a Jim Crow society. Pretend that’s not a problem, and you’ve got “accidental” racism.

    • Corey says:

      The problem with “celebrating Southern identity” though is how much the creation of that culture is inextricable from a Jim Crow society.

      This is strange, too. Of course lots of southern culture is tied up in Jim Crow, because a) Jim Crow was a systematic and all-encompassing ordering of society based on race and b) most southern art forms originated in the Jim Crow era (or before). NASCAR has a very long history of racism but I’d defy you to make the case that that’s why modern southerners watch it.

      • rm says:

        I’m not making that case. If I were, then I would want to deny people their pleasure in it. I am saying that most of the time people with ties to this culture aggressively deny the truth of its history. The way to celebrate good things in Southern white culture today is to fully admit the truth of the past, that the only reason there is such an identity at all (one that unites otherwise vastly different regions) is the invention of whiteness in opposition to black (and Jewish and Catholic and immigrant and so on) identities in the context of Jim Crow. If we could take that truth as given, then singing songs about the superior virtues of a small town Southern man would lose its darker subtext and become a bit more innocent. From what I saw the lyrics of the Paisley song do that in passing, but also do a lot of assuaging the white conscience.

        • Corey says:

          the only reason there is such an identity at all (one that unites otherwise vastly different regions) is the invention of whiteness in opposition to black (and Jewish and Catholic and immigrant and so on) identities in the context of Jim Crow.

          This is one reason. It is not the only one. I’d argue that reaction to Northern capitalist exploitation and cultural imperialism (both real and imagined), similar ethnic backgrounds (i.e. Scots-Irish) and the honor-based, romantic culture that emerged from that commonality, similar religious backgrounds, similar agrarian lifestyles, etc have just as much to do with the constructed identity of white southerners as does racism.

          But even granting your premise, let’s say that southern identity owes its origin to opposition to minorities. That’s not a sin for which those who share that identity now are responsible for. That’s not to say that white southerners aren’t racist – of course, many, and maybe most, are to one degree or another – but that the origins of a culture don’t have much to do with its lived experience. English culture has, at least in part, its origin in opposition to the Celtic cultures on its periphery; this does not render all of English civilization problematic.

          • xxy says:

            but that the origins of a culture don’t have much to do with its lived experience.

            In the US? In the South? Yes it does. Charter schools, segregated proms, poverty, lack of a real welfare state, a great imbalance of power between whites and minorities, etc. You yourself said Southern grade schools completely gloss over slavery and the civil war. This is a culture that’s only ~200 or so years old. Maybe it doesn’t seem so real because ignorance to Southern history is (seemingly) widespread in the South.

            Living in England isn’t defined as much by what they did to Celtic cultures because their thousand-year-old-plus culture did many awful things to many peoples around the world. The closest analogue to an existential threat they might have felt over a threat to end Celtic oppression was probably in the early 1900s when a free Irish Republic meant maybe rebellions in all their other colonies. But the English domestic way of life was hardly threatened then.

            • Corey says:

              Right, you’re totally right of course (although I’d argue about England). In any case, what I was trying to express, maybe inartfully, was that the racism-laced histories of things like country music and NASCAR, while undeniable facts, are not necessarily racist things today.

      • Anonymous says:

        Are you suggesting that certain hobbies aren’t consciously self-segregated? ‘Cos that’s just demonstrably untrue.

        • Geoffrey says:

          Are you suggesting only the hobbies of poor racist southern whites are consciously self-segregated?
          I hope so, because the club does not need any more negative publicity. Are we still on for squash on Thursday?

  10. Linnaeus says:

    The problem with “celebrating Southern identity” though is how much the creation of that culture is inextricable from a Jim Crow society. Pretend that’s not a problem, and you’ve got “accidental” racism.

    This. Whenever I read some variant of “pride in Southern heritage/culture”, I find myself often having to mentally add “white” to that statement, because more often than not, black Southerners and black Southern culture doesn’t enter into such statements.

    • delurking says:

      Yes. This exact point was what I could not get one of my students, a history major who was writing a paper defending the teaching of the Civil War as a conflict about State’s Rights, to understand.

