Off the Wall: Race and Michael Jackson
By: Staff Wednesday, July 8, 2009
Like Elvis Presley before him, the demise of Michael Jackson has engaged the entire world. The parallels are spooky. Both Presley and Jackson lived isolated, somewhat bizarre lives, eventually destroying themselves with drugs administered by doctors on their payrolls. A proven fact in Presley's case—strong evidence in Jackson's death.

But while Elvis was mourned primarily as a great entertainer, Michael Jackson is being sold by his supporters as much more. In fact, if you listen to Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, the troubled singer was the second coming of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. At Jackson's memorial service earlier this week, Sharpton put forth that Michael brought blacks and whites together, teaching us all how to love.

Wow, who knew?

A Pew Research poll shows that African-Americans are far more interested in the Jackson story than white Americans, and some speakers at the memorial referred to Jackson as a black icon. But how can this be? As everyone knows, Jackson bleached his skin to make it lighter and paid white men to donate sperm for his three in vitro children, at least two of which were carried to term by a white woman.

Does that sound like a black icon to you? So what is really going on here?

My colleague Bernard Goldberg says this is an example of a minority group sticking together, rallying around one of their own. It is true that many African-Americans celebrated the acquittal of O.J. Simpson from murder charges, as well as a jury finding Jackson not guilty on child molestation charges. I guess it's natural to root for the home team, especially when history has been brutally unkind. Black Americans well understand the injustice of the past.

But the truth is that Michael Jackson's contribution lies in entertainment and little else. He is not a role model. His admitted conduct with children is simply unacceptable for any adult. His use of cosmetic surgery is troubling, to say the least. And the enormous amount of money he spent on prescription drugs speaks for itself.

Of course, it is the corrupt media that is driving the deification of Mr. Jackson. Rather than challenge the St. Paul-like portrayal, the press is cynically exploiting it to the fullest.

Remember, these are the same people who covered the molestation trial gavel to gavel. When Jackson was found not guilty, did the media label him a hero? It certainly did not. But now that he's dead (very possibly from an accidental drug overdose), Michael Jackson has become a hero. How does that happen? What kind of media con is this?

I'd like to put that question to every single national anchorperson who sat there doing play-by-play at the memorial service. I do not believe I'd get a cogent answer.

Listen, I have no desire to intrude on anyone grieving for Michael Jackson, especially the people who truly loved him. But the entire planet is watching this play out, and there is such a thing as truth in this world.

We should be telling it.
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