Country music singer Jason Aldean released a song in May entitled, “Try That in a Small Town”. The music video for the song, which came out in July, caused a lot of backlash from audiences due to images it used which contain racial undertones.
Aldean released a statement about the video refuting the accusation of racism, countering the song is a representation of an “unspoken rule” in small towns where people look out for each other.
He pushes back even more with his tweet: “…subject to the comparison that I (direct quote) was not too pleased with the nationwide BLM protests. These references are not only meritless, but dangerous. There is not a single lyric in the song that references race or points to it.”
“Try That In A Small Town, for me, refers to the feeling of a community that I had growing up, where we took care of our neighbors, regardless of differences of background or belief,” he continues in the tweet.
The song’s lyrics
“Sucker punch somebody on a sidewalk
Carjack an old lady at a red light
Pull a gun on the owner of a liquor store
Ya think it’s cool, well, act a fool if ya like
Cuss out a cop, spit in his face
Stomp on the flag and light it up
Yeah, ya think you’re tough”
Aldean is referring to people disrespecting others during the Black Lives Matter movement. There is no good reason to sucker punch an ordinary citizen who is walking on a sidewalk and steal an old lady’s car at a red light.
Where is the respect for our elders? There’s no justifiable reason to pull out a gun on an owner of a liquor store. What’s the explanation for that? Protesters have attacked high-end retail stores that are owned by wealthy people and cater to the rich.
Martin Luther King Jr. said that “violence is a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral”. Contrarily, Malcolm X felt that black Americans were entitled to secure their rights with the use of violence if necessary.
The looting and theft that occurred in Los Angeles during the George Floyd protests resulted in 56 arrests.
King said “a riot is the language of the unheard.” The frustration of underprivileged citizens is the impetus to cuss out a cop, stomp on the flag and light it on fire. They are expressing their anger with America that prioritizes capitalism and pride by disrespecting them. What else can they do? Police are still killing black people, in addition to the micro aggressive systemic racism that still goes on in America. We are fed up.
Hurt people hurt people.
“Well, try that in a small town
See how far ya make it down the road
Around here, we take care of our own
You cross that line, it won’t take long
For you to find out, I recommend you don’t
Try that in a small town”
The chorus echoes the “unspoken rule” that Aldean was referring to in his statement.
In an article published on Medium, the song is reminiscent of of a “sundown town” which prohibits black people to enter after dark. The author, Savannah Worley, would see black families run out of the town a year or two after they moved in.
Worley argues small towns are full of disruptive behavior that ultimately causes chaos. Since these places are typically overwhelmingly white, Aldean is just perpetuating the idea black people are the ones who are being disruptive.
“We take care of our own” refers to white people caring for other white people and if an “outsider” disrupts the status quo then he or she will be handled violently.
There are white people who joined the Black Lives Matter movement, so maybe they are also the ones disrupting the peace in those “sundown” towns.
“Got a gun that my granddad gave me
They say one day they’re gonna round up
Well, that shit might fly in the city, good luck”
Aldean implies gun violence between non-whites and those in small towns. Again, he is ignorant of the reasoning behind the disruptive behavior, such as looting and rioting.
There have been many instances of BLM sympathizers rounding up in protest in small towns around the country so “…that shit did fly.”
“Full of good ol’ boys, raised up right
If you’re looking for a fight
Try that in a small town
Try that in a small town”
This verse is proof that Aldean is promoting violence. It’s not protesters are that are looking for a fight, they are just spreading awareness in their own way.
Worley pointing out that Aldean’s idealistic small town is a “sundown” makes sense because of his tweet. It’s not like people from an outside community come into another town and cause havoc.
So what does Aldean mean when he says “… we took care of our neighbors, regardless of different backgrounds or beliefs” when black families were run out of “sundowns” soon after they moved in?
The music video shows a mix of black and white people vandalizing police cars, businesses and other supposedly innocent people. It also shows townspeople fighting back and it further proves the point that Aldean is promoting violence.
The problem with the video is that it shows people looting and rioting in a violent manner and paints them as the enemy. This creates an “us vs. them” mentality. It doesn’t show why the looting and rioting is happening which perpetuates an ignorant ideology to Aldean’s audience.
The video resonates with the idea of former President Donald Trump not speaking on the Black Lives Matter movement as a means for positive change.
When your own neighbors are vandalizing the community they live in, wouldn’t you want to know why?
When you live in a small town long enough, you experience a myopic set of experiences which are not diverse and makes you unaccustomed to nuance.
When you do encounter a diverse experience or perspective, then you will fight or flight from the situation. It will take time to accept and understand that specific perspective or experience.
Aldean had good intentions, but this song opposes the Black Lives Matter movement subliminally in ways that matters because it appeals to his audience. It is those people that we need to join in on the movement.
Aldean could have made a pro Black Lives Matter song, but would that have turned his audience away? Would such a song influence his fans to advocate for Black Lives Matter in their own lives?
Would a pro-Black Lives Matter song from a country artist lead to more policing reform and further ensure the safety of black people? Hopefully some day we will find out.
Edited by: James Sutton