      She insisted that it was vital to teach the Civil War that way in order that Southern Students have pride in Southern Culture. When I pointed out that not all of her students would be white students (in fact, given where she would be teaching, *most* of her students would not be white students) she stared at me like I was speaking French — like, what could that possibly have to do with ANYTHING?

      • TribalistMeathead says:

        Reminds me of the anecdote from one of Al Franken’s books, where a young conservative tells Franken we should just let the Catholic Church teach everyone like they used to, and when Franken points out that the Church didn’t teach his people, the young conservative responded “I meant the Western World.”

    • STH says:

      Yeah, “Southern heritage” has a very specific meaning here. I’ve been watching the #southernpride hashtag on Twitter and it’s been interesting to see the number of Southern heroes you could celebrate if you included all Southerners, not just white, NASCAR-loving males.

      • Nathanael says:

        Even *white* Southern culture had a huge Unionist and anti-racist component, but this was suppressed actively in a conspiracy to alter the history books.

        I remember that I did not understand the military situation in the Civil War — something seemed really odd about how it played out — why, I wondered, did the Confederacy make zero advances for a *full year*, while the Union made several advances?

        Then I learned that the Confederacy spent the entire first year fighting its own citizens, who were organizing militias to support the Union all over the place, from Jones County Mississippi to West Virginia. Since the black people still generally weren’t allowed to have guns, this is white citizens organizing white militias to fight for the Union… they were suppressed viciously and brutally. This kept the Confederate forces busy, however, and they therefore made no territorial progress for an entire year.

        But most textbooks omit that entire year. The Confederacy supporters don’t want to talk about it.

  11. Boots Day says:

    He could hold a huge party on Martin Luther King’s birthday, to celebrate a Southerner’s contribution to the world of democracy.

    I love the way TNC can flip an entire narrative through the simple device of considering black people to be human, too.

  12. actor212 says:

    By the way, when did The Atlantic become nearly palatable?

  13. LeeEsq says:

    A lot of American culture is Southern in origin. Mark Twain, who invented the novel in the American voice, is Southern enough. Edgar Allen Poe, who wrote in a more European voice but still contributed immensely to early American literature and the idea of genre fiction, was a Southerner. American pop music, whether rock, jazz, or country, has strong Southern origins. The more said about Southern contributions to American cuisine the better, unless your really into the public health or vegetarianism.

    • witless chum says:

      Oh, c’mon Cooper’s novels were in the American voice, it was just the voice of a boring asshole American who was definitely not part Indian despite hanging around with them.

      I read Last of the Mohicans at like age 12 or so after seeing the Michael Mann movie version. It took me a really long time to figure out that Hawkeye’s continued insistence that he was “A man without a cross” wasn’t referring to his lack of organized religion.

  14. Shakezula says:

    Yeah, it’s weird. My family is from the Deep South and I’m still a Southerner by about 100 miles.

    We never. Ever. Talk about Southern Pride. The South is just where we live – or in the case of the vast majority of may relatives – where we’re from.

    And the reason most of us talk about it as where we’re from is because two+ generations ago big wodges of my predecessors packed their bags and headed NORTH. Why?

    Mainly, WWII and related jobs provided a grand opportunity to get the hell out of The South, which was full of violent assholes who were really hung up on Southern Pride and regularly expressed it via insult, assault and property damage.

    I’m sorry Mr. Paisley wants to pretend it is just something to do with fire ants, magnolias and women in uncomfortable clothing which is completely unsuitable for the weather down there, but it ain’t so.

  15. Jerry Vinokurov says:

    The very fact that such a thing as “Southern pride” is even thought to be necessary is already weird. I grew up in California, and while I’m happy to have done so, there’s no such thing as “California pride.” I lived in New England for five years and never encountered “Northern pride.” Now I live in Pittsburgh, and while there’s definitely more of a spirit of “Pittsburgh pride” here than I’ve seen elsewhere, it’s mostly associated with a genuine affection for the city itself; there’s some steel-related nostalgia here, but most people who grew up in Pittsburgh and live here now seem to genuinely like it as a place, rather than being committed to some abstract notion of “Pittsburgh heritage.”

