Macklemore Brilliantly Tackles White Privilege in New Song

January 22nd 2016

Kyle Jaeger

Rapper Macklemore has frequently integrated social commentary into his music, with an emphasis on marriage equality and issues facing the Black community. His latest single, "White Privilege II," reflects upon his experience protesting alongside Black Lives Matter activists and dissects what it means to live with white privilege.

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The song starts with a series of questions that the artist asked himself as he joined Black Lives Matter advocates in 2014. He was there to protest the decision not to indict former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who fatally shot Michael Brown, an unarmed, Black 18-year-old, in August 2014.

"In my head like, 'Is this awkward, should I even be here marching? / Thinking if they can't, how can I breathe? / Thinking that they chant, what do I sing? / I want to take a stance cause we are not free / And then I thought about it, we are not we / 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 for justice?"

Macklemore started trending on Twitter following the release of "White Privilege II," which is a follow up to his 2005 song, "White Privilege." For the most part, the reception appeared to be positive. While some have criticized the fact that a white rapper is getting attention for a song that addresses many of the same issues that Black rappers have been tackling in music for decades, others argue that it doesn't matter as long as the message is getting heard.

Here's what the critics are saying. 

As the song progresses, Macklemore describes how white privilege factors into both his activism and music. From the frontline of the march for justice, he remarks that the police officers "look the same as me" and that the only difference is that they're armed, in military-style equipment. The song laments police brutality, a central issue raised by Black rights and criminal justice reform advocates.

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It's a self-reflective song as much as it is a piece of social commentary. Macklemore recognizes his own white privilege, admitting that he's guilty of cultural appropriation in much the same way as singers Miley Cyrus and Iggy Azalea.

"You can join the march, protest, scream, and shout / Get on Twitter, hashtag and seem like you're down / But they see through it all, people believe you now / You said publicly, 'Rest in peace, Michael Brown' / You speak about equality, but do you really mean it / Are you marching for freedom, or when it's convenient?"