Today I want to discuss the rapper Macklemore. Specifically, I want to talk about his song “Same Love.”

Now, when I first heard this song, I loved it. I thought it was brilliant and amazing and basically perfect in every way. It gave me chills. Parts of it still do.

Then I started seeing some critiques of it -very important critiques that I think need to be more talked about.

If you have never heard the song (where have you been?) you can listen to it here.

You can read the lyrics here.

The first critique that I have heard about this is that Macklemore (a.k.a. Ben Haggerty) is heterosexual. He is not gay, or queer, or bi, or any other form of a LGBTQ identity. This is not inherently problematic in and of itself, obviously.

The problem is that he has now become an icon for the LGBTQ activist movement because of this song.

Instead of listening to actual queer rappers (and there are plenty), people have instead decided that a heterosexual man can accurately rap about the difficulties of being gay even when he has never experienced those difficulties himself. As one article wrote, “Whether it is intentional or not, Macklemore has become the voice of a community to which he doesn’t belong in a genre that already has a queer presence waiting to be heard by mainstream audiences.”

There is also the issue (second critique) of his whiteness, because along with whiteness comes White Privilege. (Macklemore discusses his White Privilege in a song titled “White Privilege”.) The same article cited above talks about how Macklemore conflates LGBTQ rights with Black civil rights. He completely overlooks his White Privilege as well as his Heterosexual Privilege throughout the song.

For example, the first line of the second verse is “If I was gay, I would think that hip-hop hates me”. Hip hop specifically emerged from Black communities in New York as a response to White suppression and dominance. In this one line, Macklemore is attacking an entire genre of music -as well as the Black people who created and sustained it -for being homophobic.

He continues to critique hip hop (and Black people) with the line: “A culture founded from oppression, yet we don’t have acceptance for ’em”. This is even more problematic than the first line. It completely erases any queer person of color -especially queer rappers/singers of color -who are involved in LGBTQ activism, and it shoves more blame on people of color who are homophobic than White people who are homophobic. “This line of argument suggests that homophobia perpetrated by people of color is somehow worse because they should have known better as people who are also oppressed. Furthermore, when white people are homophobic, it is less condemnable because they don’t know what it is like.” (x)

Basically, this song is full of “microaggressions” against people of color (mostly Black people) as well as LGBTQ people. “What?” you say, “Same love doesn’t demean gay people -it’s all about equality!” The biggest microaggression against LGBTQ people is when Macklemore decided to drop the word “f*gg*t” in the second verse, even thought it is an extremely offensive and homophobic slur. That is not okay. It will never be okay.

Just because Macklemore is “standing up” for LGBTQ equality with the song “Same Love” does not mean that he can’t get things wrong and/or make mistakes. Just because he has a song called “White Privilege” doesn’t mean that he will always recognize it when it appears, or that it just suddenly disappeared when he wrote the song. No matter what, he is still a white heterosexual male and while that is not inherently bad, it is something that needs to be remembered when he’s rapping about hip hop and homophobia.

Upholding him and this song as an icon for the LGBTQ community activism is not okay. People who are actually LGBTQ rappers should be heard over him -people who have actually experienced homophobia or other types of cis-sexual/heteronormative aggressions. Again, you can find lists of them here.

I’m not saying that heterosexual people can’t talk about homophobia, or that white people can’t talk about racism. However, I am saying that when people with privilege talk about oppression that they do not experience themselves, they need to listen very intently when people talk who do experience that oppression. That is the only way we will learn -by listening, by reading, by talking with other people who are different from us and trying to recognize our own privilege.

There are parts of “Same Love” that are great -I love his critique of religion/religious institutions, and his mention of LGBTQ bullying and suicide. But this song is not without its problems, and people need to realize that.

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