Lesson Ideas for tackling Race and Contemporary Country Music
Lesson Ideas for tackling Race and Contemporary Country Music by examining Brad Paisley and L.L. Cool J’s song “Accidental Racist”
- Start by examining the lyrics, either collectively, or give small groups parts of the song. Ask students to do some Googling to explain what various cultural references mean. (https://genius.com/Brad-paisley-accidental-racist-lyrics)
- Discuss the idea of finding “common ground” means in this song for both White and Black listeners.
- Ask students where they stand on the song’s messages.
- Read “Why ‘Accidental Racist’ Is Actually Just Racist” by Ta-Nehisi Coates (https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2013/04/why-accidental-racist-is-actually-just-racist/274826/) and “Brad Paisely’s Awkward and Earnest ‘Accidental Racist’” by Kelefa Sanneh (https://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/brad-paisleys-awkward-and-earnest-accidental-racist) . Both articles are by Black authors, and help underscore that Black ideology is not a monolith. Have students put the two authors in dialogue, asking what they might agree on and what they might disagree on, flagging quotes from both essays. Follow up by asking students if reading the two articles have changed their opinions (this can include feeling less sure in how to react).
A prompt for students to think about:
What ways to do these songs frame race and their own experiences of being Black? What aspects of these songs fit with the lyrical themes and sounds of country music?
Some videos/songs to compare:
- Kane Brown, “Worldwide Beautiful”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j2No_nowXsw
(it’s useful to place this video in the context of BLM protests, and makes in its lyrics a good comparison point for “Accidental Racist”)
- Mickey Guyton, “Black Like Me”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZXKsmR44IP8
- Darius Rucker, “Wagon Wheel”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hvKyBcCDOB4 (This video features several people from Duck Dynasty, for context)
submitted by: Dan Blim
keywords: racism, country music, pedagogy