Sunday, July 12, 2009

Pot, meet Kettle

Newsweek on Michael Jackson:

The hopeless task of sculpting and bleaching yourself into a simulacrum of a white man suggests a profound loathing of blackness. If Michael Jackson couldn't be denounced as a race traitor, who could? Somehow, though, black America overlooked it, and continued to buy his records, perhaps because some African-Americans, with their hair relaxers and skin-lightening creams, understood why Jackson was remaking him-self, even if they couldn't condone it.
I see ... because, clearly, black folks are the only racial and ethnic group who have self-esteem issues or believe in the use of beauty products.

Riiiight. I never knew that using Royal Crown as a kid stemmed from some deep-seated self-hatred of my kinky hair and its African roots. Now it's all clear to me. And I only thought it was because I wanted to run a comb through my head without experiencing a world of hurt.

But if this is true - and it's not - then we need to look at the people who truly go the extra step of transforming themselves. Forget Afro-Sheen and hot combs. I won't even bother trotting out the entire tanning industry to counter that weak sauce about race traitors and such.

No, I'm talking about plastic surgery.

And what do we find? Racial and ethnic minorities, as of last year, had approximately 20 percent of all cosmetic procedures, a decrease of 1 percent from 2007: Hispanics, 8 percent; African-Americans, 6 percent; Asians, 4 percent; and other non-Caucasians, 2 percent.

Now, of course, there's certainly a few socioeconomic reasons that explain why black people don't make up a higher percentage of plastic surgery patients. You need a lot of money to fix your face. However, on the whole, you really don't see a sizable number of black people paying the ultimate price to break free of their nappy roots or ugly dark pigment.

Seriously ... the editors who allowed this paragraph into the final version of the story did the writers and their audience a serious disservice. To say that black America - and black America only, apparently - overlooked and understood Michael Jackson's increasingly grotesque physical appearance over the years is asinine.

Clearly, these writers have never seen an episode of "In Living Color":

Speaking only for myself, I could understand his physical changes in the context of the verbal and physical abuse he says he suffered at the hands of his father. And I overlooked those same changes because he was a great musician and a pop star oddity - I mean, who has time to sit around and mull over all the reasons celebrities undergo plastic surgery?

I didn't do this because I was black. And I'm certain that I wasn't alone.


KST said...

First - great post.

Second - I watched the "In Living Color" video when it first aired and thought it was the funniest thing ever.

Third - You addressed the problem that most people (any race)pontificatin' about how black people feel ignore: the music. Damn. We knew something was up with Mike - so did the folks weeping and dancing in the streets of cities in England, Russia, Haiti, South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Canada, Iran, China, Japan, Korea, France etc.

Black people had our theories, we weren't always happy with his choices, but don't say treat us like childlike creatures who followed the piped piper off a cliff. Of course black people in this country have issues. How can we not? The Black Power movement here and the Negritude movement in certain countries in Africa happened for a reason. To actually put fingers to the keyboard and write that we (black people) forgave him because of our own internalized racism, and to imply that we understand why he would want to be white (let's speak plain here) is some bulls**t on a whole other level. The fact is the aforementioned movements did take place.

Yeah, we may have issues, but secret deep all encompassing need to be white - ain't one of them.

We just loved the music. And yes, some of us loved what we perceived to be the man.

Esquire said...

Wow. I didn't surprise me when Bill O'Reilly took this angle, but I am surprised Newsweek went there.

I touched on this on my blog, but bottom line. While I think there was some hatred going on with Michael, it was self hatred, not necessarily hatred of being black. And I firmly believe it was caused by his father. I think if these people went back and listened to just one or two interviews they would quickly see that.

But, its pretty typical. Unsuccessful in attacking the man himself, they turn to attacking his supporters.

blackink said...

@KST: Hey, much thanks. And I was actually trying to link to another video that I'll probably end up posting later this week. Keep up the lookout.

But yeah ... you pretty much hit the nail on the head. That writer was really, really overreaching in that paragraph. And it's weird ... it came from nowhere.

I think he/she was looking for some deeper meaning when there was none. Or he/she was looking to meet some tall-order writing length. Or, even worse, they don't know any black people.

But I don't know how they came up with that paragraph and allowed it into the mag. Just sad.

@Esq: Right-on. There's an important point. Michael might have been unhappy with himself had he been white, assuming Joe Jackson was his father. I never saw, in his public persona at least, any hint of him shying away from acknowledgement of his blackness.

Bougie Applebum said...

"Michael didn't have a problem with being black - he just didn't like being human. Hence, the zoo @ Neverland!" lol Okay, I just had to throw that in there, some nut actually said that to me and I was floored.

I don't think Michael had a problem with his race, but like it was mentioned earlier, I believe Joe Jackson played a huge part in Michael's self-hatred. Be it hating his looks or any trait that reminded him of his ties to Joe Jackson, Michael was trying desperately to erase the pain he saw each time he looked in a mirror. I don't think any of us will know the real thoughts that were going on in his head - but I don't think hatred of his race was one of them.