Southern identity had been concerned with the rights of the South to forge its own laws, especially with regard to slavery. At the time, many in the South saw slavery not as a crime against humanity, but as a way of life and as an economic means to an end. The Industrial Revolution had yet to occur and many Southern plantation owners relied upon large slave workforces to keep their operations running. As such, slavery was accepted in society and African-Americans were typically viewed as a lesser race to be exploited for labor.
Southern pride and enduring strong feelings for their heritage persisted well through the Reconstruction Era and only intensified as African Americans rose to new opportunities within society. The Confederate Battle flag, as much as it remained a symbol of the Confederacy, also served as an identity for many Southern families as the Union began to change.
In 2013, singer Brad Paisley released the song “Accidental Racist” which discussed his encounter with a Starbucks barista who became offended at a Confederate flag image that Paisley had been wearing on his shirt. Paisley’s song is not an apology, but discusses that he feels caught between Southern pride and Southern blame. Paisley’s lyrics present the following: “Cause I'm a white man livin' in the southland/ Just like you I'm more than what you see / I'm proud of where I'm from but not everything we've done / And it ain't like you and me can rewrite history” (Paisley). Paisley’s song has drawn criticism because many feel that he attempts to excuse the Confederacy as an inextricable part of his Southern identity. Paisley continues to support antiquated Southern ideals which many people feel have no place in modern society. Additionally, LL Cool J’s part in the song stereotypes the identity of modern day African Americans. For example, he uses articles of clothing such as a do-rag to represent Black People. Ultimately, the conflicts of the song are never resolved (Lewis) which is especially evident in the message: “Let bygones be bygones” (Paisley).