Macklemore, Black Lives Matter, and a White Girl’s Opinion

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Sitting down to write this, I had no idea where to start. Macklemore’s song White Privilege II inspired me to say something. But I find myself in the same position that Macklemore points out. How do I, a white Christian girl from a middle class family and a primarily white, upper class town, establish any credibility when talking about Black Rights and how Black Lives Matter. Well, I can’t. I have never experienced injustice or discrimination because of, well, anything. The plausibility of my opinion is little to none.

Injustice anywhere is still injustice everywhere.”

— Martin Luther King Jr.

Even though I have never experienced the injustice directed against Black people, I do have two eyes and two ears, that see and hear the blatant discrimination all over the media. I see and hear about police brutality and Black Lives Matter protests. I see and hear these humans being treated differently than me and it makes my chest hurt. But I also have a mouth, and it has not spoken loud enough because I keep telling myself that this isn’t my fight. Well, it is. I believe that every person should be treated with the same respect and love and forgiveness. A lyric in Macklemore’s song quotes the late Martin Luther King Jr.injustice anywhere is still injustice everywhere. That couldn’t be more true.

White Privilege II came out on January 22, 2016 to bring the attention back to race inequality and police brutality. After a good year and a half of hearing about Michael Brown and Ferguson, it was obvious that the white community was done paying attention, as was pretty much every police department in the United States.

Soon, after talk of Ferguson had died down some, more and more cases of police brutality against Black people came into play. But the primarily white media didn’t give many of the cases a second of air time.

It is appalling to me how, even after videos have been released of white police officers blatantly abusing Black victims, much of the white community still has the need to say things like ‘The police officer was just defending himself’ or ‘He thought the guy had a weapon’ and even ‘The guy had it coming’. No! None of that is okay! None of those complacent and racist thoughts even touch on the idea of someone’s humanity being breached. A man has died! A woman has died! A child has died! Someone who lives and breathes just like you and me has died at the hands of a professional primarily responsible for protecting the common good- not just the “common” race.

White Privilege II has not been received well by most people. Many white critics have listened to the song and then called it ‘a mess’ and ‘unorganized’ as well as a ‘political stance with no artistry’. Some Black activists weren’t too thrilled either, saying ‘You’re trying to help, but honestly you’re not. We can speak for ourselves. Pass the mic’ (Gyasi Ross).

Someone who lives and breathes just like you and me has died at the hands of a professional primarily responsible for protecting the common good- not just the “common” race.”

— Meghan Laakso

However, what many people don’t know is that Macklemore and Ryan Lewis worked very closely with the Black Lives Matter organization to craft this song. Black Lives Matter encouraged Macklemore to write a song that initiates conversation. The organization happily acknowledges that the song isn’t for Black people. It’s for a white audience, and its goal is to get the listener first to think and then to have the difficult race conversations. Because of this purpose, the song is free on iTunes. There is no profit being made – no money is going into Macklemore’s pocket whatsoever.

While researching reviews from both communities, I found myself getting more and more confused about my own position and how I interpreted Macklemore’s song. It was then that I realized just how naive I am, just how unaware I am of the feelings of the Black community. After taking time to step back and mull over everything, I came up with one question- What can white people do to help?

So educate me. Tell me what I can do to help make a difference. Tell me how I can help stimulate change. I want to be involved- I want justice and equality to come to the African American race.

But, let’s be real, I am just a white, Christian girl from the upper class, non-diverse town of Gig Harbor. Who am I to talk?