The media debate about the newly released song "Accidental Racist" by Brad Paisley and LL Cool J demonstrates that race remains a prickly topic for conversation -- even in song lyrics. Race is an old topic that requires a new conversation and I, for one, am glad that Paisley and Cool J have triggered yet another conversation about race. Race conversations matter...
Race continues to be part of the conversation on closing the educational achievement gap for black and white student performance in math and reading.
Race continues to be a part of U.S. political discourse and affects our ability to productively engage a global society.
Race continues to be a part of our discussion on America's economic future with a growing divide between the "have and have-mores" with have-nots disproportionately represented by people of color.
Race continues to be a part of the discourse on inequitable treatment in health care and disparate medical outcomes.
Race continues to be absent from the discussion on religious practice and what often divides us on Sunday mornings and other times of worship.
And race continues to limit our ability to engage socially and to have crucial conversations that improve race relations. The tweets, posting and blogs demonstrate that it is difficult to create meaningful dialogue about song lyrics without accusations that people are being encouraged to forget slavery (response to lyrics (LL Cool J's line): "If you don't judge my gold chains, I'll forget the iron chains) and that introducing this song only throws us back to the past (Brad Paisley's line): "The relationship between the Mason-Dixon needs some fixin").
Yet, even the song title, "Accidental Racist" echos research findings on the nature of contemporary racism that characterizes it as covert and unintentional. These micro-inequities and unconscious biases are pervasive in work environments, political arenas, social settings and in the entertainment industry. "Feel like a new fangled Django, dodging invisible white hoods" is just another way of saying it.
Perceived from a diversity lens, a country singer and rapper collaborating on this prickly topic is a beautiful thing. I have long been an advocate for and written about the benefits of cross-racial socializing. Cross-racial socializing reduces racial isolation in communities, creates a better and informed citizenry, expands the concept of citizenship to a global level, improves team performance in organizations and spurs innovation.
Yes, we are "still pickin' up the pieces, walkin' on eggshells, fightin' over yesterday... still siftin' through the rubble after a hundred-fifty years." And it is good to know that there are folks like Brad Paisley who sing "I am the son of the new south and I just want to make things right. Where all that's left is southern pride. It's real. It's real. It's truth."