I understand the irony that I am a white woman praising a white man for standing up for a problem that I cannot claim to be a part of, understand, or ever experience, but hear me out: this song is important.
In Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ newest single, “White Privilege II,” Macklemore reflects on his own white privilege as a white rapper, and calls out the problematic tendencies of white people who claim to support the African American and Black movements in our society. In it, he calls out rapper Iggy Azalea, artist Miley Cyrus and icon Elvis Presley, all people who have also taken the hip-hop scene and made it their own, in essence appropriating the hip-hop culture from those who created it. Iggy Azalea responded to the song via Twitter.
What I want to focus on more, are the lyrics of “White Privilege II” than the controversy. Macklemore calls into question his own identity and entitlement as a white rapper, telling the story as if he was going to support a “Black Lives Matter” march, but realizing that he had no right to chant with those who felt oppressed, no right to walk with the downtrodden, because he was in fact part of the problem. Every lyric has a deeper meaning or acts as an allusion to an event or piece of history, and the song elegantly intertwines the story with the history. For a lyrical analysis of the song go to Genuis.com.
This song as important, if not more important, to white Americans as it is to African Americans. The song, in and of itself, is telling white Americans that we have no rights to these things, and that what we are doing that we think is helping is actually hurting the communities we have already defaced. But, why this song? Sure, there are songs from rappers about the Black Lives Matter movements and white privilege, but why does Macklemore’s matter? It’s rather simple, actually: because of Macklemore’s privilege as a white male, his message will not only reach more audiences, but it will resound and reach more white audiences.
The duty of having a privilege is to be educated and advocate for those without the privilege, to acknowledge it and use it for the greater good of all, and that is what Macklemore does in his song. It is not only a great song that will stick in your head, but it is a song meant to rearrange how you think, speak and participate in social justice.
It is a song that uses privilege to call privilege into question, and it may be the most important social justice move the music world has seen in the last few years.
Collegian Blogger Sarah Ross can be reached online at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @HowSarahTweets. Read more of her content on AltLife.collegian.com or at collegian.com under Music. Leave a comment!