In 1915, black historian Carter G. Woodson and several associates in Chicago established the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. The following year, the Journal of Negro History appeared, one of the oldest learned journals in the United States. In 1937 Woodson published the first issue of the famous Negro History Bulletin. But what has probably gained him most fame was his establishment of Negro History Week that in later years would become Black History Month. And so every year around February, black history is celebrated on television, theater, radio and more. From The History Channel to HBO to PBS, black documentaries abound and we are thankful for them---even if we only get them once a year [Of note, PBS is the exception here as they regularly feature black documentaries all year. Props.].
So this year I turn on my television and I open my emails and I listen to the radio to see what I’m going to learn about Black History, the endless worthwhile conversations, stimulating debates, what black children and adults will be learning of their past, how we can apply these lessons to our present and build a better future and I get…
Pardon me whilst I rant…Has the whole damn world gone in-friggin-sane?
It’s Black History month. Yet every major network, while showing little if *anything* about black history, has dedicated itself to digging into the personal life of Michael Jackson. What started out as one interview that had millions of ogling viewers has turned into a ceaseless flood of vultures and hyenas, all digging into the carcass for whatever juicy morsel they can find and proudly display. Like a lynching in the New South where whites would come out to celebrate, scramble and jostle for pieces of a cooked Negro’s liver, fingers, toes, ears or penis, the major networks (majority white in makeup and ownership) are ravenous over Jacko.
We got pictures of Michael dangling babies. We got his white baby momma. We got talk bout his abusive Pops. We got facelifts, facelifts and….MORE facelifts. We got nose surgeries and oxygen chambers and elephant man bones and chimps. We got charges of pedophilia, little boys supposedly paid off with hush money and on…and on…and on…ya’ don’t stop. It’s a multi-ringed circus, 21st century Vaudeville in black face (or something approaching white), another troubled Negro on display for the world to see, to gawk at, to point at, laugh at, ridicule, be amazed by, oooh and awww, gasp and squeal, to fill office conversations and email inboxes, to denigrate, insult and provide endless hours of amusement.
It seems just about everyone, no matter race, creed, nationality, sexual preference, profession, socio-economic geographic dwelling (finally bringing closure and making moot the ever continuing claims of ghetto vs suburb behavioral habits) or IQ, can’t get enough---like Bob Dole after a few doses of Viagra.
The ratings skyrocket with each new deconstructing biopic. On listservs and chat rooms, both black dominated and otherwise, it’s the hot topic. To quote the old caricature diddy that would define over a century of American Apartheid and was made famous by Thomas Dartmouth "Daddy" Rice, "Weel about and turn about and do jis so, Eb'ry time I weel about I jump Jim Crow."
If you don’t see where that fits into this conversation, do some research on the popularity of minstrels in early mainstream American culture and their relation to the long standing equating of black life with humor/entertainment. Take a few steps back, gaze at the big picture and wrestle with it in ya’ mental like a Sumo. Then when you figure out why what we often think is funny really ain’t, we’ll politick.
I gotta say that in the final analysis I’m disgusted with the whole Michael Jackson “living autopsy” to the point of can’t-be-disgusted-no-mo’.
I’m disgusted that in the middle of some of the most important issues facing our global society, more people know when Michael Jackson got his last nose job than the lyrics to George Dubya & the Bumrush Crewz’ smash hit album “The Wolfowitz Doctrine: Its Gonna Take a Planet of Billions to Hold Us Back”
I’m disgusted that talk about Michael Jackson’s white baby momma drama brings a great big Black Rob “WHOA!” But when I talk about how Mary Peters recounted her conception as being through the rape of her mother by sons of her white mistress, one of the many ex-slave narratives from the WPA Collection featured on HBO’s recent Unchained Memories, there’s only a mere near indifferent and blank-staring “oh.”
I’m disgusted that during Black History Month there’s more about Michael Jackson’s personal life on peoples minds and on major television, radio, cyber and media outlets than there are in depth biographies on the many Tiyes, Taharkas, Amanineras, Ezanas, Sundiatas, Benjamin Bannekers, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, Nannys of Jamaica, Palmares of Brazil, Frederick Douglas, Sojourner Truths, Elijah McCoys, Garret Morgans, Richard Wrights, Zora Neale Hurstons, Jacob Lawrences, WEB DuBois, Henry Arthur Callis, James Baldwins, Elizabeth Catletts, Fannie Lou Hamers, Adam Clayton Powells, Huey P. Newtons, Nikki Giovannis, Kwame Toures, Assata Shakurs, and more that make up the black historical mosaic.
