Seattle hip hop rapper Macklemore (aka Ben Haggerty) is one of the few widely-known rappers that is white. In his song “White Privilege” (2005), Macklemore sings about his experience as a white rapper, and how being white was advantageous in the music industry. In 2016, Macklemore collaborates with Chicago singer Jamila Woods to release the sequel, “White Privilege II,” where the first verse depicts his experience at a protest in Seattle over the Ferguson grand jury decision not to indict police officer Darren Wilson over the shooting death of Michael Brown. In this 9-minute song, Macklemore “thinks out loud” about his white privilege and questions his role and responsibility in the Black Lives Matter movement.
The song and lyrics can be found here:
Some other notable parts of the song include the second verse, where he thinks about how he has appropriated the rap culture, the part in the third interlude where a woman says, “I have an advantage? Why? Cause I’m white? (laughs) What? (laughs) No,” and the part in the fourth interlude where a man asks white people, “What are you willing to sacrifice to create more just society?”
In a social studies class, this song can be used to initiate a discussion about white privilege, the Black Lives Matter movement, the history of racial discrimination, and the fight for freedom and social justice.
Group writing activity: Have the students get into small groups to collaborate to write a new verse for “White Privilege II,” and allow them to perform it to the class.