“They Don’t Care About Us” is the fifth single from Michael Jackson’s album HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I, released on June 16, 1995. It is a protest song and remains one of the most controversial pieces Jackson ever composed. In the US, media scrutiny surrounding allegations of antisemitic lyrics were the catalyst for Jackson issuing multiple clarifications, an apology, defense from director Spike Lee and re-releasing the song with a new vocal featuring altered lyrics. The singer countered allegations of antisemitism, arguing that reviews had misinterpreted the context of the song, either unintentionally or deliberately.
“They Don’t Care About Us” was accompanied by two music videos directed by Spike Lee. The first was shot in two locations in Brazil, in Pelourinho, the historic city center of Salvador, and in a favela of Rio de Janeiro called Dona Marta, where the state authorities had tried to ban all production over fears the video would damage their image, the area and prospects of Rio de Janeiro staging the 2004 Olympics. Still, the residents of the area were happy to see the singer, hoping their problems would be made visible to a wider audience. The second video was shot in a prison and contained video footage of multiple references to human rights abuses.
Commercially, “They Don’t Care About Us” became a top ten hit in all European countries and number one in the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary and Italy. In the US, the song peaked at number 30 on the Billboard Hot 100.