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Macklemore’s ‘White Privilege II’ is an unfortunate necessity

| Monday, February 1, 2016

Macklemore_WEBLAUREN WELDON | The Observer

I was at first a little reluctant to take on an article revolving around the extremely controversial and socially relevant concept of white privilege. We live in a country where there are constant divides and debates about the realities of racial inequalities in our nation. Though it seems the dialogue has been very much present in the past year or so, many have attempted to ignore, oppress and quench the fire that is the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. “But all lives matter,” they say.

Cue Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’s “White Privilege II,” a nearly nine minute anthem featuring the incredibly talented black poet and social activist Jamila Woods that shines a heavy spotlight on white privilege and supremacy. As expected, the song kick-started a series of debates behind the authenticity of the message and Macklemore’s intentions. Some claim he was “trying too hard” while others praised him for “starting the conversation” on the reality of white privilege. And, as also expected, the white supremacists continued to claim that white privilege does not exist.

The song begins with Macklemore joining a BLM march and immediately asking, “Should I even be here marching?” There is an evident conflict in supporting the BLM movement as a white person; I want to stand up and fight for those who have been marginalized and oppressed for countless years, but I do not want it to seem like I am speaking on behalf of a group of people that have experienced hardships that I will never understand.

Macklemore makes one point clear from the get-go: this song is for white people. Black people do not need to hear about white privilege, as they are the ones constantly experiencing the injustices that are produced from it. This “conversation” that Macklemore is apparently starting was started years ago but has been continuously ignored due to the fact that black people were the ones initiating it. Now that a white man has come to the forefront of society and spoken his mind about the matter, white people are finally starting to listen. This fact is unfortunate, but it is true, demonstrating just how necessary “White Privilege II” is at this moment in our society.

Cultural appropriation is running rampant in this country, especially when it has to do with black culture. Macklemore repeats, “We take all we want from black culture, but will we show up for black lives?” He bravely calls out Miley Cyrus, Elvis and Iggy Azalea for stealing cultural aspects from black people in pursuit of their own self-interest. The hope is that the entirety of white society will hear this song and recognize how incredibly unfair our world is. We ignore what is blatantly happening around us in fear of sacrificing our own benefits. We turn our heads to lost opportunities, lost experiences and lost lives because we cannot bear the thought of losing our advantages. Our silence is a luxury that no one can afford anymore.

“White Privilege II” is necessary, but it says nothing groundbreaking. If we open our eyes to the world we have created for ourselves, Macklemore’s “insight” is simply common observation that has been observed time and time again. Instead of acknowledging Macklemore for “starting the conversation,” we must address the conversation that has existed long before the birth of America and work toward justice.

Contact Bobby Wozniak at rwozniak@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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