Thursday, April 11, 2013

my little post at the New York Times about Brad Paisley and LL Cool J's "Accidental Racist"

Why Elitists Hate the Brad Paisley and LL Cool J Duet - Room for Debate -

After I posted unpacking outrage: why elitists hate "Accidental Racist" by Brad Paisley and LL Cool J, I got email from the Times editor asking if I'd like to do about 300 words on the subject for them. In some ways, I prefer my original post, but I did my best to make myself clear for Times readers in the space I had. Alas, making yourself clear in 300 words on a subject like race may be impossible. You can do it in fewer words; I still stand by one of the things I said that gets quoted sometimes: “There are no scientific tests for race . . . blood is blood, and bone is bone. Race is a con game. Don't play.”

But given 300 words, I'm only writing an introduction to a much longer discussion.

Which may be the point.

The comments there are interesting. Emma said I shouldn't respond to any, and she's right, but I responded to a few anyway.


  1. Good piece, given the context you had to work with. It's just kind of a so-so song, lacking the lyrical cleverness of "Welcome to the Future," or "I'm so much cooler on line," or even "Water." I really like Paisley, in general.

    You lump people in groups a lot, Will. You lean on the crutch of "elitist" and "identitarian" and other labels that let you dismiss people. It's ironic, especially as you do so in order to dismiss people for lumping people in groups.

    I've been reading your posts and writing since the PC discussion on Brust's page. You resort to labels that help you win arguments. I don't expect you to stop and that's why I stopped posting, but I think if you actually care about persuading people, you might consider these rhetorical crutches and how you might function without them.


    1. Serious question: who doesn't group people? When I speak of identitarians, I'm being very precise: people who give priority to a social identity. Doesn't mean they're bad people, though the bad ones use their politics as an excuse to behave abysmally.

      I would love to live in a world where everyone was treated with love because everyone was seen as a human being rather than in terms of class, race, gender, ability, etc. But capitalism requires reasons not to share the wealth. The easiest way to do that is to see others as other rather than same.

  2. I see it, reading your writing, as a way for you to lump together people who disagree with you, and then dismiss them. That there are lots of people who want to include social identity in the conversation, and the label enables you to point, label, and dismiss. Which is fine. It's your blog, your books, your essays, etc. But I find it functions as a rhetorical device that will only persuade those who are already persuaded. To me, as someone who finds your writing interesting, that's unsatisfying.

    I decided to risk posting actually because of "elitists." We hear that term a lot, a lot in fact in connection to country music, as I suspect you know. It's an easy way out. I write and sing country music, although I'm probably an elitist by any rubric you'd construct. I guess I'm probably an identitarian too, by your rubric.

    Hence, your labels make me wonder whether it's worth the time to actually talk to you? Is that your goal? To shut out discussion? To win? If so, then good, you win! If not ... then is your labeling useful to your agenda?

    1. I s'pose my problem is I don't believe words persuade anyone. So long as a system works for you, you'll stick to it. The system has to fail before you're open to change. It's just human nature.

      As for talking, avoid identitarian subjects if you don't want me to criticize them, and it's cool by me. I've got friends of all political stripes. The only folks I have no use for are the ones who dismiss me not because of my thoughts, but because they think my thoughts come from my white male privilege. Those people tend to be blind to the fact that there are twice as many white people in poverty as black, something that's been true at least since MLK noted it. I guess we're all doing our white privilege wrong.

  3. I think your writing is very interesting and naturally the thought process behind it is as well. So the crutches seem worth casting aside. But it's not a choice I can make for you, obviously.

    Maybe someday a real conversation over a drink.

    1. A fine plan. Real life is the best place for real conversations.