Across America’s Racial Divide: Michael Jackson, Rest in Peace

michaeljackson.01Barack Obama has certainly brought Americans together in unprecedented ways, but America’s black and white racial divide still exists.

And every once in a while, an event happens that starkly reveals how just deep this racial divide remains.

The untimely death of Michael Jackson is such an event.

Last week, at a meeting of progressive Democrats in Southern California, I heard speaker after speaker bemoan the fact that Michael Jackson’s death had taken over the cable news, shunting to the side what they believed to be obviously more significant topics – the revolt in Iran, the fight in Congress for new health care legislation, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I see similar comments from many of my politically progressive Facebook friends.

None of them seems remotely aware that their disdain for the wall-to-wall news coverage of Michael Jackson’s death is a reflection of their own racial perspective – or that black people might view it differently.

For many, perhaps most, white people, Michael Jackson was, at best, a fading pop star and entertainer, someone whose music and persona they may have liked in their childhood but not now.

For black people, Michael Jackson was, and remains, a cultural figure of heroic, almost mythic, proportions, someone who changed not just music but the world, and who tirelessly worked for African and African-American causes and charities.

Today Michael Jackson will be honored and memorialized as a hero.

As a white American, I may not really get it.

But I get why I don’t get it.

And for that reason, I give my respects today and I say:

Michael, Rest in Peace.

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2 responses to “Across America’s Racial Divide: Michael Jackson, Rest in Peace

  1. winslie gomez

    Well written!
    You don’t have to be black to appreciate music, rhythm and the energy he projected at stage.
    I do wish people would go a bit further than skin deep and learn to see the good in others; black, white or whatever else.
    I am tri-racial and don’t fit any racial stereotype.

    Thank you for speaking out!

  2. I guess I am one of those White Progressives to which you are referring in your Blog.

    Yes, Michael Jackson pioneered a music and entertainment style in the 70′s and 80′s that certainly will have long-lasting cultural effect on both Black and White America. (I still own a vinyl copy of Thriller; as well as enjoy watching the old MTV videos from that era). And he made it possible for Black entertainers to be accepted in the White entertainment world of MTV, and Hollywood.

    But as a Hollywood stereotype of eccentricity; narcissism, and possible criminal behavior (as OJ — who some could say had an equal effect on Black America in relation to the sport of football, as well as both TV and movie presence) – he basically is another example of America’s obsession with cult of personality.

    I think the craze to obtain a “Golden” Willy-Wonka-type ticket to his memorial was more indicative of people who wanted to attend a glitterati event then to truly express grief; or to pay homage to a “Great” Black American.

    Sure, in the end, Jackson (like OJ) paved the way for Black Americans to be accepted into the realm of the super-rich and superstardom, but he is no Martin Luther King or Jackie Robinson. He (and his family) long ago left behind the Black America civil rights struggle.

    I think the Black Community holding him up as an icon of Black success is indicative of how well the White corporate media manipulates opinion. And like during the Depression when people went to the movies to see how the rich lived, is more of a sign of how prevalent is the political and economic despair within the present day Black Community then anything else..

    To me, what it is tragic in his death is that he left three children stuck now in the middle of a financial and media hell that will most likely result in a media Paris Hilton frenzy to analyze their every move, which I am sure the Jackson family will exploit to the fullest. I won’t be surprised if we read of them ending up leading tragic and possibly prematurely deadly lives.

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