Colbert Booking Bill O'Reilly, Macklemore's 'White Privilege II' on Same Episode Can't Be Coincidental
by Julian Spivey
Stephen Colbert’s ‘Late Show’ did something on its episode Monday night (Feb. 8) that certainly couldn’t have merely been a coincidence and yet few people are talking about it.
Colbert’s lead guest that night was Bill O’Reilly, cable television’s most popular (based on ratings) and likely most hated newsman. The interview was slightly contentious, though so unmemorable I can’t remember why a little over 48 hours later. I just remember O’Reilly wasn’t popular whatsoever with Colbert’s audience and was booed on multiple occasions. It should be noted that Colbert has the highest number of liberal viewers (and one would assume live audiences) of any comedian/host on network late night television, by far, and O’Reilly is the cable news face of conservatism.
The bit that certainly seems non-coincidental on the part of either Colbert or his show’s booker was the decision to book hip-hop superstar Macklemore on the very same bill as O’Reilly to perform his current song “White Privilege II.”
Macklemore’s “White Privilege II” takes on race issues, which isn’t unusual for a hip-hop artist but seemingly new ground from a white rapper’s viewpoint. The song brings up controversial topics such as police shootings and the Black Lives Matter movement and includes lyrics like: “They’re chanting out, ‘Black Lives Matter,’ but I don’t say it back. Is it OK for me to say? I don’t know, so I watch and stand in front of a line of police that look the same as me.”
There is a lot to the song. It takes on the fact that a lot of white people want to stand with black people against racism, but is their participation accepted? It also deals with among other things the fact that white people have appropriated from black culture, but don’t necessarily stand up for the people of that culture.
Macklemore’s performance on the ‘Late Show’ on Monday night was accompanied by black poets Nikkita Oliver, who wore a shirt with ‘Reparations’ upon it, and Danez Smith, who wore a shirt with ‘Black God Walking’ on it, reciting poetry about white privilege and how different things are for people of color.
The song has been highly criticized as to whether or not it’s actually a good song/lyric/performance, but few seem to be doubting Macklemore’s intentions. He’s aiming to do good with this performance.
Monday night’s appearance on Colbert’s show was powerful and perhaps more so than it would have been had it appeared on a night like Wednesday (Feb. 10) when Ben Stiller was the lead guest. It was made more powerful because O’Reilly was the guest. Because he’s one of the faces of white privilege on television and his audience might have stayed tuned to the ‘Late Show’ long enough to get a little bit of a lesson – one most of them likely would’ve gotten pissed off at and turned their televisions off, but at least a point would’ve been made.
O’Reilly has gone on record as saying Black Lives Matter is a hate group akin to the Ku Klux Klan, which shows how ignorant and frankly racist this man truly is. He’s compared a group merely wanting people to understand that black people are still treated differently in this country to a group of white supremacists who have a history of lynching black people. I’d rather not see O’Reilly on television period, but if he is going to be a guest on Colbert’s show (and he probably draws decent ratings) and his audience is tuning in to see him than why not at least attempt to expose them to a difference of opinion through a musical performance?
There’s little doubt in my mind that booking Macklemore to perform “White Privilege II” on the same night as O’Reilly wasn’t completely thought out ahead of time. Kudos to whoever it was that actually made that decision.