    • Fighting Words says:

      Well, as a Northern California resident, I have seen a lot of “Nor Cal” apparel recently.

      • I grew up in SoCal and went to school in NorCal. It’s very common for people from one half of the state to mock people from the other half; the loyalties are very regional.

        • xxy says:

          Look at our neighbors: Arizona, Nevada, Oregon. There’s no reason to get in their faces about being from California, that would just be cruel. NorCal vs. SoCal is more of a fair fight.

    • Malaclypse says:

      I lived in New England for five years and never encountered “Northern pride.”

      I take it you were in the part of New England that is not Boston?

      • Bijan Parsia says:

        I definitely had a buttload of Northern Pride. (Pennsylvanian and Northern generally; Franklin was from Boston (which made it cool) but came to Philly (which made it even cooler).)

        Reading Malcolm X helped correct some of that. And, of course, who can forget:

        Cause we fucking founded this country, assholes. Those Founding Fathers you keep going on and on about? All that bullshit about what you think they meant by the Second Amendment giving you the right to keep your assault weapons in the glove compartment because you didn’t bother to read the first half of the fucking sentence? Who do you think those wig-wearing lacy-shirt sporting revolutionaries were? They were fucking blue-staters, dickhead. Boston? Philadelphia? New York? Hello? Think there might be a reason all the fucking monuments are up here in our backyard?

        (I do note that the Fuck The South author does seem to forget about VA. Which does suck, but did contribute a few Founders. And the New Jersey Plan really sucked. 20 (of 56) delegates to the constitutional convention were from the South. That’s partly RI’s fault for wimping out for which I blame Loomis.)

      • I lived in Providence for five years, but I spent a fair amount of time in Boston, which was obviously quite close. It’s not that I didn’t see people who loved their city (to put it a bit euphemistically) but I never found this weird obsession with “being a Yankee” for example. Not that people weren’t proud to be Bostonians, but it didn’t have quite the level of antagonism that “Southern pride” has. Maybe I didn’t hang in the right circles to see it though. I do hang out with a lot of local Pittsburghers now and again, I just don’t see it raised to this all-encompassing level.

        I suspect that the difference is encoded largely in the difference between “Southern” and “Boston.” Loyalty to a city makes more sense to me than loyalty to an entire region, especially if it’s a city you grew up in and lived all your life in. But what does, say, Richmond have to do with New Orleans? They’re about as different in character as any other two large US cities, but people from Virginia to Louisiana talk about “the South,” not “Richmond” or “New Orleans.” And what unites “the South” as a single entity? The answer is left as an exercise to the reader.

        • Corey says:

          But what does, say, Richmond have to do with New Orleans?

          I grew up in Richmond and have spent lots and lots of time in New Orleans. The cities are actually quite similar.

          That’s the trouble with suggesting there is no such thing as (white) Southern culture: there is, in fact, such a thing as white Southern culture.

          • Nathanael says:

            From what I can tell — and I have avoided the South — you start getting into “This isn’t exactly like Southern culture” when you get into
            (1) southern Florida (Hispanic influence)
            (2) New Orleans (Cajun influence)
            (3) Texas (uh, Texas is weird)
            (4) Appalachia
            (5) Missouri (Midwest/Prarie influence)

            Everything bounded by that (and, well, somewhere in Maryland) is pure SOUTHERN CULTURE as far as I can tell. Though I guess the epicenter is South Carolina.

            Worth noting in this regard: DC is SOUTHERN CULTURE through and through. It’s genuinely slightly alien coming from anywhere north of there…. even going as far as Baltimore feels somehow more like home to this Northerner.

        • nixnutz says:

          I don’t really agree. It’s pretty different from the Southern thing but there’s a rich strain of Yankee pride–the positive stereotypes of thrift, ingenuity, skepticism, etc.–it’s more obvious in and associated with Maine than Boston but I definitely inherited a share growing up there too.

          And speaking specifically of “the Southern thing” I have noticed there really isn’t a Northern counterpart to the Drive-By Truckers overwhelming obsession (which, although I think they’re a terrific band absolutely bores the shit out of me). There’s Springsteen and there’s plenty of music celebrating New York but tnothing quite like that.

