For about six minutes, Eminem weighed in on America’s worst social issues. In “Untouchable” —
a track broken into two parts — he uses his platform to examine this country’s complicated relationship with race, power, and justice. During the first half, he speaks from the perspective of a “white boy,” walking listeners through the thought process of a white person profiling a black person on the street.
“Pull up on the side of you/Window rolled down, ‘profile’/Then we wonder why we see this side of you,” he rapped. “I keep tellin’ myself, keep doin’ like you’re doing’/ No matter how many lives you ruin/ It’s for the red, white, and blue.”
In the second verse, he moves into the way black culture is viewed by a white person who doesn’t understand the circumstances, emotions, and pressures that come along with black identity. He even touches on police injustice and profiling in the process, addressing the fact that police officers stop black citizens in unlawful and violent ways. He ends the first half of the song saying that America is moving backwards, rapping that it feels like the country is back in the ’60s, and that “there have been times where it’s been embarrassin’ to be a white boy.”
After the chorus and a killer beat change, Eminem switches to rapping from a black person’s point of view. He insinuates that modern day prejudice is simply better disguised before suggesting that blacks have a harder time doing better for themselves because they are not afforded the same opportunities as everyone else.
From the perspective of a black American, Eminem discussed several hot button issues, making this one of the most controversial rap songs of the year. Some called it “genius,” but others thought… Well, just keep reading.
Black Lives Matter/Dallas
“As Dallas overshadows the battle for Black Lives Matter
We fight back with violence but acts like that are
Black eyes on the movement
Which makes black lives madder
At cops and cops madder
That’s why it’s at a stalemate”
Following the deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling, Black Lives Matter (BLM) held a protest to bring awareness to the injustice behind their deaths. After the protest, 14 Dallas police officers were shot. Five of them died.
The shooter, Micah Xavier Johnson, said that his want to “kill white people, especially white officers” stemmed from his anger behind the recent killings of innocent blacks.
Of course — despite BLM leaders publicly denouncing Johnson — this show of violence “overshadowed” everything BLM stood for. The media used the incident as an excuse to drag the movement’s name through the mud, with conservatives using the violent incident as a talking point to discredit the movement at large.
The Dallas event and the reactions to it only exacerbated tensions on both sides, as Eminem points out in the track.
Police Brutality & Modern Day Segregation
“Sendin’ white cops in the black neighborhoods
Who ain’t acclimated to ’em, like that’s the way to do it
Who seen some f–kin’ videos of rappers waving guns
And know nobody black so they act afraid of us
And that’s racism, the fear that a black face gives ’em
A subconscious racist”
From political commentators to comedians to general spectators, it has been said countless times that the tension between officers and the communities they police steams from a lack of understanding. Emenim reiterates this here, saying one more good time that embellished music videos are not an accurate portrayal of “black neighborhoods.”
And, speaking of back neighborhoods…
“Wait, why are there black neighborhoods?
‘Cause America segregated us, designated us to an area
Separated us, Section-Eight’d us”
He didn’t simply stick to issues regularly circulating through the media, Eminem voiced his opinion on an array of topics. In these lines, he’s criticizing the government’s acceptance of redlining as policy despite the fact that it’s pretty clearly a violation of rights — and an undeniably racially motivated one at that.
Denotatively defined as denying people a loan because they live in a particular area, this Jim Crow era law seemed to quite literally embrace systemic racism. As a matter of fact, Evans Bank just recently faced a lawsuit over the practice.
The company’s practices created a noticeable segregation — “section-Eight’d” — within the city. While the New York bank was caught red-handed, not many others are.
Kaepernick and the NFL Protest
But they’re gonna say you’re tryin’ to take an irrational stance
If you try to slander the flag but
Somebody has to be the sacrificial lamb
So they call it a Kaepernick tantrum
If you don’t stand for the national anthem
By now, everyone has surely heard about Colin Kaepernick and the on-going practice for some football players to kneel during the national anthem. Referring to the American flag as a “sacrificial lamb,” Eminem insinuates that if the flag is the price that must be paid for justice then so be it.