Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Final thoughts on Michael Jackson and race


written by Tami; originally published as part of an Anti-Racist Parent roundtable on Michael Jackson and race

Michael [Jackson] and race? I never thought much about Michael and race until his skin began to pale, his afro turned into a pressed and feathered shining coiffure, and his African nose began to morph into some grotesque facsimile of a European one. For this, people tsk and shake their heads at Jackson. Sell out! Self hater! We are aghast that his father ever made fun of his nose and skin. We take his tampering with his physicality to mean that he hated his blackness. Perhaps he did. But we are lying to ourselves if we think that Michael Jackson's form of self hatred is any more pronounced than that of many, many black people. Michael is unique in that he had the money to erase features that are devalued in our society—even by the oppressed communities that are most likely to possess them. Have you not heard the "you so black" teasing on the playground? Have you not heard the mocking of "soup-cooler lips" and "big ole noses?" Have you not noticed that most black women will not be caught dead in public with "nappy" hair? Have you not seen the dearth of brown-skinned women with African features prized in videos on MTV and BET or heard the praise from current pop culture icons, like Kanye West, for biracial video girls whose African features are sufficiently muted?

I think in our rush to condemn Michael Jackson for equating whiteness with beauty and worth, we doth protest too much. Michael really is the man in the mirror. He reflected the hang ups of the black community back to us.

7 comments:

MacDaddy said...

Well said. A lot of this comes back to parenting. Our moms and dads, as a part of the nurturing process, are supposed to their children feel safe, loved, and special. When they mock their children to make them feel vulnerable, stupid, and overly dependent on them, they stunt both their emotional growth and natural maturity.

This is what the Jackson parents did to Michael. They may have done this to make him a great performer. Along with a big paycheck, they may have intended to "toughen him up" and make him a man. Instead, they set him up to remain, and even regress, into a permanent child, a state where he is loved by children and teenagers but ridiculed by everyone else.

My heart is saddened by what happened to Michael Jackson. Ultimately, my mind is chilled and absolutely disappointed that Michael Jackson's parents could insult my intelligence by entertaining the illusion that they were good parents to Michael Jackson and now seek to parent his children.

Anonymous said...

Michael's self-hatred = MOST black people's self-hatred + millions of dollars to act on it.

Southland Diva said...

Considering the paper bag test has mutated to the manila folder test and people don't even pay lip service to 'black and proud' anymore... Black people are in trouble. Call MJ the poster child for a great deal of dysfunction in the so-called black family (the general pathology isn't restricted to black people). Colorism is real and getting worse.

When you are taught to dislike a part of you (nose, lips, skin color, non-custodial parent, etc.) by your family, friends, neighbors, entire community; why is anyone suprised at the self-hate such programming produces? What were they expecting? A psychologically well-adjusted human being? I think not.

Peace

CiCiwryter said...

Very true words that you've written; and not only within the Black community but the world at large. For those of us from the African diaspora who have grown up descendants of enslaved persons and even under colonial rule, it's deeper than just negative comments from your parents. All around the world 'Blackness/African features' are vilified. Check the U.S./World history during his parents formative years. How is it that we expected them or know that they did love themselves enough to pass that on to their son? It's nothing short of a miracle that those of us with those features can look in the mirror and love ourselves. I'm not justifying what was done but it seems that because Joe&Katherine's son earned a lot of money, this situation is not looked at in context at all. Especially by those of us who know that there is much more to it than this pop-culture, armchair psychology. (didn't mean to vent) :)

Mamabelle said...

So true, so true. What he did to himself makes me shudder, and I wonder... if I were suddenly catapulted to fame and fortune as a child, what would I have done? A slimmer nose, perhaps? What I also find interesting are his children. I guess more details will emerge, but so far, it seems none are actually his. Did he choose them to be caucasian on purpose, or was it just how things came about? I really look forward to reading a good biography on him in the coming years... such an interesting character in US history.

Aude said...

it is so sad that even the black community doesn't know this man story. but i understand America is so mature at understanding race. Has anyone ever tried to watch his full biography on youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xvhwWDCV9Bo (living with michael take 2 or even his Oprah's interview... ever read his bio book "Moonwalk")?
the man got a disease he didn't want to change himself black and back then about his hair, he lost it all when he got burned (3rd degree they had to do a recovery surgery) while doing a commercial of pepsi. His hair... lol I wonder how many blk women perm their hair. It sounds so unfortunate but it is true with hard fact.
everyone should do some research before talking about someone, this guy was a pure victim of American society matureness about race. He was sick you made fun of him. how lovely
I guess that is what makes all of this really sad. the fact that he died and we didn't even know who he really was.

Anonymous said...

Aude, stop speaking truth!. Lol. Yeah, the Black community has some ways to go in understanding Michael Jackson. Old school Black people have him pegged wrong just as the new school. The man develops a skin disease, a disease that doesn't turn his skin 'white'... he has no color actually... and it's "self-hate." As for his nose, that's his business. I will say that his initial two nose jobs should be disregarded b/c it was to repair an accidental fall. 'Tis fact. He could have easily gotten uncomfortable with it from that moment on. So what if he got surgery? There are plenty of people who've had more, including Black people, but we wouldn't know; cosmetic surgery is much more advanced and refined today. I guess that means they all wanted to be white too, huh? Maybe they were just insecure about themselves and it had nothing to due with Blackness? No, that couldn't be a logical answer to Black people since we enjoy projecting our racial issues onto every famous person of color, only later to try and dissect their minds as if they were a science project. And what about his hair? Do we deny every Black woman's comfort with Blackness for her straight hair and label it an attempt to look White, as if White people own the patent on straight hair? Why is every external adjustment for a Black person perceived as an attempt to look White? This is plain wrong people. You mad at Mike's Jeri curl? Ice cube had one, Debarge had one, just about everyone in the eighties had one. Hate one his perm? Then I guess we should hate on Chuck Berry, James Brown, Al Sharpton's as well. But you won't b/c they weren't blessed with vitiligo. Cause being for real, it wasn't the surgery that truly turned people off, it was the color of his skin; y'all weren't disgusted during Off The Wall & Thriller. So it is not Michael who is stuggling with racial issues- for if you knew anything about him you would know that assumption to be a lie- it is the public. You are the ones who are tripping. Hell, there were even Black people jumping on the Mike was gay bandwagon simply b/c you all didn't know him to be a male ho and thought the pitch of his voice actually affected his sexuality. I swear, ignorance is a killer.

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