          • Origami Isopod says:

            As Jerry said, “Yankee pride” does not have “quite the level of antagonism” that marks “Southern pride.” I speak as a native New Englander.

    • Major Kong says:

      Exactly. Southerners spend an awful lot of time patting themselves on the back for being from the South.

    • FMguru says:

      On top of which, California gets its share of out-of-state abuse – full of degenerates, teetering on collapse, cultureless and phoney, “San Francisco Values”, La-La Land, fruits and nuts, it’s all sushi restaruants and valley girls and air kisses and stoned surfers and completely the opposite of Real American “Heartland” Culture. And pretty much every Californian I’ve ever known just shrugs when people (usually Republicans trying to score Culture War points) throw rocks at the state, because why should anyone in California care what a Senate candidate in Arkansas or a Deputy DIrector of the RNC thinks about his state?

      New York City is the same way. Talk trash about NYC, most New Yorkers roll their eyes and figure everyone’s better off if you stay in Pigfoot, LA, if they bother to notice the criticism at all.

      Only the South has this massive chip on its shoulder when it comes to other peoples’ opinions of them and their culture and their “heritage”, which I think is pretty telling.

      • Nathanael says:

        “Only the South has this massive chip on its shoulder when it comes to other peoples’ opinions of them and their culture and their “heritage”, which I think is pretty telling.”

        They have to go on and on about it because they believe in their hearts they have nothing to be proud about….

        ….which is actually wrong. Because, as TNC points out, there ARE Southerners to be proud of. Just not those secessionist jackasses.

    • Nathanael says:

      There is serious New York pride. And there’s also what I can only call
      “Rust Belt pride”.

      But it isn’t all about, um, treason in defense of slavery. Which makes it a lot less nasty.

  16. Anonymous says:

    To answer Coates re: Faulkner, Ida B Wells, etc
    1) Because they think Yankees looked down on all Southerners (hard to argue)
    2) Because upper-class Southern whites look down on them (even harder to argue – there’s no snob in darkest Manhattan more pompous than a Southern snob) and
    3) Because same upper-class Southern whites convinced them Southern blacks were their real enemy, and pitted both groups against each other.

    That’s the best I can do.

    • spencer says:

      Pretty good explanation, from my 20+ years of life in the South.

    • Jay B. says:

      That’s interesting. Of course, in the North, the blue collar types organized, unionized and took over the political systems. At least you guys have your “heritage”.

      • Nathanael says:

        That did happen. However, the bankers have been doing their best to retake the political systems up North, with quite a lot of success. We’re going to have to go through another round of organizing and solidarity and reform again, methinks.

    • Agee says:

      This is a great point. In this respect, the demographic represented by this song have been oppressed economically for generations and the briefest glance at real incomes for the vast majority of all Americans over the last 40 years reflects this fact.

      That elites pitted working class/poor whites against African Americans was obvious in the South, just as it was done in northern urban areas where subsequent immigrants, Italians (who btw weren’t considered “white”), for example, and African Americans were competing for the same jobs. Plenty of that in Cleveland, OH where I grew up. Of course, it’s still done today with the targeted group being “illegal immigrants”. “They took our jobs!” No, actually your jobs were shipped overseas to places where the cost of labor is cheap and working conditions are even worse than they are here.

      Does LLCJ realize that his gold chains are still chains? Dollar bill y’all!

      How about taking a look at the institutions that propagate this bullshit? Did you go to an Ivy League school? Get out the mirror. Do you work for a major media company? Same. The list goes on.

      We’re all quick to point to obvious symbols of racism as being hurtful, and they are, but go back and read Richard Wright—racism harms all parties involved. What a racist!

      Listen to Bob Dylan: …he’s only a pawn in their game.” Start the boycott!

      Focusing your anger at Paisley (putting out that song, although far from satisfactory, took a lot of guts to do given his status as a bona fide star in unbelievably conservative Nashville) could be seen as shooting fish in a barrel.

