Jon Bon Jovi has said that as “a white, older affluent male, who happens to also be a celebrity” he knows he has “white privilege”.
The rocker and philanthropist, 58, recorded a song called American Reckoning for his latest album, titled 2020, which deals with the death of unarmed black man George Floyd in the US and the global Black Lives Matter movement.
It features the line: “I’ll never know what it’s like / To walk a mile in his shoes / And I’ll never have to have the talk / So it don’t happen to you.”
Bon Jovi said he had worked hard to ensure he was educated about the issues before addressing them in his music.
The musician said his charity work – having founded the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation, which focuses on issues of hunger and homelessness in the US, in 2006 – had helped him understand his own privilege.
White privilege is defined as white people having inherent advantages in society on the basis of their race.
Bon Jovi told the PA news agency: “There is an inherent risk in writing a song like this because if you are uneducated even the best intentions will be challenged.
“And so I had to be careful to make sure I got it right. So I wrote it and I rewrote it and I rewrote it – and I rewrote it again.
“And then it was scrutinised all the way through the recording process, and even after I made sure I played it for folks at the record company and other songwriters and my family and my friends. It wasn’t a new topic for me to understand, white privilege.
“And maybe because of the 15 years of having had the foundation and the several hundred, nearly 1,000, affordable homes that we have built, or the three restaurants that we have – it’s not new to me.
“I know what it is like to work in Newark, New Jersey, and Camden, New Jersey, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Atlanta and south central Los Angeles.
“This isn’t new to me. I understand that I was born in a time and in a place and with a skin colour that I would have many more benefits of the doubt.
“And so it wasn’t foreign to me to write ‘I’ll never know what it’s like / To walk a mile in his shoes / And I’ll never have to have the talk.’ It’s true.”
Bon Jovi said he did not take his personal situation for granted.
He added: “I know that I am privileged. I know that I am fortunate. I know that as a white, older affluent male, who happens to also be a celebrity, chances are if I can getting pulled over by a cop it’s to get in the motorcade on the way to the show.
“So I got that and I don’t take that for granted. I am lucky.”
– 2020 by Bon Jovi is out now on Island Records.