A discussion of race, politics, media and the like… What I see is what you get.

Race & Music

The Same…yet Different…

We both grew up in the same house. Had the same benefits and challenges form the most part. Played with the same toys. Went to the same schools (until high school). But when interacting with the dominant culture, there were times when we were not viewed nor even treated the same. There was the time when I was invited to camp with my neighbors across the street but my brother was not. At the time I was told it had something to do with age or a limit on the number of visitors that could go or that he would get to go the next year. He never went.

Dr Michael Eric Dyson discussed this phenomena during Soledad O’Brien’s CNN special last year, “Blacks in America” where they discussed how light skinned and dark skinned brothers were treated differently intra-racially and inter-racially. It’s a notion often discussed in the Black community and between my brother and I it has been a long standing inside discussion with my brother and I. As I have noted earlier, I have seen, first hand, how skin color can be a determining factor in ones life. Darker skinned persons, are viewed in the greater society, as more troublesome, more menacing, carnal and less intelligent. Even amongst ourselves, the vestiges of white supremacy and its major manifestation, Black self-hate, are rampant in our perspectives and our everyday comings and goings. It is an issue that Blacks deal with from within and from without.

Which leads me to Michael Jackson. As we honor his memory on the anniversary of his sudden death, I have often wondered how the Jackson family and MJ himself discussed race. As the vast majority of Black households must discuss race, the Jackson family shouldn’t be any different. Although we have no concrete evidence of any family discussions we do have the music itself. MJ, even in his lyrics, was clearly in tune with the subject and his dealings with the greater society indicate a willingness to delve into the topic.

So then how do you account for his color change? Because I actually sort of grew up with MJ and saw the transformation in real time over years, it didn’t really hit me until I saw some pictures of a young MJ and then juxtaposed that with the images of the more recent MJ. Obviously I don’t really buy the vitiligo argument. And in an interview with Quincy Jones done last year in Details magazine after MJ’s death, it was clear he didn’t buy it either.

To me, the MJ color change is the personification and embodiment of self-hate in the same way that Sammy Sosa’s sudden color change shows a deep anger at being dark. And by no way am I trivializing the issue. It’s complicated. And even in the midst of unfettered fame and fortune, race plays a role. The color change is so stark and so complete that you can only come to one conclusion. MJ was deeply affected by the notion of race… And you are too. How do you manifest it is the only question left to ask…

BTW…I can’t get enough of this tribute from Dwele to “The King of Pop”. Enjoy…