Since its release in January, I've been listening to Macklemore's single "White Privilege II." A friend of mine played the song for me, and, though the song always had meaning, I was mostly attracted to the music and skillfully crafted lyricism. Earlier this week, however, I listened closer to the words. So many times I listened and thought about how incredibly true the song is, but something in me felt more attentive to it. I think in lieu of everything happening in the world regarding black lives, the song feels more relevant than ever.
"White Privilege I" by Macklemore is more along the lines of explaining the aspect of white privilege as a whole. "White Privilege II" by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis featuring Jamila Woods is unique in that it opens ones eyes to the role what white people play in the Black Lives Matter movement. It embarks on the issue of wanting to step in but not knowing if you have the right to. This is an issue that I know an immense amount of people struggle with. That is why I think this song is a must hear. But, if you're not convinced, here are 11 verses that speak for this dilemma in a perfect way.
"Is this awkward? Should I even be here marching? Thinking if they can't, how do I breathe? Thinking if they chant, what do I sing?"
This appears in the first few lines of the song. I see it as the beginning of a battle with oneself, trying to decide what they are allowed to fight for.
"Am I in the outside looking in, or am I in the inside looking out? Is it my place to give my two cents, or should I stand on the side and shut my mouth?"
Again, who does he get to fight for? He feels strongly for the cause of these people that he doesn't identify with and doesn't know if joining them will do more harm than good.
"In front of a line of police who look the same as me..."
It's easy for us to mistake white people as the enemy within this cause. The color of their skin doesn't make them against black people. That assumption feeds into reverse racism.
"You said publicly, "Rest in peace, Mike Brown." You speak about equality, but do you really mean it? Are you marching for freedom, or when it's convenient?"
Macklemore says this in reference to celebrities and other people who claim to be allies with the movement when the world is watching, but they do nothing to help. Saying you are for something does nothing if you do not actively work to support it.
"Some of us scared, some of us defensive, and most of us aren't even paying attention."
Too many people are choosing to ignore the Black Lives Matter movement altogether. Some do so to avoid having to choose sides, others do so because they are part of the problem and refuse to take accountability.
"What the f**k has happened to my voice if I stay silent when black people are dying? Then I'm trying to be politically correct?"
One of the most common reasons I hear for white people not wanting to be involved in the movement is that they are scared of offending people. They don't want to call someone African American when they prefer to be called black, they don't want to seem like someone with self-incentive, etc. But political accuracy is trivial to me when human lives are at stake.
"If I'm only in this for my own self-interest, not the culture that gave me a voice to begin with,
then this isn't authentic. It is just a gimmick."
This verse is in reference to hip-hop culture and where it originated. Many white people have made a wonderful career thanks to hip-hop, but they often forget about all of the minority races like Blacks and Latinos that are responsible for giving the genre existence in the 1970s.
"The one thing the American dream fails to mention is I was many steps ahead to begin with."
If I could only use one verse to describe white privilege it would be this. I am not saying that white people have not worked hard to get to where they are, because that is not true. However, minorities started lower on the totem pole. The reason minorities are so commonly less successful than the majority is because they have a higher distance to climb before reaching the top.
"White supremacy is the soil, the foundation, the cement and the flag that flies outside of my home.
White supremacy is our country's lineage, designed for us to be indifferent."
America was formed with a distinct vision in mind, and it didn't include a country full of different people with equal rights. This country was formed on the idea that white men were superior and anyone else, not just minorities but also women, were not to be of anyone's concern.
"The best thing white people can do is talk to each other. And having those very difficult, very painful conversations with your parents, with your family members."
A really cool thing about "White Privilege II" is that it includes recordings of people talking about the Black Lives Matter movement. This one is key. Yes, it can be uncomfortable talking about everything that is happening in the world. Yes, it can be frightening to come to the realization that you may come across as the enemy in such a significant cause. But think about it this way: lives can be spared if you just take the time to talk to the people around you.
"Your silence is a luxury."
When white people are silent about the Black Lives Matter movement, they are simply out of the crossfire. When black people stay silent, people die. The time has come to be less concerned with personal impact and be more worried about the well being of this country as a whole.
Macklemore is a lot more than a man that raps about thrift shopping. He is a white man living in America during a time in which white people are so often the enemy. There are more victims than we think within this movement. Blacks are dying and being criminalized, whites are being condemned and seen as racist and everyone is suffering. As stated in one of the last quotes of the song, "what are you willing to sacrifice to create a more just society?"
Download "White Privilege II" by Macklemore for free on iTunes and find the lyrics here.