Michael Jackson´s experience of racism

 
 
 
"Unfortunately, my friendship with Michael came to an abrupt ending. He’d played the Scarecrow in The Wiz, the urban remake of the Wizard of Oz, which starred Diana Ross as Dorothy. For the film’s premiere, Michael invited me to be his date. I asked my dad, who didn’t care one way or another if I went, but my talent agency was dead set against it. I was told, in exactly these words: ‘You can’t go to a premiere with a nigger.’ Hollywood!"
 
Tatum O’Neal, “A Paper Life”
 
 
 

La Toya Jackson in her book Growing Up In The Jacksons:

 
Trouble seemed to stalk him. Ironically, my brother’s most terrifying encounter was with someone who didn’t even know who he was. He and Michael were visiting her mother and stepfather in Alabama, accompanied by Bill Bray. Michael and Bill went driving one afternoon, and stopped at a gas station. While Bill used the restroom, Michael browsed in a small shop next door. When Bill came out, he was surprised to find Michael gone. “Where are you, Joker?” he called out, using his pet name for my brother.
Suddenly he heard, “Help! Help!” It was Michael, yelling from inside the store. Bursting through the door, Bill saw my brother curled up on the floor and a white man kicking him viciously in the head and stomach, screaming with blood curdling venom, “I hate all of you! I hate you!” Over and over he called Michael a nigger.
Bill, a tall, middle aged black man, subdued the attacker and helped up Michael, who was crying and bleeding from several deep cuts. “What’s going on?” he demanded.
“He tried to steal a candy bar!” the man claimed, pointing at my brother. “I saw him put something in his pocket!”
“No, I didn’t!” Michael protested.
“Yes, you did!”
“Wait a minute,” Bill said skeptically. “He doesn’t even like candy and he doesn’t steal. Why would he steal a candy bar?”
It was obvious then that Michael’s attacker had no idea who he was. As far as he was concerned, this was just another black person – another nigger – to abuse. Bill rushed Michael to a local hospital to have his cuts and bruises tended to.
Mother called us from Alabama to tell us what had happened and we all cried in anger and sadness. How could this kind of thing still happen? If Bill hadn’t been with Michael, he might have been killed. Jermaine was livid, threatening to fly to Alabama and take the law into his own hands. It took some time to persuade him that vigilantism was no way to handle the matter.
Instead, a lawsuit was filed against the store owner. Two girls standing outside had witnessed the beating and one offered to testify on Michael’s behalf. We felt very strongly that racial violence must be stopped, but unfortunately, justice did not prevail in this case. The racist harbored no regrets. In fact, discovering that the black man he’d assaulted was a celebrity only inflamed his hatred. Now he threatened to kill Michael. Bill convinced us that this person was mad, that the threat was quite serious, and that it was better for everyone to drop the action. None of us was happy about this, but there was really no choice.
 
 

“My Family” by Katherine Jackson:


Michael usually drove himself to Kingdom Hall and his field-service routes. He’d finally gotten his driver’s license in 1981, at the age of twenty-three. Initially he didn’t want to learn to drive.

“I’ll just get a chauffeur when I want to go out,” he said when I began nagging him about getting his license.

“But suppose you’re someplace and your chauffeur gets sick?” I reasoned.

Finally, he relented and took some lessons.

After he began driving, Michael decided that he enjoyed being behind the wheel, after all. The first time he took me for a ride, he ventured up to Mulholland Drive, a winding road in the Hollywood Hills. It was a hair-raising experience.

“I’ve got a crook in my neck and my feet hurt,” LaToya, who was also in the car, complained afterward. “I was putting on the brakes’ with my feet and ‘steering’ the car with my neck trying to keep it on the road. I was so scared!”

It was white-knuckle time for me, too. Michael drove fast. He also had the same habit that I have: driving right up to the car in front and stopping on a dime.

After that, Michael started going out by himself.

“You shouldn’t go out alone,” I told him. “Get Bill Bray to go with you.”

But Michael wouldn’t hear of it. “I’m tired of having security with me every time I go someplace.”

When he began driving, Michael told me that he would never go on freeways; he thought they were too dangerous. So I was shocked one day when Michael suddenly drove us onto a freeway ramp.

“Wait a minute, Michael, what are you doing?”

“I can drive the freeways now!” he said, laughing. He had changed his mind about freeways when he saw just how long it took him to get around Los Angeles without using them.

