This morning at work I was listening to the hot tracks on Apple Music when White Privilege II by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (feat. Jamila Woods) began to play. I was intrigued by the first verse and how Macklemore discusses whether it is his place to give his two cents or should he stand on the side and shut his mouth.
“It seems like we’re more concerned with being called racist than we actually are with racism.”
However as the song continues there were some lyrics that stood out that dismissed this insecurity. The song encourages discussion to allow people to understand and to realise where they can help. I wasn’t sure whether to write this post at first but after listening to the song a few times I realise the best thing we can do is ignite discussion.
“But the one thing the American Dream fails to mention is I was many steps ahead to begin with.”
It can be easy in this day and age to be ignorant and think racism is uncommon however we have to accept this isn’t true. Whilst direct racism may be less common, it still very much exists alongside subtler racism that restricts and discriminates.
I think understanding the media and how they create representations of people, race and culture is a very important step in progressing with this issue. It is no secret that there are issues throughout mainstream media where black men and women are frequently misrepresented; consistently demonstrated with the portrayal of Nicki Minaj. When Minaj made a valid comment about black women not being celebrated for earning the same achievements as white women she was quickly depicted by media outlets as the ‘angry black woman’ whilst Taylor Swift was seen as the innocent white girl. Whilst an image of an angry looking Minaj and a smiling Swift may seem minor, it subtly fuels the misconceptions of those who use these media outlets.
“White supremacy isn’t just a white dude in Idaho. White supremacy protects the privilege I hold.”
I believe children should be taught media literacy from a young age so they can digest and understand what they are being shown through the media and understand how damaging cultural appropriation can be. Cultural appropriation has been a widely discussed topic in recent years and whilst I think Macklemore’s mentions of Miley Cyrus and Iggy Azalea were valid, I don’t think he was doing it to cause offence. Throughout the song he admits his faults and understands he holds a responsibility because of his presence in the hip-hop industry. Artists need to consider the genre they borrow from and learn they cannot use it for the good whilst ignoring the bad.
Ultimately this song has encouraged people to discuss and share their experiences. It may be hard or awkward to discuss with family members or friends but know you can challenge their views and explain to them the damage cultural appropriation and turning a blind eye can cause. What do you think of the song and the topic as a whole?