Similarly to how Macklemore has stated that writing White Privilege II was a way of processing the complex issue of white privilege, I am writing this post as I myself process the song and attempt to formulate an opinion on it.
I’ll be honest- I’m not overly familiar with it yet. I heard it for the first time yesterday, and haven’t yet taken the time to analyze and evaluate… in fact, that’s exactly what this is. So here goes.
I really do believe that Macklemore had good intentions when producing the song. Based off of what I know about him and what I’ve heard him say regarding the track, (which I must admit is fairly limited— I read this Rolling Stone article and this Twitter thread with Deray Mckesson), it is evident that he is woke enough to have a pretty strong understanding of white privilege, especially as it pertains to his own experiences and perspective.
The thing about White Privilege II is that it’s paradoxical. The fact that he can even write the song is a clear example of the place of privilege that he writes about and curses.
The song doesn’t say anything new; it’s far from revolutionary. He’s simply echoing the voices of people of color who are on the other side of his privilege. He’s acknowledging what’s already been said for literally hundreds of years by the very people who are fighting against the systems that white privilege built and flourishes under.
The fact that he’s receiving praise for pointing out racism, cultural appropriation, and white privilege is problematic.
White privilege is what allows this white rapper to point out the blatantly obvious fact that racism still exists and be called a genius and a hero, while drowning out the voices of millions of people of color who suffer under the institutionalized systemic racism that white privilege dearly protects.
And far too often, the people who are celebrating Macklemore for pointing out the obvious are often the same people who completely turn a blind eye to the real racism that exists outside of his music.
At the same time, I have to give him credit for speaking out, because the majority of white artists and other individuals in positions of influence fail to recognize and address their own privilege. I think that him raising his voice is going to encourage others to assess their own places of privilege, and hopefully drive them to not just acknowledge it but work towards dismantling it.
Macklemore seems to understand that awareness is just a starting point, and I desperately hope that he follows up with real action.
In summary, I think that he means well, and I want to believe that his actions going forward from here are going to reflect his thoughts and feelings he displays in the song. I think he has the potential to be a significant white ally who takes actionable steps towards fighting the oppressive systems of racial inequality that have haunted North America for centuries.
At the end of the day, I understand that I’m not that different from Macklemore in that I’m also a white person who certainly doesn’t deserve any sort of praise for simply going, “Hey, I’m privileged and I know it.” We both directly and indirectly benefit from the very system that we speak out against (in fact, Macklemore is capitalizing off of it with this song) and I’m aware that this leaves us both in an awkward and uncomfortable middle ground, rightfully subject to criticism.
I’m still not entirely settled on an opinion of White Privilege II, and am going to continue listening to thoughts and arguments from all sides. Actions are louder than words, and until Macklemore proves that he isn’t all talk, I quite frankly don’t have anything else to say about him at this point.
Please reach out and let me know where you stand— I’d love to hear your own thoughts as well as any resources you’ve found that have helped you formulate your opinions on this. Comment below or direct message me here.