Ben Haggerty (Macklemore) is famous for his album The Heist (produced by Ryan Lewis), which was on the Billboard charts and ranked first on iTunes back in 2012. The Seattle rapper is often praised for advocating equality and expressing his opinions on sensitive issues regarding minorities. Aside from his music supporting LGBT rights called “Same Love”, he opened up to discuss about his racial identity and the effects it had on his career during an interview with Rolling Stone.
As a White man in hip-hop, he admitted that he has benefited from “white privilege”, and would not have been as successful he were Black. He talked about how he was able to receive attention from the media and how his music like “Thrift Shop” could have a wide range of audiences because of his race. “And even though I’m cussing my ass off in the song, the fact that I’m a white guy, parents feel safe. They let their six-year-olds listen to it” (Rolling Stone, 2013).
Exaggeration or not, his statements seem accurate enough to reflect our current societal view on race. Although there are many successful musicians of color throughout the world, their music is not always as appreciated by the majority. A rapper named J. Cole’s “Crooked Smile” actually has a line that reads, “If my skin pale, would I then sell like Eminem or Adele?” This line, coupled with Macklemore’s interview on how parents even feel safe letting their kids listen to Macklemore swear, tells us that racism is still an issue in current society.
However, most people find it easier to believe that we are all treated equally and racism is no longer an issue. For those who are not very supportive of people of color — or just racists to make things more clear — it would be much easier to say, “It’s not that I don’t like Black music. I simply do not prefer the hip-hop genre in general, whatever race is involved,” than to accept, “I like Macklemore and Eminem but not J. Cole or any other African-American rappers because I feel safer listening to White people rap.”
If color did not matter and if all men were created equal, why is it that some or most people feel safer listening to a White rapper? Is it because words are softer and less provocative? If so, is Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” just an exception? The artist himself admitted that his music was a hit because people felt safer listening to a White person swear. Macklemore should not be criticized for making an honest statement. It simply tells us that we have too many negative stereotypes towards people of color that we like to ignore and blame on others who actually dare admit those honest facts.
The focus should not be on Haggerty admitting that white privilege contributed to his success. The point Haggerty attempted to make in his interview with Rolling Stone was to show that some are more privileged than others from birth. He did make some dangerous comments like, “And would that success have been the same if I would have been a black dude? I think the answer is no”, but this is more honest than dangerous. This is the reality with race.
— by Seo Song