Leading up to his new album, This Unruly Mess I’ve Made, Macklemore released White Privilege II today and there are some mixed feelings towards it.
Calling out the likes of Miley Cyrus and Iggy Azalea, Macklemore addresses exactly what white privilege is within the political, social, and musical spheres, of our daily lives. Some have raised the song high as a sheer beacon of hope in such tough times where the mere acknowledgement that Black Lives Matter is cause enough for anger and aggression. In such tough times where we fear political discussions with our loved ones and new friends, terrified that their political correctness is not on the same level as ours. In such tough times where many of us feel that like a used tennis racket, or a chipped snow shovel, or a broken hammer. Battered, twisted, hopeless, we march vocally and physically, with hopes in our hearts and power in our souls, for change. In part of our marches, we look to music, most specifically hip hop.
Kendrick Lamar kept the fire burning in our hearts alive with the release of his timeless and impeccable album, To Pimp A Butterfly, March 2015. Jay Z spoke similarly during his B-Side concert in New York City May 2015. Click here to see. Not to mention the tireless work of such leaders and activists like Johnetta Elzie, Amandla Sternberg, Zendaya, Deray, and many, many, others. In 2015, we saw the rise and decline of white allies with Rachel Dolezal [problematic] being the greatest decline, and Matt McGorry being one of those who rose. In every step we have taken thus far towards change, the articles, the fights, the marches, and the much needed discussions, have been done for us and by us. Rightfully so. If we were to let our white allies lead, it would aid in the erasure of our presence; the same presence we are fighting to maintain. Which is why Macklemore being the pioneer on his song WP2, is hard to swallow for some. Whether those opposed would admit it or not, WP2 is a masterpiece and it is the truth. But, it is not for Black people.
The most obvious sign that WP2 is not for Black people lies in the Interlude. Where we hear multiple voices, white voices, lathered in pure privilege and ignorance, highlighting exactly how and what white privilege sounds like. The voices being so ordinary send the resounding message that this is an everyday occurrence, not unlike the racism that drives it. The same racism that Black people encounter, everyday. The same racism Black people can recite like a poem, tattooed onto the back of our palms. The same white privilege Black people train all their lives to try and break through. You see, we know of it. We know of the racism and we know of the privilege, and we especially, know those ordinary voices. The voices of our co-workers, our bosses, our friends, our family members, our teachers, our professors, our doctors, the front desk clerks, the part-time workers at that store we shop at, and even our realtors/landlords. We know of it, all too well. There is a demographic of people who have yet to understand it. The demographic we hear speaking during the interlude. The demographic that benefits while we deficit. White people.
Charlotte Rampling, 69-year-old Oscar nominee known for such roles as in 45 Years and Never Let Me Go, came forward to state that the diversity argument, driving the boycott of the 2016 Academy Awards, is racist to white people. The same white people who will be inside the Oscars and on the TV screens, on a daily basis. Rampling is not alone. For years, leading up to this very second, and the next, and the next, Black people have explained racism and its many shades yet individuals like Rampling, Jennifer Lawrence, and Jimmy Kimmel, seem to not get it yet. So, we ask ourselves, what will it take? Will one of our young ones being shot and killed do it? No. Will exposing the dishonesty of the legal system do it? No. Will years and years of historical knowledge and truth do it? No. Unfortunately, after exhausting every option, for those white people who have yet to grasp it, we need a white ally to tag in.
In would come Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. For years Macklemore has spoken to white people on issues regarding racism, and sure he has made some horrible mistakes – here and here – but, in acknowledging his growth, I would posit it is time to let the past be the past and listen to his powerful future. WP2 is not for us Black people because we do not all need years to finally understand racism in and out. It is not time to be upset that Macklemore is white. It is time to take a breath, as we let Macklemore speak to those who have yet to get it. Like the fans he talks of in WP2 that label his music as not so hip-hop but hip-hop for the middle class. This song is for those white individuals who do not get it. This song is our five second breath on the battlegrounds. Black people are the face of our change. There is no wrong in letting Macklemore aid in that change as well, in the background, especially after he worked on this song with fellow activists and leaders. He went to the root and did his research. He engaged in active discussion and, in a world where we are scrutinizing the Oscars for being too white, I am baffled that we are now then scrutinizing Macklemore for being honest. Those ordinary voices we encounter daily listen to the Macklemores of our world before they listen to the Kendricks or the Coles. We know this so why are we surprised by this? For one split second, let them listen and let them listen good. Before we step in again, and continue to carry the torch.
Before you toss out this song, have another listen. You may feel idle like I did when listening; as a feeling of a sermon unintended for me had begun. But, the more I listened, the more I smiled and grew hopeful that maybe one day, we will reach that same Glory, John Legend sang about.
Song is here
Lyrics are here