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Rage Against The Machine address ‘the fiction known as whiteness’ in hard-hitting online history lesson

RATM
(Image credit: Gustavo A. Munoz/LatinContent via Getty Images)

Rage Against The Machine lend their voices and political insight to a new documentary about race, which uses the band’s signature anthem Killing In The Name as a gateway to explore some of the historical roots of social injustice. 

Killing In Thy Name, a collaboration between the Los Angeles quartet and arts collective The Ummah Chroma, is a short film portraying a US school teacher seeking to educate a small group of children about race, explaining how the seeds of inequality, injustice and division were deliberately implanted into social structure and institutions in order to maintain property and wealth for a select few in America. Quoting from RATM’s best-known song in addition to offering insights from philosophers, writers and historians, the film offers a simple deconstruction of how racism is now institutionalised and normalised in American society.

“Living in the [United] States, you’re living in one of the most brutal societies in the history of the world,” Rage frontman Zack de la Rocha is seen saying  in an archive interview. “The country who inherited the genocide of the Native American people. A country which participated in slavery. Any society or any government or any system that is set up solely to profit a wealthy class while the majority of the people toil and suffer and sell their labor power, so long as that system’s only true motive is profit interest and not the maintenance and the betterment of the population, to meeting human needs, then that society should not stand. It should be challenged and questioned and overthrown.”

In the film, guitarist Tom Morello also stresses the need to challenge the status quo in order to move society forward. “My mom [Mary Morello] is a white woman with a radical voice,” he’s quoted as saying. “For three decades she was a progressive teacher in a conservative high school inspiring students to challenge the system – in her actions and words she has always taught that racism must never be ignored and must always be confronted.”

“The music wouldn’t exist without the politics,” drummer Brad Wilk adds. “When we’re playing a show, if something clicks for any one kid in the audience – starting that change, that process of thinking for themselves – that’s the most potent time Rage Against the Machine can have as a band.”