White Privilege II
After over a year of dialogue, connections, trial-and-error creativity, reflection, listening, and an insane amount of word documents, an artistic process now known as “White Privilege II” is now out, alive, and kicking in the world.
I have worked with Ben and Ryan for over six years and every project we embark upon reveals to me a new creative facet of myself and my own capacity. I feel affirmed that this project has held both my musical and songwriting input as well as my strategic community consultation. Social justice has always been the catalyst for my own generative artistry.
I am thankful to have helped steward this process. I challenged myself to take initiative, and we all took risks. The network of people – artists, activists, authors, movement builders – that I have had the opportunity to connect and build with as a part of this process is invaluable.
Below, read my personal artist statement as a collaborator on this song. Visit whiteprivilege2.com to read the other statements and learn more.
I come from a spoken word background, raised by the community of Youth Speaks, where art and social change are extensions of each other, and where the power of collective voice is visceral. My involvement in Seattle’s hip-hop scene was born from recognizing the impact, vision, and potential for social change that the artists in our city embodied. I was first introduced to Ben’s work by listening to “White Privilege” in 2005 – myself just a college freshman – and appreciating its self-awareness as I personally formed my identity politics and social justice lens through my art practice and community. Now, after seven years of collaborating with Ryan and Ben in a number of capacities that have stretched and strengthened my artistic self, this moment is both full-circle and a point of departure in my work as an writer, artist and advocate.This process was a deep one: over a year, we engaged in hundreds of hours of conversation, composition, revision and experiment. We pushed through it even when it was uncomfortable, exhausting, or evoked self-doubt. I believe this piece models one way to navigate through this work, and is certainly a document of our discourse.
As a mixed-race Asian-American writer and musician, this process was both an opportunity for me to take leadership within dialogue and collaboration, and also a chance for me to reflect deeply on my place within the movement for racial and social equity. The struggle for Asian-American rights and representation in this country was and continues to be significantly informed by the black liberation movement. Black forms of expression, such as hip-hop, have been models for Asian-Americans to discover our own agency and voice, and fight against our invisibility.
We are also at a crucial moment where it’s very important for Asian-Americans to identify and defy the pervasive anti-blackness that is frequently embedded in our families and communities. The famous “model minority” social construct is a consequence of anti-blackness. These mechanisms, and our willingness to accept or feel congratulated within them, fractions our potential to mobilize and create collective social progress.
As a non-black person of color, I need to hold the nuance of having the lived reality of being racialized and marginalized in white supremacy, but also recognizing the distinct differences in how my identity is privileged. I wish not to presume solidarity, or pretend that there is a blanket POC experience that exempts me from critically examining my role in white supremacy.
Working with Jamila was a profound joy: her thoughtfulness and creativity made this song immeasurably stronger. I am excited to continue work in my career focused on how women of color gather to center our experiences and have sustained support to create innovative work that holds focus. I am such a product of a vibrant sisterhood of artists, makers and boss ladies—all of whom deserve to be known, heard, and celebrated. I am influenced and inspired by the leadership of Alicia, Opal and Patrisse of Black Lives Matter. Their work and visibility goes far in recognizing that genuine social movements are radically inclusive, and that dismantling patriarchy is essential to our collective liberation.
I hope that this song encourages white people to talk about race in a way that is not defensive or personal but instead honest, critical and constructive. I hope that articulating the reality of white supremacy is normalized and that we recognize how numb we have become to the perils of state violence and institutionalized oppression. The questions I hope that each listener, in particular white listeners, will leave with are the questions that guided this collaboration:
Where is your heart? What are you willing to risk for true social equity?