by today's Urban Chameleon contributor
Although it didn’t go quite as planned, Michael Jackson has succeeded in staging the ultimate come back. Between the new releases, re-releases, “making of” concert movie, tabloid gossip, and never ending tributes and memorials, folks just can’t get enough of him. His debts are finally cleared and his estate is flourishing because as much as we loved Michael in life, we absolutely ADORE him in death. Like those morbid, ancient Greeks - we love a good tragedy, especially one involving a “king.” Every Paula, Dick and Harry likes to weigh in on exactly how and why it all “went wrong.” Makes us feel closer to said king – and just a little bit better about our own little lives.
So now it’s my turn. I haven’t written an article in more than twenty years but soon after Michael passed, I felt an unyielding compulsion to address an aspect of his life that really hasn’t played a large role in all the discussions. A few individuals have referred to it obliquely but very few have properly named it. And there’s power in naming.
But before we get to that, I just want to say right up front that I loved Michael Jackson. I am writing from the perspective of an African American woman who fell in love with him when we were 6 (me) and 9 (him) years old. I’m not one of those Janie-come-latelies awestruck by his enormous talent at the pinnacle of his success in the 80s. No, chile. I loved Michael Jackson waaay back when. So I won’t even pretend to be objective.
I mean, what was there not to love? He was the most beautiful boy I’d ever heard or seen. With those soulful, liquid pools he called eyes; that cute little button nose; and his luscious, juicy lower lip he was sheer chocolate perfection. And to top it all off not only could he dance his butt off, but he sang like an angelic “old soul” who’d been through hell and high water but still had the purity and innocence of a child. It was one hell of a combination. Even before I saw the J5 perform “I Want You Back” on the Ed Sullivan show, I was smitten.
I was even going to marry him. That’s right. Don’t laugh. Out of all the hundreds of thousands of little black girls in America who dreamed of being Michael Jackson’s lucky bride, I was going to be “the one.” Oh, yes I was. Cuz I had a plan. First, I would become rich and famous through my own amazing talents. That would make us equals. Once I was a gorgeous international star glittering in my own spotlight he would come looking for me, intrigued by my beauty and brilliance. He’d recognize me as a kindred spirit, fall head over heels in love and together we would blaze a trail of glory across the heavens as we built a beautiful life and a powerful entertainment empire. We’d travel the world spreading joy and happiness as blissed out soul mates. That was my brilliant plan.
But Michael betrayed me. When we both finally came of dating age he only went out with white girls. As far as I could see he wasn’t interested in “sisters” at all - except as on screen co-stars, friends, or in that abstract, “I love all humanity” kind of way. It certainly didn’t seem like he was planning to marry one. At first I thought he was one of those brothers – African American men for whom white women equal success. But when he began to look more and more Caucasian himself, I realized the problem was much deeper. Like many people of color who grow up in a culture where they are consistently denigrated because their lips, noses, skin color and hair are not “white enough” Michael hated being black (or at least looking black.) And if he didn’t love his own blackness, how in the world could he love mine?
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