Kneeling is not acceptable. Fire or suspend. Find something else to do. These are just a few of the criticisms Donald Trump fired off in reaction to black men throughout the NFL taking a knee during the national anthem, using their platform as a means to peacefully protest racial inequality and police brutality in the United States.
This protest led to thousands of fans boycotting the league, resulting in ratings sliding down a stunning fifteen percent from last year. However, when Eminem released his anti-Trump freestyle, “The Storm,” last week, in which he referred to the president as a bitch, a racist and a kamikaze, he was celebrated by many Americans, showered in millions of shares, retweets and praise from national news media.
American society shuns black people when they draw attention to the systemic inequality that they experience every day, yet cheer on a white man as he slams the president with profane language. The difference? Skin color.
Eminem is not saying anything new — he is giving a white voice to what people of color have been expressing since Trump initiated his presidential campaign. However, unlike people of color, the rapper’s white privilege gives him the platform to comfortably express his opinions without having to worry that his position or success will be threatened.
In the days following the release of “The Storm,” an estimated 2.1 million tweets were posted in response to the video. Not a single one of them came from Donald Trump. Meanwhile, Colin Kaepernick has been without a job since the 2016 NFL season because he chose to take a stand on racial inequality, and SportsCenter host Jemele Hill received two weeks suspension by ESPN for her support of NFL players taking a knee after the White House called for her to be fired.
Eminem’s race does not take away the value of what he says. But the fact that our society feels comfortable ignoring the problems people of color face in this country until a white person says something about it is deeply troubling and problematic. We must be willing to lend the same ear and support to those that are marginalized as we do to those who speak from a position of power if we wish to ever mitigate America’s legacy of racial discrimination.
My white privilege allows me to write this without fear that I will be attacked for it, certain that I will be taken somewhat seriously by my audience. Our society, both consciously and unconsciously, places a higher value on white voices than it does on those of people of color, and only when we acknowledge this can we begin to give those voices the platform they deserve. In a country with a bloody history of slavery and genocide, racial privilege probably won’t be destroyed. However, we can begin to create safer spaces for people of all colors by committing to the understanding that skin color leads to an uneven distribution of privilege within society. Acknowledgment alone can make all the difference.
Elizabeth Braaten is a international relations and global studies junior from Conroe.