      “His lyrics contain gender-norming stereotypes!” Be glad that you can recognize them as such and still be able to laugh at the cleverness of some of the lines, without taking them to be a blueprint for your relations. This outrage also assumes that Paisley, being from WV, can’t have written them with tongue in cheek, because he’s a dumb, inbred hick. Who’s doing the stereotyping here?

      Want some lyrics that denigrate all involved (including the narrorator)? Check out 50 Cent.

  17. Fighting Words says:

    Yeah, I’m not looking forward to Brad Paisley’s next single, “You’re so Articulate.”

  18. Anonymous says:

    Re: LA as a Southern town, there are apocryphal stories where Compton was (long ago) a home for LAPD cops and that the Compton Knights of the KKK would assemble in full regalia on horseback on the border with Watts on Sundays. Guessing this was the 20s-30s.

    • Richard says:

      Dont know much about Comptom in the 20s and 30s. In the 1950s, Comptom was very white and was the home of the Town Hall Party, one of the many country music weekly television shows. But country music in LA was significantly different from country music in the deep South (much more Western swing and jazz flavored) and I don’t know that you could call Comptom that Southern in the 50s. There was, of course, unofficial racial segregation throughout Southern California but, again, thats not the same as being Southern.

  19. CoatesBot says:

    *beep boop!*

    *beeeeeeeeeeeeep BOOP!*

    • Anonymous says:

      The problem you have with Coates is not that he discusses race. The problem you have with Coates is that he discusses race from the perspective of minorities. If he were discussing race by saying that Southern white men were being oppressed by some nefarious conspiracy of liberals and blacks, you would happily support him.

      For God’s sake, you actually asserted that the ANC were some kind of communist dictatorship, and that their government was worse than apartheid. You have implied several times that blacks are inferior to whites. You have no credibility to attack anyone else for discussing race.

    • witless chum says:

      The irony of a one-note moron calling TaNeshi Coates one-note is apparent to everyone who’s actually read his wide-ranging blog and so thick we should probably fry it in butter.

  20. Carbon Man says:

    I never said they were a “dictatorship”, I said they were Marxist, which is a fact.

    As for dissing the ANC and Mandela as just as bad as Apartheid, it was just a simple troll to get liberals to think a little, as they idolize Mandela as some sort of saint when in reality he was completely incompetent at actually governing.

    When have I “implied” that blacks are inferior to whites? Please provide links. Thanks.

    • Carbon Man says:

      By the way, just for the record, I despise the treasonous Confederacy and the Democrat Party that enabled it.

    • jb says:

      I said they were Marxist, which is a fact

      No, its not.

      Look, they do use leftist rhetoric from time to time, but their economic policies are not Marxist. The signature policy of the post-apartheid era has been “Black Economic Empowerment”, which is basically a kind of affirmative action, intended to get blacks into management positions, and to increase the number of black entrepreneurs. Yes, there are some government-owned utilities in South Africa but they were inherited from the apartheid era. To my knowledge, the ANC has nationalized no industries since it came to power, and expropriated no land. Indeed, it has done very little for those lower down on the social scale and has left white dominance of the economy mostly untouched. If they were Marxist, they would not only have nationalized the mines and mineral resources, but the banks, the insurance companies, the foreign corporations, and in fact all major industries. Additionally, they would have broken up the largest farm estates, and redistributed them to landless laborers. They might even have collectivized agriculture, and altered the structure of industries so that they were run by workers. The fact that they have done none of those things, despite having total control of the government, including the right to amend the Constitution shows that they are in no way Marxist.

      Look, I know you like to pretend all political views even slightly to your left are “Marxism”, but you do violence to the truth every time you do this, and you should knock it off.

      he was completely incompetent at actually governing

      Look, God knows I’m not going to defend every action taken by the ANC government. It’s true that Mbeki, and especially Jacob Zuma, have been epically corrupt and incompetent. But this was not true of Mandela’s government. Indeed, his moderation surprised many people both inside and outside of South Africa, and he won praise even from many whites. Indeed, he won praise from people who had previously hated him.

