From Aristotle’s Metaphysics: “And it is an accident that a man is pale (for this is neither always nor for the most part so), but it is not by accident that he is an animal.” Also, no one ever asked to be born, and, yes, in that sense, too, it’s an “accident” that I’m White, you’re Black, and that the society we both live in remains racially ordered. So, as rational animals, let us take up our historical responsibilities dialogically. Let’s start by tallying our grievances and generating the worst sorts of false equivalences (shades of Haggis’ Crash): the violence of Sherman’s March is roughly the same as that of slavery, and the Reconstruction left incomplete (“rubble” all around) is similar to conditions in today’s 'hood. Paisley’s addressee (barista LL Cool J serving up a truly tepid shot) is figured as “not to be (White),” but the odd locution of “not to be” hints at something more troubling: the other in this dialogue has not completely overcome its designation as a “natural slave” across four hundred years of slavery, Jim Crow, and the prison industrial complex. LL sets the terms for the track’s ivory and ebony reconciliation (“the past is the past,” contra Faulkner, and “let bygones be bygones”). But dialogue has not begun so long as one of the interlocutors keeps trending toward invisibility.
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