Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Was That Black Enough For Ya?

For a performer who smashed the race barrier on MTV and did as much as
anyone to make black music mainstream — not to mention was accused of
trying to turn himself white through skin treatments and plastic
surgery — the ceremony had a remarkably black cast. John Mayer and
Brooke Shields were the only white celebs with major roles.

Kobe Bryant, Spike Lee, Wesley Snipes, Lou Ferrigno, Don King, the
Kardashian sisters, Brooke Shields, Larry King. While Jackson was
among the most famous faces in the world, today's megastars were
largely absent. Those present mostly reflected some connection to
Jackson's life or work.

Among those conspicuously elsewhere were Elizabeth Taylor, Ross and
Debbie Rowe, Jackson's ex-wife and the mother of Jackson's two oldest

The line spoken by Rev Al Sharpton actually went far beyond the audience assembled at the service and touched a cord -- that America still has not had the conversation on "Race" that it needs, and that statement is true today regardless of who is in the White House. Sharpton said directly to Jackson's children that "Your Daddy wasn't strange -- what was strange was what he had to deal with around him." And that statement brought the house down and the people up almost as a defiant gesture of angry response to all the Michael critics and to members of the general mainstream society that many African-Americans felt just don't understand.

And later that day, CNN's contributor Jeffrey Toobin replied to Sharpton's statement by saying, "Give me a break." And it struck me that the Sharpton statement with the audience response (the most boisterous and prolonged of any response at the service), juxtaposed with the Toobin response serving almost as a "reach out" to mainstream white America to let them know that someone was prepared to go after this saintly image of Michael Jackson being constructed, clearly demonstrated the racial divide that still exists in this country and that President Obama had better find some time to try to address while he still has such high personal approval ratings and political capital in the bank, or we are all in for some big political and social shocks next time around.

As the world paused to remember Jackson, authorities released his death certificate, which did not list a cause of death. The official determination will likely wait until toxicology results are completed, which could be weeks away.



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