Rage Against The Machine
1992 | Rock
Spotify | Amazon
“Those who died are justified, for wearing the badge, they're the chosen whites. -- You justify those that died by wearing the badge, they're the chosen whites. -- Some of those that work forces are the same that burn crosses."
- The song was written about revolution against institutional racism and police brutality.
- In 2009 it became the Christmas number one as the focus of a successful campaign to prevent The X Factor winner's song from gaining the trophy in the UK for a 5th successive year.
- The uncensored version contains the word "fuck" 17 times.
THE HOT TAKES
I knew we'd get to this one eventually. Let's key in on "By wearing the badge, they're the chosen whites." If you put on this magical uniform, it grants you extra rights! That's right kids! Sign up today and learn to enforce the laws. Which laws? Any old laws you please! Yes, even made up ones! I won't cite the statistics because I'm sure you've all seen them before, but the acquittal rate for cops is ridiculous. The conviction rate for citizens is ridiculous. The sheer amount of corruption in law enforcement and court proceedings is soul-crushing. Once you're in that system, you're in it forever. (Sound like the mafia yet?) Oh, an Nick: RATM is very repetitive, but I like them for the same reason I enjoy Minimalist composers and Trance music. It's a "state of mind" thing. I know they're not your jam, but that's at least some "why" for my liking them.
Of course I’m a huge fan of RATM. Their ferocious sound and paradigm challenging lyrics made its way into my ear holes smack dab in the middle of my high school sentence. I wanted so badly to be a radical, but the indoctrination was too strong at that point. Although I sympathised with much of what they had to say, I could never get into the socialist aspects of their message and it would be years before I began to tear down the sacred cows of The State in my mind. I’m so glad I finally came to that intersection of propertarian anarchism and willingness to see the truth at just the right time in my life. This song is particularly filled with that righteous indignation that I love, because it was written surrounding the events of the savage Rodney King beating and subsequent acquittal of the police involved. For me, it is the first time I can remember in my lifetime where white America was really faced with the brutality of police right in their faces. The primal “fuck you I won’t do what you tell me,” and “mother fuckers” at the end, is a pure expression of the frustration that I think so many minorities have felt for years. Only now that the police have become so powerful and are intruding more on the lives of white Americans, are more white Americans realizing the problems with order followers. I count myself among them. I’m glad I now understand the problems with law enforcement and can work to elucidate more people to that point of view. I only wish I would have seen it sooner.
I won't go on another tirade about how bored I am by these guys. I'm going to instead focus on the thing I think they get very right and a thing I think they complicate the issue with. The most important line in this song to me is "Some of those who work forces are the same who burn crosses." This line points out what is too often ignored about those in charge. In the end they are people who fall prey to all the same foibles that everyone else does. Their humanity is exactly why power is dangerous. I understand why, but dislike the racial element of the song not because black Americans don't have a different necessity for the message but because it draws a line between people who should be on the same team against police abuse. Moreover it locks the larger part of the voting equation out of participation in the discussion, preventing real progress.