Who is Macklemore’s White Privilege II for?
As a conscious and educated person who spends most of their time on the Internet I have been aware of my white privilege for some time now and I know there are certain advantages I accept as granted that are denied to others (although as a woman I’m far of being the crème de la crème). One advantage I have is living in London, which despite its clearly defined class roles, is one of the most multi-culture cities in the world, and I interact daily with people from various backgrounds and colors. I also happen to have a handful of conscious and open-minded friends with whom I can discuss race, politics and everything in between. Coming from a relatively small Eastern European country, though, poses some drawbacks as having relatives and friends who don’t think about issues of race because they just don’t have to and when posed with a racial dilemma, or a simple question, respond somewhat impulsively and rudimentary. There is the sense of a literal bubble that many are wrapped in and don’t feel the necessity to get out of.
Why am I saying all this? In a recent article regarding Macklemore’s new controversial single “White Privilege II” Gene Demby argues that the biggest flaw of the song is that it doesn’t have a sense of it’s audience - it doesn’t know who it is directed at. I guess Demby is right saying that Macklemore will fail to generate a positive response from the people of color. After all he is not saying anything they don’t already know.
But I believe there is an audience for the 9-minute think-piece in the form of a song— namely young people getting out of the bubble who are trying to make sense of a world filled with reports of police violence, “swarms” of refugees, obvious abuses of human rights, Donald Trumps, and blatant disregards of the pillars of democracy. Although of course some will try to convince me that “Black Lives Matter” matters only in the US, I will argue that currently we can see so many issues of race, caste, religion, class and status all over the world from the “most backwards” to the “most democratic” states. Violent clashes from India to Europe and America are united by the common characteristic of pitting “advantaged” ones against others who lack some perceived notion of eligibility or arbitrary trait. As Macklemore’s lyrics point out: “I was many steps ahead to begin with/My skin matches the hero, likeness, the image”, and also sums my points up: “White supremacy isn’t just some white dude in Idaho”. There are many injustices globally and we can all make a conscience choice of being a silent part of the status quo or trying to realize a shared potential towards a common good.
I am not trying to inspire anyone to get involved in protests or riots, although that wouldn’t hurt. I am trying to convince people that sometimes a simple act of silent self-reflection can do a lot more work than a university degree in understanding the plights and fights of our fellow humans. “White Privilege II” is far from the first or the best artwork to inspire such thought processes, and it does feel like Macklemore is trying too hard. But he is just a white boy trying to make sense of the big world and realize his place in it. And even if this is a publicity stunt, it wouldn’t hurt to take advantage of it and make it into an occasion to spark a reasonable and civil conversation with someone over your shared perceptions of reality. Now, that would be a privilege.