      Besides which, many of the problems you blame on the post-apartheid government were in fact present before the end of apartheid. The crime wave you talk about began in the late 70’s, well before the ANC came to power. The apartheid era government was at least as corrupt as the worst ANC governments have been, in addition to being blatantly dictatorial and upholding a system of racial discrimination that was one of the worst in the world. Yes, post-apartheid South Africa has its problems, but it is much better off now than it was under apartheid. The only reason you argued that it wasn’t was because the extreme right hated Mandela, and you will automatically swallow whatever the hardest right Republicans say.

      When have I “implied” that blacks are inferior to whites?

      You have stated several times that blacks are “on the Democrat plantation”. This implies that blacks vote Democratic because they are dependent on government aid, and too stupid to understand their interests. This is enormously condescending and nasty. Additionally you have several times used dog-whistles such as “ghetto thugs”. Finally, the way you talk about “welfare queens” is completely dehumanizing and outrageous. I know that you probably disagree with this but dammit, people on welfare are HUMAN BEINGS and deserve support!

      And I’m not going to address your “point” about the “Democrat Party”. The history of the Southern Strategy has been talked about ad nauseum on here, and I’m not going to waste time going over it to someone who will just dismiss it out of hand.

      There. I have responded to you, which was more than you deserved.

  21. Anonymous says:

    I don’t know how Southern the whites of LA were at first, but they were definitely Poor White – in my family’s case from WV (though everyone just called them Okies) a they survived the Depression by eating infamous “Crisco and onion sandwiches.”

    • Richard says:

      They were poor white but I dont think they were particularly Southern. There’s a difference. My dad’s side of the family were Dust Bowl refugess from southern Missouri but they did not consider themselves to be southerners.

      • burritoboy says:

        There were quite a large number of actual Southerners (fleeing from the more Southern parts of the Dust Bowl, for instance) in Los Angeles who did, in fact, retain some level of Southern identity.

  22. H says:

    I had no idea who Paisley is, so maybe he’s not as bad as these lyrics make him seem, but this song if really racist. It’s basically him saying, “Oh, um, this flag represents my favorite band. And maybe some other stuff that happened a really long time ago, but who knows about that?” The people who associated that flag with racism were the Confederacy, and then the KKK, and then the segregationists who changed their state flags to protest desegregation, and the racists who waved that flag around while bombing churches and tear-gassing protesters. And there are a ton of people alive today who lived through all the brutality of the desegregation fight. If Paisley really wants to have an honest conversation about the flag, he can’t start it off by omitting all the history surrounding that flag.

    No More Mister Nice Blog has a post up pointing out that this song essentially equates a white guy wearing this flag with a black guy wearing hip-hop clothes, which is just so offensive and historically ignorant, that I can’t take Paisley in good-faith here.

    Paisley has done a very bad thing and he should apologize for this song.

    • H says:

      Just to add, LL Cool J has also done a very bad thing, and he needs to apologize as well.

    • Richard says:

      You’re making the huge mistake of taking the narrator of the song to be Paisley. Thats simply not the case.

      • H says:

        My points don’t change even if Paisley (and LL) aren’t the narrators. The lyrics still omit the very real history of racism and brutality associated with the flag. That’s offensive. There’s also this lyric (which No More Mister Nice Blog points out):

        “If you don’t judge my gold chains…
        I’ll forget the iron chains…”

        The iron chains of slavery are somehow equivalent to a black guy wearing gold chains? That’s absurd. And I hope nobody does ever forget the “iron chains” of slavery, because slavery was an evil institution and it needs to be remembered. It’s this kind of thing that makes the song racist, and it doesn’t matter if Paisley is the narrator or not.

        • Richard says:

          So don’t listen to the song. I think there are problems with the narrative but it’s not racist and its somewhat silly for you to demand that Paisley ( who you admit you’ve never heard of) and Cool J apologize.

          • H says:

            Don’t listen to the song? You could choose not to read my comments. And I notice you haven’t bothered to actually respond to the substance of my comments. It’s completely silly for you to think that anyone is going to fall for your derailing tactics. It is racist, I’ve explained why it’s racist, and you insisting that it isn’t racist without even trying to make a counter-argument isn’t convincing.

