As anyone who has ever read this blog well knows, I am unapologetically proud of my hometown of Seattle. Which is why I want to take a brief moment to highlight an artist and song that came from a fellow Seattleite. About race. And privilege. And white supremacy. And not just any rapper. A White rapper, whom I recently found out I have literally one degree of separation from. The same one that for many people, put Seattle on the map. And the same one who epically failed to use his Grammy win to celebrate a Black artist we all know should have won, an artist on my personal list of top five rappers of all time, but who lost because he didn’t have the same White privilege and cultural capital as the rapper who won. This kudos report is personal. Let’s do this, Macklemore.
This piece is also personal because a huge part of what I do as a diversity & inclusion professional is help people of color navigate white supremacy and thrive in the workplace while their White colleagues benefit from a racial privilege that they themselves will never know. On the flip side, my professional objective exists because White people continually blunder in their articulations of race and their promotion of racial equity. Simply put: I have a job because White people still don’t “get it.”
Now, this professional paradox of promoting an illusory racial equity that is deeply rooted in racial exclusion is something I have to wrestle with. And knowing that on some level, a portion of diversity and inclusion exists to appease racially insecure White people is discouraging, to say the least. But that’s another article.
Here I want to highlight Macklemore as a White male who actually tried to to talk–TO FELLOW WHITE PEOPLE in various stages of their racial awareness–about being WHITE, living in a white supremacist society, and benefitting from White privilege. If I look back on January 2016 and the entire twelve months of 2015, I can count a solid two White people who used their celebrity to do just that: Macklemore and Bernie Sanders. Though this personal estimate is devastatingly disappointing, it’s sobering and illustrates the fact Macklemore’s “White Privilege II” is kind of a big deal. Plus, if we’re being super honest, although Bernie Sanders wins undisputed gangster points for that Killer Mike interview, Macklemore’s appeal is far more broad than Bernie’s. On the heels of another #OscarsSoWhite debacle in the American entertainment industry, Macklemore’s 9-minute musical tour, “White Privilege II,” is timely.
I’m not going to deconstruct Macklemore’s presentation of race and racism. Plenty of other media platforms have taken on that task. Rather, I’d like to encourage the Diasporans in the room to pause, focus on your breath, and do whatever activities you had planned to do today that have absolutely nothing with being Black. Relish in this rare moment of not bearing the responsibility of calling out/schooling/explaining/minimizing/getting exhausted/losing hope in humanity/throwing up your hands at White people’s refusal to engage the racial realities that we as Diasporans cannot opt out of. Macklemore stepped up and effectively gave us 9 minutes of our lives back. I’m not saying he nailed it, or even that he didn’t, but I will declare that it felt good to see a White person try today. Two points to you, Mack. I can go get my laptop fixed now and get back to a manuscript that I haven’t looked at in months. Thank you.
Oh, and if you didn’t catch it, “White Privilege II” is a sequel, which means this song –and several Macklemore interviews–are just one step along his journey in figuring out how to to be an ally in the fight for racially equity. That deserves extra kudos.
Not sure what to think of “White Privilege II?” Take a listen.