This week I’ve had to really fight the urge to ask my mama to mail me my old Black Power fist Afro pick so I could stab all of these people talking reckless about Michael Jackson literally 45 seconds after he was pronounced dead.
Try as they might to pretend that race isn’t a factor, it is for some. I say that because as I’ve started previously people like Elvis Presley and Woody Allen aren’t branded as pedophiles yet someone who was acquitted of such allegations is.
For as long as I can remember Elvis has been praised to high end yet if memory serves me correctly, he died on the toilet, no? They let his man go with dignity, so why not afford that same right to Michael Jackson? Or at the very least give the man some time to be honored for his contributions to the world before you dissect him even more than you did when he was alive.
I was fortunate enough to cover the Michael Jackson memorial and take part in the service. At the time I was so busy working I wasn’t able to really deal with my own emotions surrounding his death. However, once I left the venue a number of people approached me about the service after seeing me with the program in hand. The minute they saw me with that program they started smiling at me.To have people who barely spoke a lick of English struggle to ask me questions about the service really moved me. What was it like? How did it feel being there? And on and on their inquisitive minds went.
That is powerful because I have a sneaking suspicion any other day of the week none of those people would’ve notice me. Michael Jackson brought people together through his art. As an artist myself that reminds me of the power creative people have. A poor black boy from Gary, Indiana managed to become the world’s greatest entertainer that cause fans the world to burst into tears the second they were in his presence. Black or white, rich or poor that should move each of us in some way. We are different but can be connected through a sing-a-long and a jig.
He was eccentric with questionable judgment at times, but look at the effects he had on people. Some media outlets have touched on us, but not enough. It’s more so been along the lines of, “He was a drug addict, he touched little boys, he spent too much money, he did this, he did that, he was wacko Jacko.” Blah blah blah.
Then you have jackasses like Bill O’Reilly argue that he shouldn’t be a icon to people of color. Who the hell is Bill O’Reilly to tell me who I should or shouldn’t admire? As if he really gives a damn about anyone besides Bill O’Reilly. I know his shtick is to be incendiary for ratings, but his rant about Michael is no less irritating. Jerry Falwell was a bigot but O’Reilly and others called for his criticizers to lay off following his death. Same for Reagan lovers when he croaked.
To be fair, when I look at Michael Jackson’s children a part of me does get angry. I don’t understand his obsession with the pale, the straight, and the blue and blond, but Michael Jackson is far more complicated a character than the media suggests. Though he altered his image, he was the first celebrity to use his fame to really push for people to give notice to the plight of Africans. He leveraged his celebrity to do so much charity work especially for minorities.
Michael Jackson had far more women of color as his leads in his videos than many of the rappers who claim to be a part of the driving cultural force of young Black America. Not to mention his sound, image, choreography and performance style were all derived from black art forms. He may have ended up as pale as they come, but the image and sound that made him famous were all quintessentially black. He did so much for us and should be applauded for his efforts despite his own shortcomings.
Then you have videos like these:
He seems far more aware than we ever gave him credit for. Yet, he morphed into this person who seemed as if he wanted to distance himself from blackness at least aesthetically. I don’t understand it, but I think it speaks to the way he was raised and the generation he comes from. To that end, it’s not for people who know nothing about black culture or the roots of where our self-hatred comes from to step in and take on the role of Pope of Black Folk. We are still trying to sent hints to Al and Jesse that we don’t need publicists either.
I could go on, namely about how to this day we still have stars who have completely altered their appearance to look closer to someone with less melanin (Lil Kim) or those who play with certain looks in an effort to appeal to as many as possible (Beyonce), but you get where I’m going.
Michael Jackson was complicated. It’s hard for us to understand what made him the way he was because we’re not in his shoes. As a result, we should be more careful in how we present him to the world. Or if we’re going to talk about these issues, do so intelligently and with some level of respect. Try to have some empathy for a man who went through hell before third grade.
It irks me to hear people who don’t get it and don’t want to try to speak on our behalf.
Give Michael Jackson credit for breaking down barriers and changing the game. Then shut your happy ass up for a minute and let fans pay tribute.
I wish more of these press people were like George Carlin:
At least someone recognizes game. May they both rest in peace.
P.S. You can’t tell me Michael Jackson wasn’t black doing this in the car:
I bet he did the stanky legg at least once before he moonwalked on out of Earth.