Hello fellow MJ fans (and non MJ fans if you are reading this blog). Today I will discuss something that I’ve been dying to talk about for months and that is the subject of MIchael Jackson’s love for his African American heritage.
“The black tradition is a tradition of soul which is a gift of love and joy. Soul is the most precious thing you can share because you’re sharing yourself and the world needs that gift now more than ever…” Michael Jackson Soul Train Humanitarian Awards, 1993
BLACK OR WHITE
First off, I’d like to take note of how MJ made this short film all about appreciating different cultures, rather than appropriating. He always made it a point to expose the problems that people of color go through around the world, yet he never forgot to focus in on his own people and our issues. In this video, he touches on different cultures from Europe, India, Native American and African. One interesting thing in the beginning of the short film, we see Macaulay Culkin jamming to MJ, and his dad comes in and breaks his MJ poster, calling the music “garbage”. It’s very interesting how he started with this kind of scene as to say that the dad was bigoted against Michael, so Macaulay blasts his father into another part of the world where he can see music from other cultures, as if he’s targeting that message to bigoted audiences, telling them to open their minds.
🎶”I Took My Baby
On A Saturday Bang
Boy Is That Girl With You
Yes We’re One And The Same…”
These lyrics come with the racially charged word “boy” – often used to emasculate and infantilize Black men. “Is that girl with you?” describes situations where white men would become enraged to see black men with their daughters, or black women with their sons. So “boy, is that girl with you?” is meant to be disrespectful, and MJ’s answer to that is ” yes, we’re one and the same”, a blatant message for haters to piss off and mind their own business.
🎶I Ain’t Scared Of
I Ain’t Scared Of No Sheets..
“I ain’t scared of no sheets”, obviously referring to the KKK. MJ said he wasn’t scared of cowardly racists who hide under sheets, and they won’t stop him from helping people and loving any race.
Despite how anti-violence MJ was, he named his dance after the Black Panther Party; a militant group of civil rights activists lead by Huey P. Newton. He also transformed into a black panther to symbolize the group. After turning into a human, Michael begins to let his frustration out through dance, and smashing up cars and windows that have racist messages on them. He also zips up his pants and dances suggestively, hinting at the fact that the media is always trying to emasculate black men, especially the ones who do not fit into gender norms who are sensitive and show emotion. In this short film, I think MJ is making powerful statements that despite society calling him impotent, he was able to be freely sexual and sensitive as a black man. Also, another statement that his message is more important than speculating over his skin color.
They don’t really care about us…
By saying “they” Mike is talking about the government. He knew that the system is corrupt against blacks and people of color, and not just in the United States, but worldwide. In the Rio version, Michael highlighted the poverty of POCs there and danced with the Olodum band, which is part of an Afro-Brazilian group that fights for the rights for Afro Brazilian people, a movement for Black Pride. In the prison version of TDCAU, Michael highlights how the U.S. Government abuses black citizens and throws them in jail, how racist officers are always able to get away with murdering a person of color because the system is corrupt.
🎶Tell me what has become of my rights
Am I invisible because you ignore me?
Your proclamation promised me free liberty, now
I’m tired of bein’ the victim of shame
They’re throwing me in a class with a bad name
I can’t believe this is the land from which I came
“Am I invisible because you ignore me?”
The first sentence refers to a quote from Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, where the main character is a black man who feels invisible because the white people around him refuse to acknowledge him or his humanity.
“I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves or figments of their imagination, indeed, everything and anything except me.”
― Ralph Ellison,
This quote is interesting because it nails Mike’s situation perfectly-people refuse to see MJ as he really is, and are blinded, or refuse to look deeper and realize there is a human being they are trying to drag through the mud all for the sake of money. I wrote a bit more about how MJ used his Vitiligo for awareness and as a statement here.
REMEMBER THE TIME
There’s nothing really pro black about the lyrics. It’s in the video where we see that MJ tried to represent Ancient Egyptians accurately, especially Nefertiti, played by the supermodel Iman. MJ always made it a point to hire dancers who had the ancestry of the culture they were representing (he did that in Black or White too), and though some thick heads may argue that MJ was appropriating Ancient Egyptian culture (which he was not), you can’t claim to know MJ’s full ancestral history. We know he was able to trace his roots back to the Agni tribe on the Ivory Coast. Furthermore, MJ was not “playing dress up” with a culture. He treated it with much reverence and respect and it is evident he studied Africa a lot.
