A Review of “Killing In Thy Name” a Rage Against the Machine and The Ummah Chroma Collaboration
By Chris Durai
The concept of a cross burning has always confused me. In RATM’s new video, self described as “a fire escape from the fiction known as whiteness,” a group of teenage students workshop the history of white supremacy before observing a cross burning with their teacher. One of the first (of many) title cards says: “[A] man who’ll burn what he prays to, he’ll burn anything. — Shelby Foote.”
In predictable Rage style, the 15-minute video is confrontational and uncomfortable. One of the most evocative moments comes early when a young girl, maybe six or seven is asked by her mother, off camera, “When is the first time you realized that you were white?” First the girl smiles. She’s sitting on her bed in fluffy slippers. She looks up at the ceiling, says, “Well …” and then she just gets quiet.
And it’s clear that she is becoming quite uncomfortable. The scene goes on in complete fidgety silence for an entire 60 seconds until the girl looks like she is about to cry. Watching it made me so uncomfortable I wanted to skip past it. Why did this bother me so much? I’m a guy who likes to talk about race, so why was this scene making me squirm in my seat? This is the brilliance of this collaboration. It’s uncomfortable, but necessary. Later, another slightly older girl answers, “I guess I never realized I was white just cause I didn’t have to deal with it.”
Another powerful moment is when the teacher, Tim Wise author of White Like Me and host of the podcast Speak Out, goes on to list some of the should-be-famous white people who fought against the white supremacy system: John Fee, Moncure Conway, Helen Hunt Jackson, Sarah Moore Grimké and Angelina Emily Grimké. He then asks, “Why do we learn about the white folks who perpetuated the horrible systems, but we don’t learn about the white folks who said no?”
Like the inner sleeve of the original Rage Against the Machine record, this video comes with a reading list. “All texts cited within film and below written by people who call themselves white. This is by no way an exhaustive list. This is a starting point” the list begins.
Should be required viewing for any of those oblivious yahoos who played this Rage Against the Machine song at Trump rallies. Some of those who run forces are the same that burn crosses.