are certain little lies that everyone tells. We don’t intend
to be malevolent, but we know what sounds like the right thing
to say and we comply. It sounds right to say that we won’t
watch the accident by the side of the road. We fuss and fume
about rubber necking motorists but the sight of cops, ambulances
and emergency vehicles with flashing lights is more than we
can stand to ignore. All of which brings us to one Michael
Jackson. Michael Jackson’s life is the highway accident we
promise not to watch but whose presence renders us incapable
of averting our eyes.
celebrity worshipping culture can be seen as an amusement or
an annoyance, depending on one’s mood or point of view. But
as far as black people are concerned, it can be a perilous
distraction from issues that are far more important. To put
it bluntly, we are too often fooled by our inclination to support
prominent blacks who find themselves in hot water, even those
who are undeserving of our support or even pose a serious risk
to us all.
is a very long list of outrages committed by Supreme Court
Justice Clarence Thomas. Number one on the list has to be his
shedding of crocodile tears during his confirmation hearing
when he was quite properly asked about sexual harassment allegations.
Can we ever forget the words “high tech lynching?” Those words
held more magic than “abra cadabra” and changed the minds of
many detractors. Of course after he began what can only be
called the worst record of any Justice in the modern history
of the Supreme Court, there was chagrin, regret and embarrassment
from those who were taken in by his slick but effective ploy
to win the hearts and minds of otherwise intelligent people.
Ever since that awful day of Thomas’ machination the claim
of a “lynching” has arisen for every black person with a gripe.
It was Jermaine, no need to ask the last name, who gave us
the “L” word in this latest installment of the Jackson saga.
reality, lynching victims were hung, shot, beaten to death,
castrated, or burned alive. In some horrific cases they suffered
more than one of those fates. They did not have private jets
whisk them to their arraignments where high priced lawyers
were waiting to pay bail in the amount of $3 million. Falling
into the hands of law enforcement was often the beginning of
is true that there is legal lynching today. Just ask Delma
Banks. Delma Banks is a black Texan convicted of murdering
a white co-worker more than twenty years ago. In March of this
year Banks was strapped to a gurney and came within ten minutes
of being another capital punishment statistic. He was saved
by an eleventh hour Supreme Court stay of execution. The only
evidence against Banks was given by two jail-house snitches
who later recanted their testimony.
Banks is known by a relatively small number of people, Michael
Jackson is one of the most famous people on earth today. The
injustices inherent in our legal system that sent Banks to
the execution chamber threaten the lives of every black person
in America on a daily basis. Instead of bringing these issues
to the public our media and our culture exalt a famous but
clearly unstable man who goes before the camera proclaiming
his love of sleeping with children.
travails of Michael Jackson, Kobe Bryant or whoever comes after
them should only be seen as good theater. Jackson’s mug shot,
which resembles either a wax figure or a badly made puppet,
should only amuse us. We all have our guilty pleasures in life
and celebrity gossip is a relatively harmless one. So it is
acceptable to watch Court TV for days on end to hear the latest
conjecture about the case. But we should remember the tag line
of the old commercials for television psychics: “For entertainment
the O.J. trial, again no last name is necessary, I had a recurring
fantasy that black people would rise up and declare in one
loud voice that we didn’t care about him. We knew the evidence
pointed to his guilt and that he didn’t identify with the rest
of black America. He wouldn’t even associate himself with safe
pursuits like the United Negro College Fund telethon.
fantasy remained just that. Black people remained loyal to
O.J. Simpson and to the idea of his innocence, or the idea
that a rich black person could get away with murder, or the
joy of making white people mad, or of seeing another black
person get him out of trouble. The drama ended with O.J. being
honored at a black church in Washington, D.C., resplendent
in African garb. Not only would my fantasy remain unrealized,
but it had gone down in flames in one of the most ridiculous
and sickening sights I had ever witnessed.
latest in the cycle of foolishness has been aided and abetted
by black leadership. Rev.
Jesse Jackson has already spoken of “overkill” in the case.
But Jesse isn’t alone. The entertainment value of Michael Jackson
appearing at Al Sharpton’s House of Justice last year was priceless.
Whispering that Sony record executive Tommy
Mottola was “mean and devilish” and that he had been treated
badly by his label because he was black made for a truly unforgettable
moment. The laughs were never ending when Al Sharpton had to
backtrack and defend Tommy Mottola after giving Jackson a forum
for attacking him.
it possible for Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson to politely tell
Michael Jackson that they are too busy to talk about him? I
don’t know if Sony under promoted Jackson’s last CD. For the
sake of argument let us suppose it did just that. All black
people are treated badly by corporate America. Whose story
should be frontpage news, Jackson’s or the black employees
who just sued Abercrombie and Fitch for discriminatory hiring
practices? Do Al and Jesse have nothing else to say? Of course
they do. They have been articulate spokesmen for many years
over a wide range of issues, but the mention of a celebrity
name seems to enthrall them as much as it does the average
person glued to the television watching Jermaine on Larry King
have not learned my lesson from O.J. Simpson. I am still hoping
for a collective shoulder shrug when the plight of a legally
challenged celebrity comes to the public arena. In my latest
fantasy Jesse Jackson is asked about the new charges against
Michael Jackson and replies, “I always hope that justice is
done, but most people facing our legal system are at greater
risk than Michael Jackson. There are hundreds of death row
inmates who do not have effective counsel. I hope that you
in the media will give equal attention to the larger issues
of our criminal justice system.” I know. It will never happen.
Perhaps I should start looking forward to seeing Michael Jackson
wearing African robes in a black church.
Freedom Rider column appears weekly in . Ms.
Kimberley is a freelance writer living in New York City. She
can be reached via e-Mail at [email protected].
You can read more of Ms. Kimberley's writings at http://freedomrider.blogspot.com/