Michael Jackson an Enigmatic American Icon
Written by Paul I. Adujie
New York, United States
Michael Jackson was brilliant, beloved and enormously talented. He was ironically the title of his music albums; He was a thriller, he was Bad, he was Off the Wall, Dangerous to himself, he was electrifying, he was weird and deeply flawed!
Michael Jackson is said have had an incredible work ethic, he was said to be a perfectionist of an artiste to a fault. Hotel rooms were said were said refitted at Mr. Jackson’s requests for dance practice space, as he always practiced his craft and worked all the time. Sequined right hand-glove was to Michael Jackson as miter is to the Pope.
He was the best at what he did and yet, he was never satisfied. He was so very gingerly lily-fragile.
Michael Jackson most probably died a heart broken man. He faced financial debacles after he had fallen from grace subsequent to child molestation charges for which he was acquitted or cleared.
Michael Jackson was not comfortable in his skin and with his skin literarily; He badgered his nose in too many cosmetic elective surgeries. He scalded his skin to Nordisk pale hue. Michael Jackson clearly had an unusual relationship with his blackness
Despite Michael Jackson’s phenomenal success and world acclaim, riches and fame did not improve his sense of himself it appears. And this makes anyone want to ask, the question, what is it, in America’s social cultural construct which propelled Michael Jackson and others to change and jettison their skin color through bleaching, reduce nose size as did Patti Labelle? Does this sort of skin, hair and nose size fixation reflect a pathology of damaged psyche, ingrained in the minds of our people, as a consequence of hundreds of years of being ridiculed and portrayed as having less desirable skins, hairs, nose, accent etc?
Race, unfortunately, remains a major factor an essential component of how life is lived in America, and in fact, it is how life is lived on earth. In Michael Jackson’s death, race reared its heard in poignant ways.
Many commentators felt the need to compare Mr. Jackson to Elvis Presley and the Beatles. This need to continue to compare an extraordinary artiste such as Michael Jackson to dead white musicians of old, exemplifies how race continues to be a major factor and of its effects as to how all facets of life is live in America as in the selection of firefighters in the state of Connecticut or construction contractors in the state of Colorado.
Jamie Foxx an American movie star, a musician, a great entertainer in his own right and a person of African descent himself, at BET Awards ceremonies on Sunday June 28, 2009 urged a celebration of Michael Jackson, who he called this black man who is ours, who belonged to us, who we shared with the rest of the world, Mr. Foxx extolled MJ’s sound, creativity and talent. Mr. Foxx praised MJ, old nose, new nose or no nose!
Race still creates hurdles in America and around the world. These hurdles are at times visible and invincible hurdles. Michael Jackson apparently took this to heart and too hard. Michael Jackson’s frontal attack on his own skin, nose and hair demonstrated how racial inferiority mindset can become a personal demon, once unleashed, cannot be tamed even by fame, riches or wildest success. Michael Jackson’s unusual relationship with his blackness in this context, make tragic sense.
Michael Jackson became rich and famous and wanted to be a race-neutral, race-free or race-less figure. It is quite likely, that the powerlessness and the checkered history of continental Africans and peoples of African descent moved even a very wildly successful mega super star such as Mr. Jackson, felt the need, as it were, to distance self from such powerlessness and permanent or perpetual ridicules. Michael Jackson was a global entertainer and he may have thought it safer to be a neutral universal persona instead of black? Could he have felt that neutering his hair, skin and nose made him a cross racial universal exchange without the baggage of being a racial symbol?
Michael Jackson sang to the world that it did not matter whether humans were black or white, but incongruously, he focused so much on his black nose, black skin and his black hair, all of which he changed to everything other than what is representative of being black or of African descent. It does not matter to have a bleached self? Being black or white is no issue? So why change your color? I suppose it is difficult to measure the individual’s variable reactions, stamina or tolerance and resistance to vestiges of racism. Perhaps his reaction was to try to blend, which in turn led to the incremental changes to skin, nose and hair? I wish that he could have just been himself and be content with his out-of-this-world fame and fortune.
