Tributes to Michael Jackson abound in the wake of his untimely death, at age 50. Friends of mine have expressed their sadness over it. My husband shared with me his own sadness, stemming from the fact that he recalls as a child watching Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5 performing on television.
Indeed, it is very sad about his death and his "haunted" life as reporters have called it. The fact that he couldn't accept himself and was driven to alter his features soo much so that he'd be "Whitenized" is especially saddening to me.
Although he denied it, it is obvious that he had many plastic surgeries altering his broad, African features into narrower, more Caucasian ones. His story is a sad consequence of slavery, racism, prejudice, segregation, and Jim Crow. As I mentioned in a previous post about Shirley Temple and Racism, he is a product of internalized racism and conforming to a western standard of beauty.
He was the King of Pop. In my mind he is more than a Pop icon, he is an icon representing our country's racist heritage. Born in 1958, he was born shortly after my own mother, and during a time when America was still segregated and shamelessly racist.
When my mother was a child she saw a sign (similar to the one pictured below) in a store that said No dogs, No shoes, No Mexicans. When I was a child my grandmother would often tell me that, "brown is beautiful" as a means of countering the sentiments of the times.
It is interesting that Michael Jackson has passed away during the same year that we have our first Black president in office. Although having a black president gives us hope about race relations in America, racism still thrives.
May we all remember MJ's contributions to music and may we all remember that everyone is a child of God. May we each work to recognize and crush racist stereotypes and propaganda and those that make their living disseminating such. May we all pledge to Heal Racism.
Definition of Internalized Racism from Real Definitions:
INTERNALIZED RACISM: (1) The poison of racism seeping into the psyches of people of color, until people of color believe about themselves what whites believe about them -- that they are inferior to whites; (2) The behavior of one person of color toward another that stems from this psychic poisoning. Often called "inter-racial hostility;" and (3) The acceptance by persons of color of Eurocentric values. (See Harris and Ordoira, op. cit. pp. 304-3 16.)
* Black or White:The Deracination of Michael Jackson
*Micheal Jackson: Another Victim of Fame
* Michael (On the Resist Racism site)
For more information about Internalized Racism, please read the following:
*Internalized Racism and Oppression
*A Working Definition of Racism
*Dynamic Beauty: Cultural Influences and Changing Perceptions
*For Indian People, Education Has Been A Weapon Used Against Them For Several Generations
Information on How to Overcome Internalized Racism:
*Reasons For Hope
*Healing From the Effects of Internalized Opression
*Sisters of the Yam: Black Women and Self-Recovery (South End Press Classics Series)