Macklemore’s White Privilege II: Will We Finally Listen?

Macklemore’s new song, White Privilege II. If you’ve heard it, you probably have a very strong opinion about it.

That’s okay. You were meant to. This song is designed to make people talk about racism in America. It’s not perfect. But it’s meant to get people talking. In short, the Seattle rapper’s argument is:

We take all we want from black culture. But will we show up for black lives?
We want to dress like, walk like, talk like, dance like… yet we just stand by.
We take all we want from black culture. But will we show up for black lives?

So many celebrities have made millions off of cultural appropriation (you know: white people using black culture to make themselves cool). He name drops Miley Cyrus and Iggy Azalea.

But Macklemore’s not pretending to be a saint. The rapper is clearly aware that he, Ben Haggerty from Seattle, as a white rapper, reaps the benefits of being a cool rap music superstar, without any of the struggles of racism his African American peers face daily.

And to be clear: People of color in America have to deal with subtle, not-so-subtle and institutional racism. It’s still rampant in our world. In my (mostly white) social circles, this fact is viewed as an opinion. It’s view as an opinion from a bunch of overly-sensitive, politically correct complainers. Many of whom are assumed to probably have a chip on their shoulder from past pain, and are now trying to make perfectly nice and completely innocent white people pay for something they didn’t do.

But I’ve seen racism in America firsthand. (I didn’t used to see it. I’ve spent a lot of time obvious to it. I didn’t see reality until I started spending extended periods of time in different neighborhoods and developing more friendships with people who weren’t white like me. Most people I know with the above opinions haven’t done either.) I don’t blame white people. I don’t think the majority of us are acting maliciously or intentionally at all. But we benefit from TONS of inherent, built in advantages we might not even realize.

Meanwhile, people of color are hurting. And we don’t see their hurt. We’re oblivious to their pain. We have huge blind spots. And we need our eyes to be opened.

Macklemore’s White Privilege II is trying to do that. Yes, it’s not perfect. But it has power. Because people of color can talk about #BlackLivesMatter until they are blue in the face, and some people just won’t listen. But Macklemore is a white. He is a man. He’s a popular celebrity. And if a white male celebrity is willing to say racism is an issue — maybe he will have enough credibility to get people starting to listen. 

In the time since I’ve started to see what a huge issue racism is, my biggest frustration is how few other white people have noticed. White people don’t want to talk about racism. We’ll indulge it for a second. But it doesn’t tug at our hearts. It doesn’t resonate in our souls. We just don’t have a deep enough motivation to want to fix it.

We need more white people speaking up. More white voices, especially those in power, saying that this issue does matter.

And Macklemore–one of the biggest names in the music industry right now–is speaking up.

I hope people finally listen.

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