Macklemore and Ryan Lewis just released their eight-minute song, White Privilege II (Apparently, Macklemore recorded a song White Privilege in 2005), and as expected it is being met with a mix of guarded praise, skepticism, and direct criticism.
It’s definitely complicated. A white rapper, raps about his own white privilege, his place in wanting to help break down the systems of racism but feeling awkward about how to do that, yet benefiting from the very systems that uphold white supremacy.
Opinions on social media vary widely. There are people of color and white people who think the song is a good thing–that it will wake white people up, spark dialogue, and action. There are people of color and white people who say that Macklemore’s latest song is just another attention-getting moment for the rapper to position himself as a white savior, with the help of token black artists, or that he is putting himself at the center of the issue of racism by constantly calling attention to his feelings of uncomfortability while trying to figure out how he can become a part of anti-racist work, without offending people of color.
People also are making note of the fact that the message of white privilege is going to be more easily heard from this white messenger, when black artists have been trying to say the same thing for years, or have tried but haven’t had the same opportunities to succeed in the industry, as this more palatable rapper. And some, just dislike the song because they think Macklemore is a lot less talented than both famous and lesser known hip-hop artists of color.
I have to take a closer listen to the song, and process my thoughts and feelings about it, but for now I feel my thoughts align with those of Deray McKesson, one of the leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement who tweeted that he thinks the song is important in terms of bringing awareness and creating dialogue, but also makes it clear that Macklemore is no savior, and that the artist should be open to critique of the song, and most important of all, to go beyond talk, and take action to break down the systems of racism. He wants Macklemore, and other white people to go beyond merely being aware of our privilege, and then going on our merry ways living the same way. Yet, I can also see why some people of color are keeping a close eye on Macklemore and are not quite so quick to give him the same pass they have given artists like Eminem and Justin Timberlake when it comes to seeing him as a white artist who is using cultural appropriation to his benefit rather than being seen as someone who is more genuinely a part of that culture.
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis have set up a website: www.whiteprivilege2.com which outlines the process they used to connect and collaborate with artists and activists of color to create the song, and to further discuss how Macklemore and Lewis can use their platform and the song, White Privilege 2, to bring about change.
Please listen to the song, and the two links below, and form your own opinions, and please share them here. Aside from the song, I’ve included an interview that appeared on www.colorlines.com with Macklemore, Ryan Lewis, poet, singer, Jamila Woods, poet, singer-songwriter, Hollis Wong-Wear, anti-racist activist, Dustin Washington, and hip-hop scholar, cultural commentator and radio host, Jay Smooth. Beneath the interview is a link to a video by Gozi Kodzo, who calls himself a revolutionary, and African Internationalist, who doesn’t like Macklemore’s efforts, and he will very plainly tell you why.
The Jay Smooth interview featured on Colorlines:
Now, readers, please share your thoughts and feelings on the song and Macklemore here. And, as Macklemore notes in his interview with Jay Smooth, I hope that more white people will speak and share, since he says they/we are often afraid of making a misstep, of being called racist, of offending. The question I’ve heard people of color say, and one which I ask myself, and by extension, you, “What’s more important–to worry about being called a racist, or being complacent with your awareness of your privilege yet not doing anything about it, even being willing to talk with a person of color so we can understand better how we can act.
Photo credit: www.colorlines.com