He works around his constraints with statements about how it is up to all of us to resolve this issue, and he is ready to do his part. “So what the fuck has happened to my voice if I stay silent when black people are dying”. Dying. A statement meant to yank on the audience’s emotions and evoke guilt and anger and solemnity amongst peoples of every color, but especially his audience. Because, as Macklemore put, “If I’m aware of my privilege and do nothing at all, I don’t know”. There is a moment of silence, followed by a sigh just before his enervated statement “I don’t know”. This manipulation of his voice and terminology conveys that he isn’t ready to find out what would happen, and that his audience should not be either. This line is meant to make the audience ponder their own actions and reactions concerning the treatment of black culture and people.
Riddled throughout the piece one picks up on names and terms that allude to recent social traumas within the black community. Macklemore uses logos appeals in this manner, while still pulling in pathos appeals that could easily slip by a listener; “My success is the product of the same system that let off Darren Wilson. Guilty”. Macklemore denotes that he is the product of such a system. A system where he has not only been allowed to survive, but has been supported in order to thrive; all while the same system effectively ruins and ends lives. With this one casual line, he brings up the entirety of the Michael Brown case.
Initially one realizes the factuality of the case to which the artist alludes. The fact that a black man was killed at the hands of a white police officer. The undisputed facts that Michael Brown was unarmed, had his hands up, was shot in the back, and was killed. Macklemore coerces the subconscious mind of his listeners to memorialize the case by simply saying the name of a man’s killer. Then as the cherry on top, Macklemore takes a pause, and says one word; “guilty”. This shows his perspective on the matter, one which is shared by many in the black community and beyond. The conclusion that Darren Wilson was guilty; when in an aggravating turn of events, he was vindicated. The emotions that this one word ignites for black listeners is intense, and is meant to be shared by white listeners. Bringing guilt upon the conscience of his audience, and juxtaposing it with the emotions provoked by the knowledge that it is particularly the job of the privileged to assist and disenfranchised.
The mention of the Michael Brown case was a complex logos appeal however, as it brings up the memory of so many other instances of lawlessness regarding the lives of black men, women, and children at the whim of the privileged. All who listen are forced to remember names and faces and cases beyond memorable quantitative account. Cases, each with distinct heart-wrenching differences, that painstakingly blur together due to their overwhelming similarities. Majority-minority discord, skin color, maltreatment of divergent peoples, hastiness to raise a hand, grab a gun, pull a trigger; racism. A clear lack of compassion leading to the weak-minded paradoxical execution of one human being, defended in reverence ones own life. All with the preconception that there is no further complexity to a human being than the melanin in their skin. Purely selfish deaths prompted by trepidation and stereotypes. Deaths that did not have to happen. That is the underlying similarity that the mention of this one case incites.
The opportunity was clear; we are existing in a time of racial, social and political turmoil. We live in a society of anger and fear and misunderstanding; unrest lives in every crevice of modern society, and we are society. Macklemore recognized that we are all capable of inciting positive change, and singled out the privileged white; a demographic that has not done their part. Macklemore is an artist who utilized his fame, talent, and forum to convey to his audience that it is time to see the interactions around us on a grander stage, and reflect, and answer the call to action. Music speaks to people of every ethnic and socioeconomic background. For millennium music has been the foot soldier of advancement, marching onward and guiding society it’s peaks of existence. Music of all types has been written and sang and performed to portray a message. ”Hip-hop has always been political(…)It’s the reason why this music connects”. So in White Privilege II, Mr. Haggerty jilts his listeners with a final summation; “We take all we want from black culture, but will we show up for black lives”?
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