Little Mermaid: A Disney poster shows a mermaid and says "Disney, The Little Mermaid." An scared white woman is pointing at it with both hands saying "MERMAIDS AREN'T BLACK!!!" The caption has an arrow pointing at her and says "Pretty much every right-wing culture war panic ... Pssst–Mermaids aren't real."
Credit: Pat Bagley, The Salt Lake Tribune, UT / CTNewsJunkie via Cagle Cartoons / ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Elwood Watson

Earlier this week, the Country Music Television pulled Jason Aldean’s highly controversial music video for “Try That in a Small Town,” after its release last week sparked controversy.

Aldean, one of the biggest country music stars, has been widely criticized for the new song and video, which features intense hostility and threats of violence against police protesters.

Some of the tune’s lyrics include: “Cuss out a cop, spit in his face / Stomp on the flag and light it up / Yeah, you think you’re tough / Well, try that in a small town / See how far you make it down the road / Around here, we take care of our own.”

Later in the song, Aldean hints to a conspiracy theory that the U.S. government intends to round up its citizens: “Got a gun that my granddad gave me / They say one day they’re gonna round up / Well, that s— might fly in the city, good luck.”

The video is also sporadically peppers with footage of protesters – some confrontational and violent – squaring off with law enforcement.

More disturbing is the fact that filming for the video occurred at the Maury County courthouse in Columbia, Tennessee, a town with a horrendous, racially volatile history. In 1927, it was the site of the lynching of a 27-year-old Black man, Henry Choate. A riot occurred in the same city in 1946.

Aldean has defended the song’s lyrics and refuted allegations that it alludes to the Black Lives Matter protest movement.

While he has received considerable support from many right-wing commentators and other conservatives, another music superstar, Sheryl Crow, a long time advocate of gun safety, has been among Aldean’s critics . In a Twitter comment Crow stated “I’m from a small town. Even people in small towns are sick of violence. There’s nothing small-town or American about promoting violence. You should know that better than anyone having survived a mass shooting. This is not American or small town-like. It’s just lame.”

The shooting she is referring to is the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, which took place in Las Vegas in October 2017 as Aldean was performing at the Route 91 Harvest festival. He and his band escaped physically unscathed, but 58 people were killed and 867 were injured.

Aldean’s defense did little to assuage the critics who had already harbored deeply ambivalent feelings toward him. He has also dealt with numerous controversies in the past, and been very sympathetic to right-wing causes, such as:

  • Wearing blackface at a Halloween party in 2015
  • Declared that he could not distinguish between female country singers.
  • Has repeatedly worn a Confederate Flag on stage at concerts.
  • Espoused rhetoric that is critical of and offensive to the LGBTQIA community.
  • Praised and encouraged maskless concerts during the height of the COVID pandemic.
  • Has been an outspoken supporter of former President Donald Trump, calling him “the G.O.A.T.”

While he certainly has the right to endorse whatever political candidates or embrace any political ideology he desires, other people have the right to critique and challenge such a value system, especially as it relates to public figures.

Here’s looking at you, Mr. Aldean.

Elwood Watson, Ph.D. is a professor of history, Black studies, and gender and sexuality studies at East Tennessee State University. He is also an author and public speaker. His opinions are distributed by Cagle Cartoons.

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