Macklemore’s “White Privilege II”: A Reflection

I was going to write a blog post about colonialism. I had it all in my mind. I was going to write about the fact that many British citizens happen to be proud of the British empire, of colonialism and all the amazing things it brought about! (detect my sarcasm, please).

And then by chance I ended up reading an article on Macklemore’s “White Privilege”. I told myself: I’ve got to listen to this.

On January 22, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis dropped this track that features Jamila Woods. 8.46 minutes defining almost perfectly what white privilege is. It spells out cultural appropriation.

He mentions people like Iggy Azalea, Miley Cyrus who have not found it weird or wrong to  not give credit where credit is due (Azalea is fuming apparently but I could seriously careless because she definitely doesn’t deserve respect for her appropriationist claws).

There are voices of men and women in the track saying what many whites have said to justify how the world is right now.

“So, they feel that the police are discriminating against the… the black people? — I have an advantage? Why? Cause I’m white? (laughs) What? (laughs) No. — See, more people nowadays are just pussies. Like, this is the generation to be offended by everything. — ‘Black Lives Matter’ thing is a reason to take arms up over perceived slights. — I’m not prejudiced, I just… — 99% of the time, across this country, the police are doing their job properly.”

Voices that blame Black people. Voices that deny some of the things they have been through. Voices that deny experiences and inflict wounds that are rarely healed.  Voices that sound perhaps familiar to those who do remember the days of Jim Crow, or the days of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream Speech”, or the days where hopes for a new era were harbored.

He raps of his profiteering from white privilege.

“But the one thing the American dream fails to mention
Is I was many steps ahead to begin with
My skin matches the hero, likeness, the image”

I’m happy. Genuinely. I’m happy that someone who has the reach that Macklemore has has decided to speak out. The praise will come in for sure. Many people will say things like: “OMG, Macklemore is awesome for speaking out against entrenched structural racism. He’s just like, a real ally like.”

But a part of me cannot help but be conflicted and weirdly sad.

I’m not pulling an Azealia Banks who has dissed Macklemore in a twitter storm. I do see the benefits of Macklemore’s latest creative pursuit. It will start a conversation, it will force some white folks to stop and listen and think that maybe what Macklemore rapped about is true.

It is just sad that it has to take Macklemore for some people to have to open their eyes. Black people, and minorities of all kinds have been shouting, yelling, crying, dying trying to get this people to listen. The same people who laugh at the mere concept of police brutality being a thing, the same people who blame kids who have terrible schools for failing at education, the same people who scoff at the idea that white people are privileged but argue, instead, that they are the ones under attack! They blame affirmative action for stealing away what they rightly deserve, without acknowledging stats and info that shows that white people are generally better off than Blacks.

Maybe now they will stop and think outside the box that has confined their existence. Because now they have no excuses. They cannot blame angry Black people who do not want to take responsibility for speaking out. They cannot blame Macklemore…because his words matter in a way that Black Lives don’t. His words matter because his face is a few shade paler than the skin color of Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice and Mike Brown.

So I’m grateful that he has started this conversation once again in a country just like Britain where the word race make people uncomfortable, fidgeting in their seats.

I sincerely hope that a few years from now I’ll be able to think back to this song and talk about how things have changed since then. But until that happens I hope more artists in a position of privilege will be able to speak out through art to open the minds of their similar looking peers.


For anyone who has not seen this yet, MTV last year made a documentary asking White People about race.

 

For other interesting takes on Macklemore, check out one of Blavity’s opinion piece and Rolling Stone.

What do you think about Macklemore’s new song? Do you agree with with Banks’s diss of the song? Let me know in the comments below.

 

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