The White Privilege Conversation is Ongoing. Macklemore & Collaborators Weigh In.
This past week has been a very cerebral, thought-provoking time in Hip-Hop. Since releasing “White Privilege II,” Macklemore & Ryan Lewis have been discussing at great length the implications of White supremacy, the racial politics within Hip-Hop, and how those listening to the song can help educate and engage others in an effort to bridge the gap between Black and White Americans. Bringing along three guests – all of whom work as community activists and who contributed great measures to the song’s creation and real-world application – Macklemore and Lewis visited “Sway in the Morning” for a no-holds-barred chat about the touchiest parts of race, and though incredibly insightful and immersive, it remains the kind of conversation which is necessary to have again and again, as it contains within it complexities that cannot all be addressed in one serving. As such, longtime radio host Ebro Darden invited the duo to his Beats 1 radio show, where once again they brought along the aforementioned collaborators to provide some perspective into the movement behind the record.
Dustin Washington is a community activist involved with organizations like the People’s Institute for Survival & Beyond and is the Director of the Community Justice Program operating within the American Friends Service Committee. These organizations work to promote social justice through targeted programs focused on outreach, grassroots activism, and education. Having met Macklemore in Seattle, the two developed a relationship after both took part in a workshop put on by the Youth Undoing Racism Institution. The two developed a close relationship and as such, Washington serves as a contributing voice not only in the creation of the song, but in its promotion to audiences around the world, bringing with him a perspective that the artists themselves simply cannot. That perspective is showcased in Washington’s views on the emigration of Africans to the United States, an arena of American life in which “internalized oppression” is a very real concern. He references a Somali friend of his who expressed to him that she was “explicitly told not to associate with African-Americans” upon her arrival in the United States. “One of things that keeps us from building the movement that we need to build, just amongst ourselves as people of color, is how we’ve been divided against each other, and we’ve internalized all these negative messages” (1:10).
Ebro asks Macklemore to steer the conversation about the days, weeks, months, and years forthcoming in the wake of the song’s release. “What happens after this song now? Like, it’s out there, you said it, this is a great conversation…but, what happens?,” he asks. In reply, Macklemore says “I think for one, this conversation has been happening far before I entered into it, it’s going to be happening after I’m here. It’s important to recognize that this is just a song. And if this song is to actually be successful and to actually be authentic, it’s about the actions that come after this record” (5:33). Macklemore then becomes the one asking questions, positing “how do we stay engaged, when the system is designed for us to check out? How do we use our resources, our platform, financial resources? Who do we work with? What organizations do we support?” (6:40) He answers the latter himself, responding with “Black-led organizations, people that are at the forefront of this movement…It was really important for us in the creation of this process to not only be working with the people here, at this table, but also playing this record for the founders of Black Lives Matter and getting their two cents on whether or not this was good for the world.” He finishes the statement by saying simply “this is not about me” (7:59).
Also engaged in the conversation are Jamila Woods, a Chicago singer and community activist whose voice can be heard on the song itself, but whose work outside of the booth also helped to shape the track; and Hollis Wear-Wong, a spoken-word poet and community advocate whose own experiences being a mixed Asian-American woman whose thoughts on working with the duo on the record include “as a non-black person of color, I need to hold the nuance of having the lived reality of being racialized and marginalized in white supremacy, but also recognizing the distinct differences in how my identity is privileged” (read more of her thoughts as well as the remarks from all of the collaborators involved on the song’s official website). The two women, who as Ebro points out are on the forefront of the conversations informing the topics touched upon in the interview, speak on it. Ms. Woods makes the point that in order to tackle the multi-headed monster that is racism, reflection must first be internalized. “I think that before working with each other, you have to work on yourself,” and addresses the concept of white guilt by saying “white guilt is a feeling, not a crime. It’s just a paralyzing feeling that’s not useful for action” (9:32).
The necessary conversation is important to hear, but more importantly to take part in. View the discussion at Apple Music.