            • Richard says:

              No. All you’ve done is scream that its racist and demand an apology from some artist you’ve never heard of. Paisley is saying that wearing a t shirt with the Confederate flag is not necessarily racist and people need to get beyond flags and dress. I think the argument is facile but not at all racist. There’s a big difference

              • H says:

                Another attempt to derail. I didn’t scream anything. Come back when you have an actual argument. Although it never surprises me that there’s always a handy supply of people to defend racism.

                If you want to ignore states changing their flags, if you want to ignore fire hoses and tear gas aimed at peaceful protesters, if you want to ignore 4 little dead girls at a church, that makes you simply someone who defends racism. It doesn’t make me a screamer.

                • Richard says:

                  No. It just makes you incoherent. The song in no way seeks to justify the history of slavery or Jim Crow or the church bombings.

                  I’m not defending racism. I’m denying that the song is racist. You don’t seem to understand the difference. I’ve made the argument but you choose not to listen. You just want to shout “racist” at anybody who disagrees with you

                • H says:

                  You’re entire argument is that the flag and the song aren’t racist because you said so. You have yet to acknowledge any of the brutal and racist history surrounding that flag. You are defending racism, and your viewpoint is rather disgusting.

                • GeoX says:

                  Er…dude, I’m not saying that Paisley himself is racist. But as for the song–yeah, the equation of slavery with black people wearing gold chains is actually kinda super-racist. It doesn’t matter what’s in Paisley’s heart. Jeez.

                • Richard says:

                  I have a good idea. Stop calling me a racist or a defender of racism and ill stop calling you an idiot and someone incapable of reading what I wrote. Of course there’s a history of racism associated with the Confederate flag. Paisley doesn’t deny that but thinks we can get beyond that. I tend to disagree but that view makes neither him nor me a racist. Can you not fucking understand that? Or do you just want to spend all night calling me a racist?

                • H says:

                  It’s too late to play civility police. You are the one who started trivializing my arguments about historical racism by calling them silly and screaming. And if you are going to do that (rather than actually engage the argument), then you are defending racism.

                  And yes, Paisley does ignore the history of that racism by trying to push all of it into the Civil War and Reconstruction Era. It’s not ancient history, despite what the song claims. It is recent history. A song that pretends that real brutality suffered by people who are still alive is nothing more than ancient history is racist.

                • Richard says:

                  Good night jerk. Or do you want to say ‘racist, racist, racist” a few more times?

                • H says:

                  Oh, noes. You have no argument and you don’t like getting called out on your disgusting behavior. Of course, you are the one who started being a “jerk” with your very first response. If you can’t take it, don’t dish it out. If you wan’t people to be civil, you should try being civil first. And maybe you should stop defending racism, so that more people will like you. I’m actually beginning to wonder if you’ve actually read the lyrics.

                • asdf says:

                  Way to go asshole. You somehow managed to come off worse than the racist.

  23. Richard says:

    On the deluxe version of the album, he does a medley of Yankee Doodle Dandy and Dixie. Beautiful guitar playing on Dixie.

  24. […] Lemieux: Southern Heritage – Lawyers, Guns & Money: “…can, in fact, be celebrated without celebrating treason in defense of slavery: […]

  25. cpinva says:

    the problem with “southern heritage”, is that it is intrinsically linked with slavery/racism, almost right from the start (1619). it really doesn’t make much difference who it is coates would like to see honored, it eventually devolves back to that. having been raised mostly in the south, and living here most of my life thus far, this is what it always, always, always boils down to, it just can’t be helped.

    those descendents of confederate soldiers, who adamantly argue that slavery WAS NOT the reason for the civil war, do so, because to do otherwise would require that they admit great, great, great grandpa and family were horrible people, fighting for a horrible cause. this syndrome is identical to that of descendents of german soldiers, in wwII, who insist great grandpa was never a member of the party, he was just a conscript, and never believed in the nazi ideology. they’re both lying to themselves, and others, because to admit the truth is too damn painful. i don’t blame them, but i don’t believe them either.

    • Richard says:

      I think that’s true and I think that’s the weakness of the song. Good intentions, which Paisley has, can’t undo the past and there will always be a racist element in showing the Confederate flag and a problem, therefore, in equating it with gold chains and sagging jeans.

