Another problem with the song is the way it chooses to frame the issues it addresses. While I understand there is only so much time in a song and each verse can’t be a dissertation, simply calling slavery and Jim Crow “mistakes” just doesn’t do those matters justice. Again here the assumption one draws from this is that these are things from the past and should be forgotten for the sake of progress. Sadly this is how many Americans, both White AND Black, view these things, “it’s something that needs to be gotten over”. Instead of realizing these things as progress-crippling institutions and practices, we’d rather blame Black folks for playing the victim. Whether intended or not, these are the kind of sentiments that get reinforced with stuff like this.
There are other things that one could take Paisley to task for, like his naivety about the rebel flag being merely a symbol of pride, but that horse has already taken enough beatings. The real axe to grind is with Mr. GOAT.
You could almost (not really) let Paisley slide as just being a well intentioned guy (we really need to start asking for more than good intentions from people) but I don’t know what the hell LL was thinking when he wrote his 16. It’s one thing to try and be harmonious and understanding when having tough conversations, but L goes completely overboard. Cool J deserves the word “safe” stamped right across his forehead. If the revolution ever comes, please don’t expect the GOAT to assist, especially with lines like, “If you don’t judge my du-rag, I won’t judge your red flag” and “If you forget my gold chains, I’ll forget those iron chains”. I don’t know how fashion choices and the disenfranchisement of an entire group of people are equal, but for LL they must be. Probably the most ironic is LL’s last line in the song. “R.I.P to Robert E. Lee, but I gotta thank Abraham Lincoln for freeing me, know what I mean?”. LL himself doesn’t even know what he means. The Emancipation Proclamation didn’t free anyone. By the time it was issued the South had already seceded and from the North and slavery was already abolished there. And while Lee was no John Brown, he was probably a tad bit more sympathetic to the plight of slaves than Lincoln, who said if he could preserve the Union and not free any slaves he would (for the record, I’m still not saying Rest In Peace for Robert E. Lee).
At some point this country as a whole needs to educate itself on this thing called race, and quit settling for the easy way out with these surface level celebrations of ‘tolerance’. Racism isn’t just that ugly thing that happened in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s; it’s the thing that makes people think Trayvon Martin deserved to get shot for dressing like a ‘hoodlum’. It’s the thing that makes people think it’s black boys fault that they receive subpar educations instead of seeking reform. And sadly, it’s racism that makes too many people think that a corny song could correct an issue that has plagued this country for over 400 years.