Michael Jackson started out well, appreciating his heritage and taking pride in his race. On a trip to Senegal with his Jackson Five band, he was said to have danced to Senegalese drummers while publicly stating, and claiming his African heritage, this is where I am from, he reportedly said.
He also was instrumental to the efforts to ameliorate lives of famine victims in Ethiopia through Live Aid fundraising which culminated in the “We Are The World” song in 1984
Those were the good old days of the Michael Jackson with cute face and Afro-hair balloon-shaped or nuclear cloud-shape. Down the road, his public behavior became too weird for serious considerations, such as when he held his nose, as if in complete contempt of people in the Ivory Coast while he visited that country. Michael Jackson was entitled to be married to anyone race, just like Mr. Obama’s father and Tiger Wood and Daryl Strawberry etc, but Michael Jackson’s choice of the mothers of his three children seem to fit his enthusiastic management of his skin color, the size and shape of his nose and new silky hair texture contrasted with his former self. It is doubtful that these are mere coincidences or, very telling and very revealing actions, which were consistent with Michael Jackson’s antecedents concerning his sense of himself and race in America.
Michael Jackson was a genius, a very creative genius! He had a fair share of oddities as genius tends to have. He was a mad scientist of sorts. His public antics with his animals, his kids, mixed with the public’s increasing appetite for the scandalous and voyeur, led American media to label Mr. Jackson a Wacko Jacko with exponential freak factors.
At some point in his storied life, Michael Jackson appeared to have chastised his father and attempted to blame the senior Jackson for working him too hard as a child; this allegedly deprived him of his childhood, to this, Mr. Berry Gordy in response to whether he noticed abuse or neglect of Michael Jackson by his parents when Michael Jackson was young impressionable dotting singer, Mr. Gordy responded that if MJ did not have a childhood, it was probably because he worked hard to become the megastar of all times. Mr. Gordy recalled how the Gordy family played weekly games of baseball against the Jackson family. He recalled how much fun the Jacksons and the Gordys had, and though Gordy is no expert, but he recalled no signs of child abuse.
On the matter of color and race, a 22 years old Caucasian caller to a New York City radio station, WNYC.Org told of how his mother worked very hard to convince him that Michael Jackson was not Caucasian! He said he was freaked-out, as he dug deeper into what Michael Jackson looked like and what he subsequently looked like or became. In Michael Jackson’s life, there is race, culture and confusion. Michael Jackson was certainly no James Brown! James Brown was not perfect, but he did mince words in proclaiming he was Black and Proud! He also had the sense to have played concerts in Nigerian cities, unlike Michael Jackson. I could not quite understand why a Nigerian radio disc jockey broke down and cried on air, and could not continue the radio show!
Michael Jackson nonetheless conquered the world with his physical dexterities in dance and entertainment. He apprenticed in the world famous Motown hit factory created by Mr. Berry Gordy. Michael Jackson fused Funk, Soul, Hip-Hop, Rhythm and Blues into break-dancing, he singlehandedly “legalized” and normalized the miscegenation of music and entertainment in America; no longer separate or treated as disparate. Gone are the days when Jazz, an African American art form was described at some point, by some, in the American press as jungle music! But alas! It is now America’s finest cultural export to the whole world!
Michael Jackson put an end to cultivated or willful illiteracy among white Americans regarding music by African Americans the last barrier was lowered against black musicians and entertainers who were institutionally despised despite their incredible creativeness and talents. Music in America because of Michael Jackson is no longer so segregated.
Joe Jackson, Michael Jackson’s father wished that Michael Jackson could see the outpouring of love at his passing and I wish the same thing too. Michael Jackson would have finally realized he did not need to prove anything to anyone on earth or change himself to make the point that he was entertainment greatest person.