Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Macklemore's Wardrobe Malfunction. Offensive or Stupid (or Both)?


This is the costume that an American rapper called Macklemore wore for a concert the other day. Shortly afterwards, photographs were published with a story accusing him of being anti-semitic. Since he is quite popular at the moment, this was big news in some areas.

So was his outfit offensive? The angle in this photograph is certainly not flattering. Macklemore writes in his blog that some people thought he looked like Ringo Starr and others that he looked like President Lincoln. I would add Howard Wolowitz (from The Big Bang Theory). Was he a bit thick not to anticipate that a beard and a hooked nose might evoke a strong prejudicial stereotype? CNN refers to him as someone who "won a Grammy for a song praised for its cultural sensitivity". HuffPo notes that Macklemore & Lewis have been "lauded for their progressive messages". The general consensus appears to be that Macklemore is basically a decent chap. His apology is also contrite and sincere:

"Family, friends and fans alike who know me well, know that I'm absolutely not the person described in certain headlines today. There is no worse feeling than being misunderstood, especially when people are hurt or offended ...

My intention was to dress up and surprise the people at the show with a random costume and nothing more. Thus it was surprising and disappointing that the images of a disguise were sensationalised leading to the immediate assertion that my costume was anti-Semetic (sic). I acknowledge how the costume could, within a context of stereotyping, be ascribed to a Jewish caricature. I am here to say that it was absolutely not my intention, and unfortunately at the time I did not foresee (sic) the costume to be viewed in such regard. I'm saddened that this story, or any of my choices, would lead to any form of negativity ...

I respect all cultures and all people. I would never intentionally put down anybody for the fabric that makes them who they are. I love human beings, love originality, and … happen to love a weird outfit from time to time.

I truly apologise to anybody that I may have offended. I hope this better explains the situation and my point of view.

with love,

You can read the rest of it here.

So nu, it seems pretty clear to me that, unlike for example Nicolas Anelka, Macklemore's behaviour had neither a direct or indirect intention to make any kind of social or political point. He was just trying to disguise himself to surprise his fans, and picked a costume that others interpreted in a way he had not considered possible.

Having said that, some people were apparently offended. I hope that if they were, they will have seen from his explanation that it was a genuine mistake. There are certainly anti-semites out there that need our attention. However, particularly when Macklemore's statement concludes with this:

"Out of a negative can come a positive. Through this situation I've got hip to some incredible groups like the ADL and I encourage people to check the great work they, and others like them, do"

I choose to conclude that this boy is ok. And this evening, the Guardian reports that the ADL accepts Macklemore's word regarding the matter. Abraham Foxman, National Director of the ADL, has referred to the incident as 'a tempest in a teapot' (Guardian article here, ADL press statement here).

One last thought … is it ridiculous of me to note that the stereotype of a Semitic man with a big beard and a giant nose is surely not limited only to members of the Jewish community?