An Editorial by Melvin Twigg Mason

A few months ago, I became aware of Jason Aldean’s video, “Try That In A Small Town,” only after going down the video rabbit hole of the latest in conservative thought found on YouTube. The fans of this musical contribution mentioned that there has been some insinuations of racism found throughout the video by those of the “woke” mentality. Well, I must admit I loved the rockin’ music of this country song, but as I listened to the lyrics AND watched the scenes in the official music video, I quickly began to see why there was/is such a controversy.

In the video, which at the time of this writing had received 36 million views since its July 14th release this year, Aldean speaks about the increasing acts of violence and crime being perpetrated in urban society and splashed across the national news over the last 3-4 years, such as carjackings, disrespecting law officers, and even unpatriotic acts against the American flag. He couples those words with visuals of protests gone violent, closed-circuit footage of store robberies in progress, and big city streets on fire.

He then brings home the foundational message:

“Well that _S@!+_ might fly in the city (good luck)
But try that in a small town!
See how far you make it down the road.
‘Round here, we take care of our own.
You cross that line, it won’t take long…
Full of good old boys, raised up right.
If you’re lookin’ for a fight
try that in a small town!”

Any American who’s lived any amount of time knows who the phrase “good ol’ boys” refers to. And the song lyrics tell that these boys have easy access to “the gun that my granddad gave me,” while the video shows bonfire silhouettes of beards and baseball caps firing rifles into the night, with the American flag billowing as a backdrop. In the contemporary words of these staunch citizens the message is clear, “Not in My Backyard” (a.k.a., NIMBY), or in other words, don’t try that stuff in a small town.

Photo credit: Kelly (Pexels)

But as I watched this declaration of cultural solidarity, I began to think, “What if the shoe was on the other foot?” What would it look like to try that in reverseWhat IF “the brothas” were delivering this same message to the so-called patriots of America?? The music would be the same, and the lyrics remain the same (for the most part); but replace the current good old boys video footage with newsreel scenes from actual events of the 1960s.

Police wrestle MLK Jr to ground in 1960s. (Photo: Revolutionary United Front)

Instead of the George Floyd protests of the 2020s, I began to imagine the civil rights riots of the 60s. Instead of seniors being “sucker-punched on the sidewalk,” we see civil rights workers being wrestled to the ground with all the accompanying brutality of certain police departments of that era. Instead of good old boys watching out for their town, we show the armed brothers of the Black Panther Party “taking care of their own.” The collective message then becomes, “Don’t try that in a Black town.

Not since the 60s have Blacks and other people-of-color (POC) felt such a strong need to arm themselves for protection like we feel in today’s America. In a nation that’s becoming increasingly more divided (in more ways than one), it’s a sad state of affairs when we can no longer safely knock on someone’s door to ask for directions, use a driveway to turn our car around, nor jog down a street in our own neighborhood in the light of day, without getting shot or shot at.

Though the increasing violence may be happening in our urbanized districts, not all of the violators are from the inner cities of America, nor are they always the POCs who live there, as evidenced by the brawl instigated in Montgomery, Alabama (a “chocolate city”) on 8/5/2023. The day seems fast-approaching when most Americans, not just those good old boys in a small town, will also pride themselves on fighting to take care of there own — “by any means necessary,” to coin another familiar phrase. Perhaps if the fans of this song could, like me, imagine it in reverse, they might see that the problem of unnecessary violence is not just a big city issue, nor a POC issue, it’s everyone’s issue, as evidenced already in the small towns of Henryetta, OklahomaTate County, Mississippi, and Uvalde, Texas.