Friday, March 14, 2014

"Rebels" (With Footnotes)

Here is the second in my series of lyrical examinations of the songs of my second mixtape, "Core Nerd II!"

As I say in the song Liquid Thunder, "My rhymes are so dense you're gonna need footnotes." Here they are...

This time, for the song "Rebels." This song has a very specific origin, it's a response song to the tune "Accidental Racist," by Brad Paisley and LL Cool J. While I get what they were trying to do, and I applaud the goal, I think they failed. Oversimplifying racism and slavery (and its aftereffects) and equating slavery with hip hop style is not exactly a valid approach and it probably does more harm than help. So this was my response song, written the day I first heard of the original song. The beat decided the way the song sounded, even though I wrote the words first. In the original creation, it was a much slower song, but once I started recording, it got faster and I loved the new sound.

Accidental racist? Man kiss my ass

I start off explicitly rejecting Paisley's concept of "accidental" racism. It's a bullshit concept. Wearing a Confederate flag or putting in on your vehicle or something like that is an active decision to endorse racism. It's impossible to grow up in the South and not have people complain about it, so if you ignore those complaints, you aren't engaging in an accident, you've made a decision.

The bell ain't ringing and you get no hall pass
Rex is gonna take you to class
Let's talk a little bit about the past

Switching over to an intro that sets my credentials as a Professor by throwing out a few academic metaphors that are largely literal with me, as a former college professor who taught American history. The idea was to use the song as a jumping off point to address the lies and distortions used by Southerners. Beyond the basic premise, I wasn't really going after LL or Paisley, but the people who fly that evil, evil flag.

The rebel flag was a sign of treason

Starting with a very clear premise here that is 100% backed up by the historical record. The U.S. was the country that all of these racists were citizens of, then they engaged in treason against it in order to keep owning black people. None of this is debatable.

The reason you fly it doesn't matter

Some people give other reasons for why they fly the flag like "I'm not racist, it's about Southern history" and other such bullshit. But that doesn't matter, it's still a flag that represents treason and racism. I can't grab a Swastika and say that I'm wearing it to represent my paganism, it represents Nazis. Period. And the rebel flag represents the Confederacy, which was 100% a pro-slavery, anti-American institution.

Let me shatter that thought process
Your nonsense notions, let me address
It wasn't about slavery?
Man you must be joking
That flag's not racist?
Man what are you smoking?
It's all about Southern pride?
Man you must be toking
Fighting for a noble cause?
You gotta be joking

This section is all about actual quotes that I've had people tell me many times over the years. And not just from conservatives. Actual moderate, and even some liberal, white people believe these nonsensical lies that were made up after the fact to justify the evil of the Confederacy.

You think you're a rebel
But you side with the devil
You brag about your flag
But you're hanging with the scum bags

You think you're a rebel
But you side with the devil
You brag about your flag
But you're hanging with the scum bags

The chorus takes on the idea that Confederate sympathizers think of themselves as being against tyranny, when, in reality, they are siding with the tyrants.

States rights is just a code
Opening the door for Jim Crow
States rights to own slaves
To put millions in their graves
States rights to breed hate
To treat people like real estate

The second verse gets into some of the specific history, particularly the states' rights argument. But while many now talk about states rights in generic term, as if a piece of land can have a right, the reality is that states rights is dogwhistle language created to signal racism (amongst other evil things) without some people catching on. I'm not one of those who doesn't catch on. I know what you're doing and I'm going to call you out on it. During the Civil War, the only state right that was being fought for was the state's right to keep slavery legal.

Your state has no right
In this fight might wasn't right

I'm a firm believer that "might makes right" is not only invalid, it's immoral. And it's particularly immoral in connection with slavery.

This didn't all happen in the past
Southern racism was built to last
Here today and here tomorrow

Another massive misconception that white people toss out is the idea that all this racism stuff is in the distant past. It's nonsensical for many reasons, most notably that many racists are still running around out there saying racist things. Check YouTube comments, Twitter, Facebook, WorldNetDaily, any Southern local Republican Party, the Tea Party, etc.

