Barack 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.