Why Macklemore’s “White Privilege II” Is Necessary

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By: Bailey Bryant, Contributor

The second this song came out, my roommate sent me the link and a thousand exclamation marks to express either her anger or her enjoyment (I truly can never be sure).  Initially, I was wary. It wasn’t that I thought Macklemore would say anything completely outlandish, but I knew that people were going to be upset no matter what the song was trying to say.

In the past Macklemore has addressed issues of inequality and injustice, but only if they fit neatly into his album and benefitted his overall image. He often faced, and still faces, criticism for his appropriation of hip-hop and black culture. Macklemore was treated by the mainstream society as though he were the first revolutionary hip hop artist, the first rapper to notice injustices and oppression, he was considered innovative and fresh and well spoken for talking about things that were already being talked about by black artists. It was frustrating that many people praised Macklemore for things that these other black artists had been criticized for earlier. Though this wasn’t directly his fault, frustration only grew as he never publicly spoke on or acknowledged his privilege as a white male in a way that could be considered direct and open.

After being rocketed into stardom, Macklemore seemed to shy away from any of his former attempts to speak on privilege. Until now. With White Privilege II Macklemore does a fantastic job of very directly and honestly addressing issues such as the Black Lives Matter movement, his, and other artists, appropriation of black culture and more. A song such as this one is not bringing up any new points or posing any new questions. Other artists, black activists, other black celebrities have been talking about these things for years and years. However, I admire that Macklemore is finally so aware of and has made such a bold attempt to confess and acknowledge his privilege. I don’t believe that he is claiming to be an expert on the oppression, racism and disadvantages that are prominent in black lives, and I don’t think he is an expert by any means, but I do believe that such a prominent artist writing about these issues will create a space for more people to learn and be more open minded as before.

Often times when black artists write about or are honest about their experiences with racism and injustice, it can make certain audiences uncomfortable. These audiences then turn away from black artists and towards other artists who may sound similar, but don’t necessarily bring up such heavy topics, like Macklemore has. This allows for important messages to be missed by an audience who might really need to hear them. But now these messages about oppression and injustice cannot be so easily ignored as an artist as prominent and adored as Macklemore has called attention to them. Macklemore exploring what his role as a white male is in the Black Lives Matter movement is an example of how a person can, and should, still care about an issue like this even if they don’t think it directly affects them. And as frustrating as that may be, that certain people are more willing to listen to Macklemore rather than the actual victims of injustice, it is hopefully a step in the right direction.

Editor’s Note: Mackelmore reached out to the official #BlackLivesMatter organisation before releasing the single. Read what they had to say here: Macklemore’s “White Privilege” and the Role of White Allies

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