I’m disgusted that there’s more fascination, rumor, innuendo and snickering about allegations of Michael Jackson and his involvement with little boys than there is real concern over either fairness in media portrayals of such accusations, or even the harm (if anything actually went down) that those little boys could have been subjected to. To quote the great urban philosopher of our times Mos Def: “You can laugh and criticize Michael Jackson if you wanna, Woody Allen, molested and married his step-daughter….” The same pack of media wolves salivating at Michael Jackson’s heels, now treat Woody Allen and his step-daughter turned wife as if they were Ward and June Cleaver.
I’m disgusted that everyone thinks Michael Jackson’s obvious racial identity and inferiority complex is a source of amusement. In the movie Three Kings, an Iraqi soldier asks Mark Wahlberg (new age Al Jolson---Marky Mark---turned serious all-American actor) a poignant question, “What is the matter with Michael Jackson?” When Wahlberg is unable to answer the seemingly odd question the Iraqi soldier asks what kind of sick society would cause a black man to chop up his face to look like a white man?
As critic Rumsey Taylor noted of the movie, “The ‘whitening’ of Michael Jackson is a metaphor related to the ‘Americanization’ of other cultures. The freedom our country so proudly exclaims may be its most esteemed trait. However true, it is a weapon of influence that has deteriorated other cultures. The Iraqi soldier’s disdain of what Michael Jackson symbolizes is Iraqi criticism of our country’s purpose in the Gulf War. America may be a haven for those seeking freedom, but our culture may breed conformity rather than tolerance.”
With this understanding in mind I wonder what my white co-workers, white late night comedians and other white acquaintances find so funny about Michael Jackson’s racial issues? Michael Jackson after all is nothing more than an extremist end product of white racism. And of this white owned media outlets and pundits make jokes? The very society that gives whites their elevated status created this insanity, and they now make light of it?
Furthermore, what are non-whites laughing so hard about? When it comes to black people with our skin lighteners, and worrying about getting “too black” in the sun, and our nappy-hair phobia, and complaints of our too wide noses or overly thick lips, and our skin color definitions of who is “pretty” or “black and ugly as ever” (as stated by the late Notorious BIG) just what has earned us the right to point and laugh? Is it because we only have symptoms of the disease while Michael Jackson has reached full-blown status?
When did the disastrous effects of white supremacy become mere humor for us to sit back and laugh in camaraderie about? Was it at El Mina castle? Somewhere on the sugar plantations of Bahia? Early 20th century Rosewood or Tulsa Oklahoma? The crematories of Dachau or the human experiments at Buchenwald? Someone fill me in… I musta’ missed it.
Now before every Tom, Dick n’ LaQuanda writes me with their assorted rebuttals, let me set the record straight. This is not a defense of Michael Jackson. He has been quite a participatory and active agent in his public mockery. Neither is this an attack on Michael Jackson. There’s more there to be pitied than to hurl continued insults at. No need for me to run in and get the few last kicks. What’s more, I’m not judging the man’s entire character by whatever flaws I may claim to perceive. Man’s still a musical and business genius. He’s given millions away to charity and has even engaged in world social issues in both music and his personal life. This is also not a plea for censorship asking any networks to remove their content or for viewers to not tune in. I believe it is everyone’s right to abuse their precious brain cells in any manner they see fit. In similar vein, it’s my right to talk shyt bout you doing so. Freedom suckz don’t it?
So if you wanna continue on enjoying this Roman-styled media spectacle, feel free. But when it comes to asking me did I watch it, engaging me in conversation over the most recent bizarre ritual you found out about Michael Jackson’s life, how many times he has gone under the knife, video clips of his morphing face over time and other assorted topics that make me want to gnaw off my left leg in a desperate attempt at escape from the conversation, do me a favor and (like Mike once said) “Leave me Alone!”
And for those who can’t get enough of the Michael Jackson Freak Show, the Whitney and Bobby Brown Adventure hour, the recurring Allen Iverson Thugfest, reruns of the Wild n’ Wacky Dennis Rodman saga and all else, don’t worry about the possibility that the laughter and amusement will ever stop. Black folks may only be 12% of the population, but we get a lot of airtime. Like Ice Cube once said, “they’ll have a new nigga next year…”This rant brought to you by the T.H.I.N.C. Foundation-
Towards Harnessing Intellectual Negro Capacity….
Morpheus- Exposin Fake Shyt
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