Guilty of Being White

By Minor Threat.

Minor Threat frontman Ian MacKaye (rhymes with eye) is one of the five children of William R. MacKaye and Mary Anne MacKaye.

William MacKaye was a Washington Post reporter and religion editor who, as a White House reporter, was in JFK’s motorcade in Dallas on November 22, 1963, when Ian was a year old. He’s since been a prodigious editor of the Post’s crossword puzzles. The family relocated from D.C. to Palo Alto, California for just under a year when William went for a fellowship at Stanford University, when Ian was 12.

Fellow D.C. punk rocker and longtime friend of Ian’s, Henry Rollins, has remarked that the MacKaye household was an intellectual one, so it was probably no surprise that Ian felt estranged from his friends and peers in the high school years. When he came back from California he found that some of his friends were getting into drinking and drugs. He explains in the 1982 documentary “Another State of Mind,”

“People our age group used to get…sit around, get fucked up, throw bottles, you know drive fast and you know, whatever. Be ruckus and be rowdy and all that shit. That was 5 years ago and when I became a punk my main fuckin’ like…my main fight was against the people who were around me. The kids…my friends, the people I saw. And I said ‘God I don’t wanna be like these people man,’ I didn’t feel like I fit in at all with them. So we said…we found an alternative. And now…a lot of people…what will punks be doing now? Sitting around, getting fucked up and being rowdy. That’s…I don’t wanna be that. I wanna beat that, man, and I know that we can.”

The critical reporter in William MacKaye must’ve rubbed off on Ian. He goes on to explain in the documentary that he was always really observant of his friends and how a “deep, deep hate” for what they were into was instilled in him. A lot of those experiences translated into songs. As the 19 year old singer for Minor Threat he penned a verse, screamed 3 times in 1 minute 19 seconds, that went,

“I’m sorry for something that I didn’t do.
I killed somebody, but I don’t know who.
You blame me for slavery
100 years before I was born


(I’m) guilty of being white.


I’m sorry for something that I didn’t do.
I lynched somebody, but I don’t know who.
You blame me for slavery
100 years before I was born.


Guilty of being white.”

And a breakdown that went,

“I’m a convict,
of a racist crime.
I’ve only served,
19 years of my time.”

The song smashes you over the head and is over before you know it. And that’s the beauty of it. It’s loud. It’s fast. It’s simple. It’s pissed. The only changes that could’ve been made to it were made by Slayer on their cover of the song from their 1996 “Undisputed Attitude” album where they tweaked the words to,

“I’m sorry for something that I didn’t do
I killed somebody, but I don’t know who.
You blame me for everything
100 years before I was born.


Guilty of being white.
Guilty of being right.”

In September 1983 Ian MacKaye sat down for a discussion – called the “Rap session!” – for Maximumrocknroll magazine with Vic Bondi of Articles of Faith and Dave Dictor of MDC – two other prominent bands of the time – where Ian got into the reasons behind the song. Behold the early trickles of the flood of politically correct sludge we are up to our eyeballs in today. And imagine the career killing, lawsuit bringing, offensive, insensitive, comment this would be coming from any musician or artist today. Hold on to your pearls ladies,

Ian MacKye: We have a song, “Guilty Of Being White”, which definitely deals on a political level.

Vic Bondi: What does “Guilty Of Being White” mean? That’s a song that can be mis-construed.

IM: Not at all, I don’t think. But I’ll explain it. I live in Washington, D.C., which is 75% black. My junior high was 90% black. My high school was 80% black, and throughout my entire life, I’ve been brought up in this whole thing where the white man was shit because of slavery.

So I go to class and we do history, and for 3/4 of the year slavery is all we hear about. It’s all we hear about. We will race through the Revolutionary War or the founding of America; we’d race through all that junk. It’s just straight education. We race through everything, and when we’d get to slavery, they’d drag it all the way out.

Then everything has to do with slavery or black people. You get to the 1950’s, they don’t talk about nothing except the black people. Even WWII, they talk about the black regiments. In English, we don’t read all the novelists, we read all the black novelists. Every week is African King’s Week. And after a while, I would come out of a history class, and this has happened to me many times, like in junior high school, and you know that kids are belligerent in junior high, and these kids would jack my ass up and say, “What the fuck, man, why are you putting me in slavery?”

To me, racism is never going to end until people get off this whole thing. It’s going flim-flam, back and forth. When people will just get off the whole guilt trip… First, all the white people were like “Fuck the niggers”, and all of a sudden, it’s “The black man is great. We love him. We’re going to do everything for him,” all the time. It’s never going to get anywhere, because one generation it’ll be the KKK, the next generation it’ll be the Black Panthers. Now we see the KKK come back in again, more popular.

I think the best way we’re going to have to deal with it is that if I am able to say “nigger” without everyone gasping, and if I’m able to say that word, because I don’t have any problems with that word. I say “bitch”, and that means a girl asshole. I might say “jock”, which means an athletic asshole. But you say “nigger”, which means black asshole, everyone flies off the handle.

That’s where the racism thing is kind of fucked. That’s where the whole thing gets out of hand. I think it’d be great if people could come down from that…”

The other two counter that black people still face systemic disadvantages in American society and that Ian doesn’t recognize his white privilege,

Ian MacKaye: I understand what you’re saying. The point is that there are still ugly feelings. The main thing is that they’re a different color, and that’s the worst part. But what is guilt going to lead to? Dave?

Dave Dictor: I don’t think guilt is good at all.

IM: No, I’m saying if someone made you constantly feel guilty, what do you think that may result in?

DD: A resentment..

IM: Thank you. And what would that resentment lead to? You just go right back. They’re going to beat me over the head about African kings and stuff to the point where I’m going to say “Well, fuck the African kings. And fuck the black people too. Fuck all this shit. I’ve had it, blah, blah, blah…” Guilty of being white. Well, fine. I’m not going to play it like that. It’s an unfortunate thing, but when I’m in Washington, D.C., I’m the minority, so I have a totally different view.

MacKaye has told of times when white supremacists from around the world have thanked him for “speaking for the white man,” but he insists people are reading too much into the message. When you hear the song and read the lyrics, it’s pretty hard to confuse the message. It’s straight forward – judge me and treat me as an individual and I’ll give you the same. This simple idea is having a rough time at the moment (well, it always has, everywhere) when it comes to the topic of race in America.

It all gets so tedious it makes you wanna pull your hair out. I for one thank God that we have ass kicking music like Minor Threat to shake us up and drown out the busy bodies.


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