So Macklemore just released a song called ‘White Privilege II’ and people seem to be mad about it. For those needing context, Macklemore is a white rapper that emerged a few years ago when his song Thrift Shop blew up on the radio. He is also notable for his pro-LGBTQ song ‘Same Love,’ and his (sort of) apology to Kendrick Lamar for winning the Grammy over Kendrick’s album, ‘good kid, m.A.A.d city.’
The song is Macklemore exploring his position in a system that favours white skin, acknowledging his privilege and musing over his discomfort and sense of “is this okay for me to do?” Now, personally, there is nothing wrong with this. Is it out of the blue and not necessary? Sure. But is it worth getting mad or offended over? Not really. Macklemore has caught a lot of heat in the past for his success because his whiteness allows him to succeed where other, arguably better, rappers might not. A lot of white rappers and musicians who appropriate or borrow from black culture have caught flack for not being down for black social causes like #blacklivesmatter. Macklemore, however, has been seen in protests and the like and appears to be pretty aware of his privilege to the point that it gets awkward when he seems to apologize constantly for being white.
But if Macklemore expected some forgiveness from black twitter, he was so very mistaken. I should preface that, naturally, black Twitter consists of a diverse body of peoples and opinions, not all who form a unified worldview on issues like this. But apparently there was enough backlash to get a Buzzfeed article out of it, so I guess it’s worth discussing. Long story short: people were mad. People claimed that he’s exploiting the issue, argued that it’s insincere because his white privilege will still help him make money off the song, argued that black artists like Kendrick Lamar have been speaking on the same issue and have not been heard [sidenote: What? Who the hell is claiming that Kendrick Lamar is unheard? The same Kendrick who performed with Coldplay at the Grammys? And has been on every major late night show? Pick better examples, people]. Don’t get me wrong, there might be some validity to these claims, but at the end of the day: What. Do. You. People. Want? No really, I genuinely want to know.
We drag white artists for not taking part in social movements, but then criticize them when they do. We criticize them for not acknowledging their white privilege, but then don’t believe them when they do? Come on.
Look, I think a good number of people don’t know where to put their anger. The problem isn’t with Macklemore, and most people damn well know this. Is it Macklemore’s fault that fewer people listen to J Cole and (allegedly) Kendrick? No! White privilege isn’t something that can be attributed to an individual. Like racism, it is a systemic issue. It’s the same reason (Queen) Adele can break records without smudging her eyeliner, but Jazmine Sullivan struggles for a spot on the Billboard hot hundred.
This argument ties in with the whole #Oscarssowhite issue. A lot of counter-arguments claim that the Oscars aren’t racist and that perhaps the black actors this year just weren’t as good as the white ones. Some go as far as to claim that giving nominations just to hit a sort of colour quota would, in itself, be racist. Now, first of all, there’s been an odd focus on black actors whenever the media brings up this issue. Under-representation is real for all People of Colour, and not just black actors. It’s important to remember the exclusion of Asian, Latin American, Middle Eastern, South Asian and Native American actors, and not solely place a focus on black actors. But despite the fact that I think Straight Outta Compton deserved more nods, the kid from Beasts of No Nation should have gotten attention and that Michale B Jordan earned a nom WAY more than Sylvester Stalone did, the point might be valid. At the end of the day, the opinion on performance is relative. Someone might think Jason Mitchell’s performance was just average, and while that idea is both stupid and very clearly wrong, it is still valid. Let’s be real, the majority of people tweeting (Including me tbh) haven’t even seen The Big Short or The Danish Girl. So how can you argue about who deserved a nominated in place of another?
While it is true that the academy lacks diversity in both voters and nominees, that’s not the only issue. Compared to the vast number of white directors, actors, and producers in Hollywood, the pool for people of colour remains incredibly shallow. Even if you were to suggest POC that could have been nominated, you’d stumble after about six names. And that’s not because POC aren’t talented, it’s because the roles aren’t there. The opportunities aren’t there. The solution shouldn’t solely consist of campaigns for the nomination of more POC; it should be fighting for the creation of more opportunities. Fix. The. System.
Another issue lies in the lack of support. I saw a video on Facebook similar to (and funnier than) the one Jada Pinkett Smith put up, and it called out black people for their half-assedness. People are calling for a boycott of the Oscars and the creation of “black enterprises,” but those calls are forgetting something. The BET awards are already a thing. And as much as you want to say about the quality of the awards, the one thing that puts it far below in status compared to awards like the Oscars is the lack of legitimacy granted to it by black people. Artists like Beyonce got their start on awards like BET, but once they reach a level of success, they pass those shows up in favour for more prestigious ones. In kind, viewers also allocate significantly less importance to awards from BET, choosing to Boycott the Oscars while live tweeting about who won and who wore what. (You KNOW black Twitter is still gonna be posted to see if Leo wins that Oscar).
There is nothing wrong with supporting BET, no matter what Stacey Dash says. Like Charlamagne recently said, channels like BET and Telemundo were created because the shows that get played on there don’t get played anywhere else. As great as it is to have a ‘Blackish’ and a ‘Fresh Off the Boat,’ shows like that are still very much a minority. It’s ridiculous to claim that channels like BET and the BET awards are raising racial tensions. Racial tensions have always been there, and only now appear to be increasing because POC are being more vocal and demanding about what they want. When the Oscars doesn’t have an all-white nominee list, then we can talk about doing away with BET awards, which, by the way, have honored non-black individuals in the past.
Ultimately this is a multi-faceted issue that I can only do so much as to give my opinion on, which is that people need to calm down, take a step back, and look at the bigger picture. Macklemore might be corny, but he is not the white devil we are painting him to be. We should work for more creation and casting of roles for POC, rather than begging for those who are there. Or better yet, create our own and support them.
But in my honest opinion, some of you are beyond hope and just need to de-activate your Twitter accounts.