Anyway, back to the topic. One thing that I notice about Michael’s work is that he always has a diverse cast and mostly black women as his love interest *wiggles eyebrows*. You Rock My World, for example, felt like they were in a club where black people could be carefree. I’m not sure, maybe I’m reading it wrong. Remember the Time is always a breath of fresh air to watch because you realize Hollywood really likes to whitewash history, especially when it comes to talking about Ancient Egypt. (side-eyes Elizabeth Taylor). Another thing? MJ did not portray every Ancient Egyptian as a king or queen. There were servants and common folk as well. Hoteps, don’t get any ideas! ;)
BAD (THE SHORT FILM)
This short film is based on a true story of a Black boy named Daryl, who was killed by his friends for refusing to live in a lifestyle of gang banging. Michael heard about it in the papers and decided to use the story for his short film. MJ plays the role of Daryl. Basically, Michael brings awareness to the fact that Daryl probably lived at home with his mom always at work to put food on the table. I know MJ could identify with being poor. He was born in a poor part of Indiana and his parents worked many exhausting jobs. Music and education kept him and his siblings out of trouble, and education kept Daryl out of trouble too. I think the message Mike was trying to convey to black youth during that time, was to stay in school and find an outlet that will keep you out of trouble.
This film oozes Carefree black children. I didn’t get the message behind this film until a couple months ago. Before, I just thought it was a cool video, like always. Jam is an embodiment of how black youth express themselves, whether it be dance, sports, rapping, music, or play, as evidenced in the beginning of the film where we see the little black boy with the hat playing with a ball. Jam lets you know that despite the challenges you face “it ain’t too much for me to jam!” You can express yourself and be yourself. You have permission to let your frustrations fuel your creative outlets.
OTHER LYRICS: WE’VE HAD ENOUGH
“🎶 She asked the man in blue, how its it that you get to choose, she innocently questioned why, why her father had to die? You saw he didn’t run, and that my daddy had no gun.“
These lyrics are so chilling to hear, ever since the Black Lives Matter movement began last year. It reminds me that it doesn’t matter how rich you are. As a black person, the police will still brutalize you. They brutalized, harassed, and planted evidence on MJ. They shot so many unarmed black people this year. They terrorized so many children and a lot of police officers are a part of the KKK. Racism is still alive and well, and it should not be that way.
HIS BUSINESS MOVES:
Not many people know that MJ bought the rights to black artists’s music and returned those stolen rights to the original owner. Mike spoke once about how promotion companies would take advantage of black artists and they would end up bankrupt because they were cheated out of their deal and stolen from. He spoke about how SONY was trying to do that to him when he was alive, and also exposed SONY for its racist employees. Michael was smart. He bought the Beatles and Elvis catalogs, and businessmen coveted it, which is why MJ believed Sony came out with those slanderous allegations and rumors about him. He made sure to give artists of color representation. MJ broke racial barriers by becoming the Greatest Artist of all time, a Black man did that! He and other pioneers were responsible for Black artists being featured on predominantly white radio and TV stations. Without them, we would would not be able to take credit for the music that African Americans have created.
THE BOOKS HE READ:
It is frustrating to hear narrow minded comments about MJ from people who say that MJ wanted to be white. First of all, not only does it show how shallow your mind is, but you also do MJ a huge disservice by insulting his intelligence. MJ was not disconnected from the world. Adults called him aloof because he wasn’t paying them any attention. MJ tried to heal the sick children because he felt like their innocence should not be destroyed, and they shouldn’t suffer. He payed cynical adults no mind.
Neither Michael’s vitiligo, his surgeries, or who he married/the color of his children’s skin determines whether MJ hated his race or not. He did suffer from some confidence issues, just like any normal person would. He didn’t have as much surgery as the media said he did, and if you still think he bleached his skin, you must not be able to read because there is a lot of information on the internet about Vitiligo and the type MJ had. He could not have had a bunch of surgery because he also had Lupus, which would have prevented his skin from healing correctly. To open that up time after time would probably cause him to have horrible complications. I wrote more about Mike’s Vitiligo here.
As previously stated, Michael Jackson was a very intelligent person. People would describe his uncanny ability to notice everything going on in a room, and he was a voracious reader. He read stacks of books at a time and his library in Neverland Ranch had nearly 10,000 books, including many on Black/African History. He had such reverence for Black tradition and for the continent of Africa. Below are just some of the books from his Neverland library.
“They manipulate our history books. The history books are not true! It’s a lie! The history books are lying. You need to know that. You must know that. All the forms of popular music: From jazz to hip-hop, to bebop to soul. You talk about the different dances from the cake walk to the jitterbug to the Charleston to break dancing. All these are forms of BLACK dancing!…The minute I started breaking the all-time record in record sales—I broke Elvis’s records, I broke Beatles records—the minute it became the all-time best-selling album in the Guinness Book of World Records,
OVERNIGHT they called me a freak, they called me a homosexual, they called me a child molester, they said I bleached my skin! They made everything to turn the public against me!
This is all a complete conspiracy.
I know my race! I just look in a mirror. I know I’m black!”
-Michael Jackson’s anti-racism Speech at the National Action Headquarters in Harlem, NY.
After considering all of this information and actually studying the man in depth, it’s ridiculous for anyone to say that MJ didn’t want to be associated with his own people, or that he had internalized hatred for his race. If you know the truth behind his medical conditions, what he studied, the time period he was born in, and his true message, you’ll completely understand that Michael Jackson was very pro black, open minded and woke.