RACETRAITOR is an American political vegan straight edge hardcore punk band from Chicago, Illinois. They released an album called “Burn The Idol” of the White Messiah on Uprising Records and then a split EP called Make Them Talk on Trustkill with their friends in the Indianapolis band Burn It Down.
RACETRAITOR was one of the most controversial political bands of the 1990s hardcore scene and garnered on the covers of both Maximumrocknroll and HeartattaCk before recording a single note of music. The name RACETRAITOR was in reference to using one’s social and economic privilege to create a more egalitarian world. The idea was to take the pejorative term “race traitor” used by white American racists and claim it as a positive self-chosen label. The band was known for aggressively challenging audiences to confront the ways they might help perpetuate or buy into racist and exploitative social and economic systems. Many of their shows turned into heated arguments and they became one of the most talked about political hardcore bands of the late 1990s. RACETRAITOR‘s message centered around anti-racism and anti-colonialism. They often discussed issues like white privilege, class privilege, the war on drugs and biases in the US criminal justice system, inequities in economic globalisation, and US foreign policies in Latin American and the Middle East. The name RACETRAITOR was in reference to using one’s social and economic privilege to create a more egalitarian world. The idea was to take the pejorative term “race traitor” used by white American racists and the band claim it as a positive self-chosen label. The band’s message also held that “race” was an artificial and constructed human category and was a social construct devised to facilitate exploitation and oppression. Their radical beliefs were influenced by black nationalism, third worldism and other anti-colonial ideologies (and for some members, eventually, Islam). Their lyrics also touched on topics of sexual abuse, spirituality, corporate dominance of economic and public life, rugged individualism. The band’s members were vegan and lived the straight edge lifestyle.
Especially in the early days of the band, RACETRAITOR consciously took a more confrontational approach to spreading its message for and ideas about such social justice. They would often challenge their (mostly white) audiences to recognise the roles that everyone played in perpetuating racial, sociocultural, economic, and colonial oppression. The band became known for calling their own audience members “crackers”, which they explained as people who “crack the whip”; not necessarily someone who is Caucasian, in other words, but rather those who simply perpetuate racism and exploitation in their day-to-day lives. According to members of RACETRAITOR, this “in-your-face” approach was intentionally designed to shock audiences and force a debate on issues such individuals might otherwise have totally ignored. After both the release of their first record and starting to garner considerable attention across the American hardcore scene, RACETRAITOR‘s message and means of communication gradually evolved to become much less confrontational in its style and instead took something of a more motivational form.
Early RACETRAITOR music could be characterised as power-violence and grind-core, featuring an abundance of noise and blast beats. Songs often timed less than a minute, which gave their early shows the quality of containing more spoken word than music. Eventually, their 90’s hardcore, extreme metal, especially death metal, and metalcore influences came to the foreground and RACETRAITOR‘s songs became longer and more defined.
Since RACETRAITOR‘s break up in 1999 there have been occasional reunion rumours, but nothing ever materialised. In 2016, however, the band announced on its Facebook page that they were in the process of re-mixing “Burn The Idol” for a re-release on vinyl. In August 2016, the band announced its first show in 17 years with Detroit hardcore band Earthmover. In September, the group went on to release two brand new songs: “By The Time I Get to Pennsylvania” and “Damaged”