Here’s the deal. Do I think that Macklemore is the worst person in the world? No, I don’t even know the guy. Do I think he’s a bad person? Not particularly. Do I think he overstepped into some shit he shouldn’t have on the track “Same Love”? Absolutely, I do.
People seem to think that when someone calls another out on not being thoughtful about their privileges it is some how a condemnation of them as a human being, or of all folks who share that privilege. The truth is, if you have privileges, which I certainly do (and so do you probably), you’re going to fuck up and over step because there are a lot of nuances to experiencing the other (marginalized) side that you simply couldn’t know because it is not your lived experience, and it is not the dominant experience.
For instance, I have American privilege and the times when I have spoken out about xenophobia, I have been listened to a lot more than my parents who are immigrants, just because I am American born and speak English in a way that is deemed acceptable, despite the fact that I know for certain I have been shitty to my parents at moments in the way I have used my Americanness. And, this is really fucked up of me, and speaks volumes about how privilege works. Because in the end, people are more likely to listen to me about it than them, even though a lot of my knowledge of how xenophobia works is because of them and has been at their expense.
Now, this doesn’t mean that all of the trauma or hurt that someone has experienced is wiped out by how much systemic privilege they have. It is still there. But, privilege, no matter how much we don’t want it to exist, isn’t something you can just put down for an hour, or a song. It is always there. And, even when our hearts are in the right place, even when we want to be good allies, and do real solidarity work, we should always know that we can still mess up and if we are called out on it, we should just be accountable to having hurt someone whose life experience we can’t understand and who we may hold some sort of unearned privilege over.
And, for those of us who want to be allies and do solidarity work, we can’t expect people who experience the oppression that a movement is trying to address to just be happy that we are there. Suggesting that folks shouldn’t question or be upset with people who are trying to be their allies when their allyship feels like it crossed a boundary, just sounds like “be grateful we don’t hate you”. That is not the point. The point is that people deserve more than that. People shouldn’t have to be grateful that someone thinks they should have equal rights. That should be a given. People should be able to expect more, acknowledge that there is a power imbalance that we are all born into that doesn’t go away when we decide to become allies, and that even allies can fuck up. And by reducing a marginalized person expressing anger or dissatisfaction, to them just never being happy or being over-sensitive is super reactionary, defensive and dismissive. Why can’t we just think hard about why this person is angry or dissatisfied and not expect them to just be grateful for what they’ve got like they don’t deserve to demand more than that from people who are supposed to be working in solidarity with them, presumably because they know they get a lot of unearned privilege over this person because they benefit from that oppression just by having that identity?
Being an ally is a choice that comes with discomfort and screw ups, and if we want to do this work, we should listen when someone we are supposed to be allied with says that they are uncomfortable with something we are saying or doing, because in the end it is supposed to be about them.
As far as the Racialicious article goes, I stand by what I said. Read it thoroughly if you care to, but realize that as a queer Black person, this is not the first time I have had to seriously think about how it makes me feel weird when people compare racism with queer phobia when they don’t experience both of those things, let alone either of those things. It is not the first time I have been weirded out by white straight folks who make grand statements about how I must feel about my communities, and I think of hip hop as an extension of my community. And, it is not the first time, nor will it be the last time, I have seen a white straight dude get so much credit for not being completely shitty about the privileges he benefits from, the way my opinion is seen as somehow more valuable than my parents when it comes to oppressions that they experience. I have to be accountable to this. Macklemore has to be accountable to this. We all have to be accountable to this. And, the people we hurt get to call us on it.
Give credit where credit is due. Realize that we can’t understand oppressed and non-dominant people’s experiences when we have the privilege in that situation. And, yes, we need to do solidarity work with them, because that is the right thing to do. But, we also need to know our place in that. We can’t just acknowledge our privilege sometimes as if it doesn’t actually affect everything we do, as if it disappears in our interpersonal relationships just because we want it to. And, at the end of the day, allies still get to walk away with our privileges. In situations where we are the ally, we can shake this shit off, but marginalized folks can’t. It doesn’t go away. And, it is tiring, and at times really heartbreaking.
So, again, read the article if you wish. Actually try to figure out what I am saying. Talk it over with your friends if you want to, but I am not going to answer questions about it, because quite frankly I don’t really have the energy for the folks who are saying weird ass racist, transphobic and fucked up shit about my disabilities. I know this isn’t all of you who have a problem with the article who are doing this, but there is enough of you that I am not going to sift through the really hurtful shit to find conversation pieces that could be productive. And, for the most part, I just do work within communities and write about that, this piece was an exception to that. And, I am not about this weird ass attention I am getting about an article I didn’t really think would have gotten this much attention. So, take what you want from it. I said what I felt, and that’s all from me.