“White Privilege II”, where do we even begin with this one? This track probably deserves far more discussion than I’m going to give it here. That being said, there are plenty of think pieces out there already. We live in a time where diversity and access to express one’s voice for POC are themes or discussion points front and centre in the media currently so, let’s be honest, one more blogger talking about it is probably not going to move the needle in any meaningful way.
The issue of white participation in hip hop as artists and behind the scenes running the business has been long been contentious but it’s part of a larger discussion about the contribution of Black voices and bodies in creating American culture and how that culture has spread worldwide (these issues are salient up here in Canada too!). Acknowledgement and appropriation play an integral role in this discussion too. The nomination artists like Macklemore and Iggy Azalea, a target in “White Privilege II”, have received have been the source of much discussion and controversy. Macklemore is not unaware of this and his attempts to address this have drawn plenty of reaction in the past.
The sprawling “White Privilege II” is his attempt to continue addressing those issues and ones beyond it. Macklemore wades into the #BlackLivesMatter debate and explores the idea of whether he has right to speak on it and what it means if he doesn’t.
I’ve seen some commentary online dismissive of the song. But, even if the song is flawed (and at almost nine minutes, chances are, even if you love it or the idea of it, you’re probably going to find fault or have problems with something in it!), doesn’t every journey begins with a single step? People carp on about how America (especially white America) doesn’t want to have a conversation about race. And I see criticism of the calls for a boycott in response to the #OscarSoWhite controversy saying white liberals and white Hollywood need to do more of the heavy lifting on the fixes needed to address the problems. But when Macklemore tries to initiative that conversation with what I would argue is a reasonably solid or at least certainly thoroughly prepared opening take on addressing the issues with “White Privilege II”, he gets pilloried for it. I’ll put it like this: if someone like Macklemore can’t spark this conversation in his world, I’m really not sure who could or what people who have called for this to happen would like to see happen or done instead of this song. I’d be curious what others think though.
– On Macklemore’s Sprawling Track About Race, ‘White Privilege II’ (Fast Company)
– ‘This Song Is Uncomfortable’: Macklemore On The Contradictions Of ‘White Privilege’ (NPR Music)
– Meet Hollis Wong-Wear & Jamila Woods, the Women of Color Behind Macklemore’s ‘White Privilege II’ (Jezebel)