Macklemore has weighed in on the case of Susan Johnson, a performing arts teacher in Michigan who was suspended without pay after allowing one of her students to play the rapper’s song “Same Love,” which details the struggles of a gay man from birth to death.
“I believe that Ms. Johnson getting suspended is completely out of line and unjust,” Macklemore wrote on his website. “However, I think it’s important for moments like these to be exposed and for us to pay attention and respond. This level of intolerance and fear is still very active in America, but at times is not completely visible. This incident is just one of tens of thousands that have happened across the country where schools have exposed a latent homophobia, preventing safe space for all young people to feel confident in being themselves.
“It’s clear that Ms. Johnson felt bullying and ‘gay bashing’ were issues that needed to be addressed, and by doing so, was punished,” he continued. “I wrote the song ‘Same Love,’ not with the expectation that it would cure homophobia and lead to marriage equality across the US (although that’d be awesome). It was written with the hope that it would facilitate dialogue and through those conversations understanding and empathy would emerge. This incident demonstrates how too often we are quick to silence conversations that must be had.”
Last week, Johnson allowed one of her eighth-grade students at Centennial Middle School to play “Same Love” in her classroom, after asking whether the song “was violent, [or had] any profanity.” When the student said it didn’t, Johnson let him play it, partially because “we’re trying to instill … tolerance to diversity.”
However, another student in the class objected to the song’s lyrics and complained to the principal. By the end of the day, Johnson claims both the principal and the assistant superintendent told her she was suspended indefinitely — without pay — because of the song’s lyrical content, which deals with homosexuality, religion and politics, and contains a sexual slur.
When asked about the suspension by local news station Fox 2, the assistant superintendent did not elaborate on the suspension, though it quickly made national headlines, with both the ACLU and LGBT group Affirmation both voicing their support for Johnson. A Centennial grad also created a Facebook page, with the hopes of raising money to pay Johnson for the days she was suspended.
Johnson was back to work on Thursday, though, as Macklemore wrote, he’s hoping her suspension — and the song itself — will only continue to spawn discussion about gay rights.
“Even if people disagree, there is far more potential for progress when people are vocal and honestly expressing their thoughts about gay rights. When we are silent and avoid the issue, fear and hatred have a far greater life span,” he wrote. “It’s discouraging that a song about love and civil rights has led to a teacher getting suspended from her job. But that’s where we are at. For those of us who get a pit in our stomach when reading a story like this, it just makes it abundantly clear there is far more work to be done.”
Was Johnson’s suspension “out of line and unjust”? Let us know in the comments below!