Michael’s first car was a Mercedes. Then he bought a black Rolls-Royce, which he later painted blue.

It was in the Rolls that he was stopped one day — not for fans outside the gate, but by a Van Nuys policeman.

“This looks like a stolen car,” the officer said. He didn’t recognise Michael, who wasn’t wearing a disguise that day.

Michael explained politely that he did, indeed, own the car. But the officer went ahead and ran a check on the car, and found that Michael had a ticket outstanding.

The next thing Michael knew, he was sitting in the Van Nuys jail.

Bill Bray bailed him out. I didn’t even know what had happened until he came home.

“You should have asked the officer what a stolen car looks like,” I said after he related his adventure. Perhaps the cop had felt that a young black man didn’t belong behind the wheel of a Rolls.

But Michael was not only put out by the experience, he professed to be happy.

“I got to see how it felt to be in jail!” he exclaimed.
 


Walter Yetnikoff, the president of Jackson’s record label, CBS, approached MTV to play the “Billie Jean” video. He became enraged when MTV refused to play the video, and threatened to go public with MTV’s stance on black musicians. “I said to MTV, ‘I’m pulling everything we have off the air, all our product. I’m not going to give you any more videos. And I’m going to go public and fucking tell them about the fact you don’t want to play music by a black guy.’” MTV relented and played the “Billie Jean” video in heavy rotation.
 
 

“You Are Not Alone,” by Jermaine Jackson


One day, Michael decided he wanted a llama. He asked me to take him to nearby Agora and we ended up at this lot packed with hay and horse trailers. From the car, we eyed four llamas out back. I parked between two trailers, unintentionally shielding my Mercedes from view. It was the only parking spot available. When we walked into the office – two kids dressed casual but smart in T shirt and jeans – this guy, bent across a counter doing some paperwork, didn’t even look up when he said, “We’re not hiring.”

“We ain’t looking for no job,” said Michael, wearing his shades. “We’re here to buy a llama.”

The man looked up. Not a flicker of recognition on his face. It took me about two seconds to know that his musical taste ventured nowhere near the Thriller album. “We don’t have any llamas,” he said. The look on his face said it all: you can’t afford it.

“You have four of them out back,” I said, trying to keep calm.

“You know how much they cost?”

Michael smiled. “We know how much they cost.”

Then came an incredible bombardment of questions, fired by the man’s prejudices and assumptions. “Can you afford a llama? What do you boys do to afford a llama? Where will you keep it? Have you ever thought about this?”

Ever patient, Michael explained that we had a house with grounds and were serious customers. “I know how to look after all kinds of animals,” he added.

The man begrudgingly asked to see some ID. Michael handed over a bank card. I handed over my driving license. And then night became day.

“You’re those Jackson boys?” said the man, his face lighting up. He began to back-pedal about how he had to be careful and he couldn’t sell to just anyone; you understand how it is. Bu we didn’t understand: we saw right through him.

“So you’re happy to accept me because now you know who I am?” Michael asked. The biggest misconception people had about my brother was that his legendary shyness made him timid, but he was a man of principle, especially where his roots as a proud black man were concerned and he wasn’t afraid to speak up on this when riled. Michael took back his ID and came right out with it: “You are an ass, and we don’t want to spend our money in here any more.” Then we walked out to the Mercedes the man had failed to spot when we arrived.

On the drive home, Michael was exasperated. “Can you believe that? What is this area about? What are they teaching their kids?”

We had always been told by our parents that no one is born with a prejudice. It is something that is taught, ignorance passed down from generation to generation. The more Michael brooded, the more fired up he became. He told me to drive to Tito’s.

That afternoon, Tito’s acoustic guitar and our free styling lyrics captured an angry inspiration for a song we called “What’s Your Life?” That was how Michael liked to work. When a true experience inspired a song, he liked to get it down on his tape recorder or in the nearest studio. We recorded that song within an hour at Tito’s studio, also in Encino.
 
 

 
 
"David Banks, the co-writer of The Way You Make Me Feel, was a relative of Eddie Griffin. David had shared with me how MTV had complained about our video, saying that it was too “ethnic”. David had said to me, “He’s Black. What do they expect?´"
 
Tatiana Thumbtzen
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

Michael Jackson's Speech at National Action Network, July 6, 2002

 

Michael Jackson - Speech Against Sony Music 2002

 
 

Jermaine Jackson speaks to Charles Thomson about racism and the music industry: