Kelly Kimball, Social Media Editor
View Original Article HERE.
Macklemore’s latest single, “White Privilege II,” is a lot to unpack – and no decent opinion on its content is without a great deal of nuance.
This Grammy-award winning rapper pulls apart an experience marching in the Ferguson protests in Seattle following the shooting of Mike Brown. In doing so, he laces in several interludes of dialogue and anecdote that attempt to sum up the many contending sides of the Black Lives Matter movement. Towards the end of the piece, poet, singer and teaching artist Jamila Woods offers a final word to the entire song’s sentiment of bravely speaking out despite the luxury of silence.
Above all, White Privilege II is a rumination on the ugly forms white privilege may take in social justice contexts. This rumination calls out white privilege and white people’s often inauthentic attempts to offer support on such causes that directly affect Black Americans. For Macklemore, showing up to protests or tweeting about it is just the surface level. Facing the pervasiveness of racism and learning along the course of this struggle is something completely different. A line repeated often throughout the song is: “We take all we want from Black culture, but will we show up for Black lives?” It’s a question that remains in negotiation even after the nine-minute song ends.
In an interview with NPR last week, Macklemore shared one of the many intentions behind the song, stating that “It started with being silent for a long time around these issues and not wanting to mess up, and realizing that … the greatest tool that I have as an artist is to make a song … I still want to say something, knowing that it is never going to be perfect, but knowing that at the end of the day, I think it’s more important to say something than to remain silent.”
“White Privilege II” does not attempt to answer any questions; rather, it stirs up a multitude of important questions that privileged folk should ask themselves. The song boldly faces the singer’s whiteness and the singer’s privilege with a mindful discipline; he calls out subjects of cultural appropriation like Miley Cyrus and Iggy Azalea, and openly interrogates how his own music is appropriating Black culture; he openly wonders if he is disrespecting the art of rap by making more pop-like hits despite the genre originating from political — and therefore more serious — roots.
Say what you will about how ironic Macklemore’s success and popularity is upon producing this single. At the end of the day, awareness of internal dialogue and an articulation on how an ally could more authentically contribute to a cause are the first steps to transcending the uglier sides of privilege; they’re also the first steps for those weary of subscribing to a Black liberation movement to finally begin interrogating themselves on the origins of that indecisiveness. Only after this internal decision-making can real change actually take place with more people on board.