    • Lee Rudolph says:

      Here’s a Gedankenexperiment for all y’all: Der unabsichtlicher Nazi—it’s got a good beat, you can dance to it.

    • Malaclypse says:

      this syndrome is identical to that of descendents of german soldiers, in wwII, who insist great grandpa was never a member of the party, he was just a conscript, and never believed in the nazi ideology. they’re both lying to themselves, and others, because to admit the truth is too damn painful.

      But the German army was, indeed, full of conscripts. My first girlfriend’s father, long ago, was a 14-year-old kid living in Latvia, who tells that when the Germans came to town, someone pointed a rifle in his face and explained he had just volunteered for the army. I never thought that might make him at all morally culpable.

      • Lurker says:

        As opposed to the US, the polite fiction in Europe has been to acknowledge that soldiers are serving in any war because the law requires it. Thus, it was for decades extremely bad manners to imply that any soldier on any side has a moral responsibility for his involvement in the war, unless he has personally committed war crimes. Papers would love to publicize stories about veterans meetings the veterans of the former enemy without any personal hatred towards the others.

        The only socially acceptable alternative was to consider any military service immoral.

        • Nathanael says:

          That has been the polite fiction in the US with respect to the Vietnam War, the Iraq War, and even the brutal and nasty Indian Wars.

          There’s a reason the same is NOT always done with the Civil War. Which is, uh, that the Confederates were committing treason.

  26. Dave says:

    A local story here in Memphis shows how bullshit the Southern Heritage thing is. Nathan Bedford Forrest is buried in one of our parks, the name of said park bearing his name. Memphis being a majority black city with a significant number of white people who aren’t racists, the city council decided they wanted to change the name of the park to commemorate someone or something that represents the city’s heritage without invoking as much racism (I would say any racism but I’m not that confident in the city council).

    But the Republicans in the state legislature (who have a supermajority and control the governor’s seat) decided that this wasn’t a local matter (Yeah, I was shocked, SHOCKED, that they didn’t concede to local control despite “believing in federalism”) and are trying to pass a law basically saying we can’t change the name of the park. They tried to couch it in terms that didn’t explicitly direct it at Memphis and the NBF park. But it’s obvious that they only really care about a certain type of Souther Heritage.

  27. Dave says:

    This kind of reminds me of the line from Pulp Fiction by Marcellus Wallace, “Pride only hurts.” I have a similar attitude towards heritage and nostalgia. They can be good in small doses, especially nostalgia. But heritage seems like a waste considering none of us had any control over where or when we grew up. If I was given a choice I likely wouldn’t have chosen to be born in Memphis, TN. It’s not that I don’t like Memphis or TN or the south in general. There are good things about each. But they likely wouldn’t be at the top of my birth list. Also, how about a little less looking back at the good ole times (times that weren’t really all that good) and focus more on improving things now and for the future. Let’s do shit that’s actually worth being nostalgic about.

    • cpinva says:

      everytime someone waxes fondly about the “good old days”, i am reminded of my elderly, maiden aunts, both from the “old country” (ireland). this was when i was maybe 4 or 5 years old, and they had to be in their 70’s or 80’s then. both would go on about how wonderful the “auld country” was, extolling its virtues and beauty. the only way you could get either of them back there, would be by dragging their dead, cold bodies. at that, their fingers would leave furrows in the ground behind them, as they desperately attempted to claw their way back to new york.

      trust me, if jefferson (or any of them) could have had indoor plumbing and anti-biotics, they would have in a heartbeat. freezing your butt off to go to the bathroom, or dying some horrible death, from an infected scratch, wasn’t particulary pleasant. the only people for whom the “good old days” were good, seems to be those who never had to actually live in them.

      • witless chum says:

        Neil Gaiman has a brilliant throwaway bit in the Sandman comics where some dude in an Elizabethan pub is complaining about how terrible an invention chimneys were and how the old fire on the floor and smoke hole were better and more healthful.

  28. HP says:

    I’m a bit disappointed that the word “granfalloon” hasn’t shown up in this thread yet.

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