Trail of tears, trail of sorrow

Here, I'm tying in slavery to the same kind of mindset that led to violence against Native Americans, another key factor in Southern history.

You think it ended in 1865?
That it didn't happen while you were alive
Wrong again, you need to know
This shit is now, not a long time ago

Summing up the basic argument that racism persists, which I expand upon in the next verse.

You think you're a rebel
But you side with the devil
You brag about your flag
But you're hanging with the scum bags

You think you're a rebel
But you side with the devil
You brag about your flag
But you're hanging with the scum bags

The chorus again.

Slavery ended but not so you'd notice
Bogus ferocious laws focused on the perpetuation
Of bondage and destitution, new institutions
Like peonage, sharecropping, the prison-lease system
Segregation, lynching, kept a race in their place
As defined by white men, it didn't end
Cycle of poverty, separate but equal
Slavery was part one, but there were many sequels

Basic history lesson of post-slavery racial domination by the white (male) majority. I'm tracing the throughline from slavery to the present, with the last two concepts, the cycle of poverty and separate but equal being things we still deal with in the present. "Separate but equal" here is absolutely NOT limited to old school segregation, even though that's where it started. Segregation is still widespread now, it's just done through different channels, many of them still legal.

Your history is a history of hate
You can't reform your past, it's too late

This is a shot at revisionist historians, starting with the post-Civil War era Southern historians who are the source of much of the revisionism that is still used today, all the way down the years to people in the present who have never studied history and try to say that it is whatever makes them look better and helps them get away with perpetuating hate.

Drop those old ideas and thoughts
Veneration of evil has got to stop

Tradition is often lauded as a good thing. Most of the time it isn't. Most of the time the "old ways" involved racism, sexism, homophobia, etc., and those things are never valid. Any tradition that venerates such ideas is wrong and should be eliminated, no matter how much people love it.

You lost, get over it
You were wrong and you know it

The first part of this is a bumper sticker I've seen a few times that has the Confederate flag crossed out like Ghostbusters. The idea being that those Southern Confederate ideas were tried out, people rejected them, it's time to move on. And the idea that, deep down, these people, on some level, have to know that they're wrong to be racist.

White power and white pride
Your cause has already died

Progress marches on, regardless of what conservatives think. This is a battle they can't win. Racism is widely recognized as an evil and we'll never move significantly back in that direction.

You think you're a rebel
But you side with the devil
You brag about your flag
But you're hanging with the scum bags

You think you're a rebel
But you side with the devil
You brag about your flag
But you're hanging with the scum bags

The chorus again.

Alexander Stephens was a traitor
Braxton Bragg was a traitor
Pierre Beauregard was a traitor
Nathan Bedford Forrest was a traitor
Stonewall Jackson was a traitor
Jefferson Davis was a traitor
Robert E. Lee was a traitor
All Confederates were traitors

This segment was specifically to call out the biggest and most well-known members of the Confederate Army, all of whom are still venerated in the South, through statues, building names, school names, etc. I wanted to go directly at the racists and call out their heroes by name, tossing one of the biggest insults in the right-wing lexicon: traitor.

The stars and bars were a sign of treason
The Blood Stained Banner was a sign of treason
The Bonnie Blue flag was a sign of treason
The Stainless Banner was a sign of treason

Similarly, you still see the stars and bars in the South all the time, including over some state capitols and incorporated into some state flags. This means that we have state governments in the South still endorsing treason and racism. Explicitly.

And they still are, they still are

It was important to reiterate that the racism of these people and symbols doesn't go away with time, it's just as strong now as it ever was.

Treason based on hate and subjugation of a race
Treason based on hate and subjugation of a race
Treason based on hate and subjugation of a race
Treason based on hate and subjugation of a race

This one was to make sure that I wasn't beating around the bush, to make sure listeners knew just how strongly I felt on the topic and to pound it into their heads. And, to me, there's absolutely no doubt that the South were traitors who engaged in treason so they could own black people. No debate is allowed on that topic, the historical record is so strong.

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