The idea of white privilege is a very controversial topic for many, primarily because many white individuals do not acknowledge their race and its meaning, are not aware of the advantages and benefits they receive because of their race, and do not see how their whiteness affects their perception of society. However, white privilege and society have a large intersection because, “when it comes to privilege, it doesn’t matter who we really are. What matters is who other people think we are.” The existing societal norms decide who we are as people and where we are categorized. By being white, there is a power to determine what we as a race want to do and what is acceptable to do; anything beyond those standards is viewed as inferior. As much of this concept is unnoticed, defensive instincts arise whenever race is the topic for conversation, leaving individuals more concerned about being called racist than actually being concerned with racism.
I have recently come across the song “White Privilege II” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. It has been very relatable for me because I know I am white and I know I systematically benefit from being white, but I struggle with finding a position where I can appropriately advocate for Black individuals. This song is for those individuals who want to advocate for change and equality but find themselves in a conflicting position because of the color of their white privilege In this song, Macklemore is depicting race relations in the United States and the conflicting emotions he experiences when trying to understand the lives of Blacks compared to the lives of whites. Although he understand the disadvantage of Blacks and wants to be a person advocate, he knows it is not that easy because he has different lived experiences. Nonetheless, he wants to use his fame and power as a means to educate and bring awareness about the ongoing issues our society faces everyday. Although this song is lengthy and not everyone may listen, there are some lyrics that are worth paying attention to:
I want to take a stance ’cause we are not free, And then I thought about it, we are not “we”
They’re chanting out, “black lives matter, ” but I don’t say it back, Is it okay for me to say? I don’t know, so I watch and stand, In front of a line of police that look the same as me
What if I actually read an article, actually had a dialogue, Actually looked at myself, actually got involved?, If I’m aware of my privilege and do nothing at all, I don’t know
White supremacy protects the privilege I hold, White supremacy is the soil, the foundation, the cement and the flag that flies outside of my home, White supremacy is our country’s lineage, designed for us to be indifferent
Is it my place to give my two cents?, Or should I stand on the side and shut my mouth?, “No justice, no peace, ” okay, I’m saying that, They’re chanting out, “black lives matter, ” but I don’t say it back, Is it okay for me to say? I don’t know, so I watch and stand, In front of a line of police that look the same as me
How can we ever become comfortable talking about race if we are too worried about being seen as racist? Will it always be this challenging for whites to think about and do something about their privilege? How can whites grow to feel comfortable advocating for Blacks?
3 thoughts on “Silence is a Luxury”
Morgan- You posed a fascinating question in regards to whites speaking about and with those of color about racism. In class, we spoke about articles written by Sue, looking at the most plausible ways to talk about race in an extremely sensitive environment. It is one that takes practice, persistence and courage. Fortunately, we have learned many strategies in class that will give us the edge up, and I hope we will channel what we have learned to those struggling. I was an avid listener of Macklemore, and I believe his music is truly special and unique. Not many artists have the ability, nor the courage so do what he has done, especially as a white male. I applaud his efforts and hope that others artists will follow, as they have such a powerful voice, one that must be taken advantage of!
I have never heard of this song by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis and I’m glad to have been exposed to it through this post. In class we discussed the cycle of liberation. Acknowledging on an individual level that being white is a privilege is step to take to start the cycle. Stating that you have privilege doesn’t fix anything unless you use that knowledge to continue to break the socialization but it’s a start. Not having to think about race is part of privilege and usually goes unnoticed by those who are privileged. I think the quote “when it comes to privilege, it doesn’t matter who we really are. What matters is who other people think we are,” Sums up the idea of socialization.
I think you’re posing super interesting questions. It can be intimidating to address racism (of others and of ourselves) in front of people of color — definitely, because it’s worrisome to think we’re hurting someone’s feelings, or worse, infringing on someone’s right to feel a certain way. I think this is where dialogue is best employed and where we can benefit from asking questions instead of making assumptions. Additionally, though, we can’t rely on people of color (or any minority group) to sit and explain the multitude of ways that they may face discrimination in even a day. The song you quote notes, “What if I actually read an article, actually had a dialogue/Actually looked at myself, actually got involved?/If I’m aware of my privilege and do nothing at all, I don’t know.” I think that’s where it starts: there are plenty of POC who have written about their lived experiences and have plenty that they want to share; people that have literally dedicated the bulk of their livelihood to educating the masses (the ignorant masses); but the burden can’t be placed on every individual person of color’s shoulders. We need to take the advice that we’re given, make note of the things that are pointed out to us, and just as importantly as making sure we understand the perspective of POC, we need to talk to our white friends and “plant seeds.”
I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but if you fully believe, support and want to advocate for the movement, why wouldn’t you say Black Lives Matter with the rest of crowd?
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