Mr. White Man

I was walking in to work this morning, listening to the music on my phone and Brother Ali’s The Travelers came on. If you’re wondering how a person could make a serious version of Accidental Racist that still has flow and a beat, here it is.


Shackles are heavy on the wrist
Stacked like sardines, belly of a ship
Live in your own piss and shit and being seasick
Cracked across your back with a thick leather whip
Salt water burns through your wounds
Women are starving with babies in their wombs
On your hands and knees trying to cry God please
Exhausted your voice is too weak to speak
Neighbors and strangers are dying beside you
Their decaying bodies you’re tied to
Cling tight to your fight for survival
Wonder if your tribe will ever try to find you
Arrive somewhere strange, the air is cold
You can see your breath and you’re barely clothed
Your first time ever seeing snow
Sleeping next to it on a hard dirt floor
Go from can’t seeing see in the morning to can’t see at night
You work till your hands bleed white
Your native language you can’t recite
Murdered on sight if you try to read or write
When you bend all of your life and can’t see the light
It get’s painful to stand upright
And your eyes bear the sight of your wife
Being being pulled from your shack and brutalized at night
You only taste joy when babies are born
Which becomes an occasion to mourn
Separated, torn from your celebrating arms
Then as quickly as they came they were gone
Sold away from your farm this is all they’ve known
Never heard stories from home
They forget your name
The culture from which you came
Teaching it’ll get you slain.
Praying to your god will get you the same and tortured to near death lest you complain
No choice left you sing through the pain and pray that your suffering wasn’t in vain
End of your chain, end of your life
Your grandchildren born with no end is sight
So you muster up all of your might
And your last breath comes out…fight
This is actually true
Now stop and imagine that’s you
Now stop imagining unravel the truth and ask just who is it happening to
Everything that the passenger do
The driver experience too
So if humanity is one
Then we all get burned when it’s hell that we’re traveling through

You’ve got to save my soul
Put me back together make me whole
Said we don’t know which way to go
Take my hand and place me on that road

(Verse 2)
Trapped in a history we don’t understand
Can’t remember how this blood got on our hands
Never been taught about the ugly past
Expecting God not to punish man
Our ancestors brought us control
We realize now that the cost was our soul
Got me feeling like an empty shell
Prison guard that inherited a cell
I’m desperate to find my place
Emptiness lies behind my face
Flowers only die in a vase
A heart only dies encased in a lie we call race
I hear the song but I can’t sing along
Something’s really wrong I can’t put my finger on
Terrified to admit it’s wrong
Cause I’m hiding in the ruins of a legacy that still lives on
Our identity is hinged upon the miserable myth we’ve been caught since we’re born
Until we mend what was torn
The debt of a sin lingers long after the vicitim’s moans
This is actually true
Now stop and imagine that’s you
Now stop imagining unravel the truth
And ask just who is it happening to
Everything that the passenger do the driver experience too
So if humanity is one then we all get burned when it’s hell that we’re traveling through


Brother Ali is someone you should familiarize yourself with because he is a rare find: Someone who is positive, progressive and political without sounding shitty.

As far as Accidental Racist goes, now that everybody’s got their giggles out people seem to be divided over weather to pan Brad and J for making such a corny mess or break out the participant ribbons. I mean, they did come all this way to join the conversation about race in America. Their song was bad, and their ham handed dad-like awkwardness didn’t help. But should they feel bad? I mean, how many people listened to that song and didn’t see a thing wrong with it? I’m not sure, but we know of at least two.

On the one hand, bigotry is far from over (honestly, may never be over) and Coke commercial platitudes aren’t doing anybody any favors. On the other hand, this may be somebody’s introduction to the discussion, and the welcome wagon seems to be packed with snarky academics with itchy critics fingers.

I feel like there needs to be some kind of progressive scale of engagement over here. Ok yeah, this shit pretends that the centuries old tension between majority and minority in this country can be solved with a simple acknowledgement that one man’s do-rag is a other man’s cowboy hat (tactfully ignoring that both headgear choices are fucking stupid looking.) We’re so used to extremely schooled apathy couched in unwavering expertise that when we see this earnest but doomed attempt it’s difficult to move past mockery or moralizing.

I’m the kind of person that loves to see other people lose their shit. Not because it makes me better than them, but because it proves I’m not worse. I am an awkward mess, and not in the Zooey Deschanel way. In the awkward fucking mess way. So Accidental Racist is kind of a steaming pile. Good. We all make shitheaps, and not just sometimes. We make shitheaps constantly. It’s the human condition. Why do you think we all get so excited when one of us finally had an excellent couple of minutes and makes something actually really good?

The college educated, or more likely college attending public will eat race politics for breakfast and shit feminist post-modernist analysis mid morning between their Psychology of the Romantic Poets lecture and the bi-monthly meeting of the Progressive Atheists for Meaningful Action. Clearly, this ballad is not for them. But Accidental Racist is more than just an awareness booster for the unwashed, ungraduated masses. What I, an educated middle class Latina have in common with my working class sisters is so miniscule it’s basically statistically irrelevant. Because of racism, we are tied together politically and socially, which is important, but that working class Latina can relate far more easily to a working class white person or another working class person of color despite the cultural differences.

The poor are the most powerful lobby our nation has, and so far they don’t work together because of cultural and racial divides. What if this shitty song turned out to be the banner that marked the turning point in American history from race warfare to class warfare? Even as our economy recovers, low earners continue to get trampled*. What if, instead of allowing themselves to be distracted by artificial cultural divisions along racial lines, America’s poor finally stood together for once? Honestly, I’m cool with a thousand Accidental Racists if that would be the case.

*That article is sort of doomsday-ey, but the links seem legit and the statistics are far-reaching.