Look at How Society Works
by Pen Harshaw
(originally published for Youthradio.org)
… After all the jokes are cracked, and the dancing moves have been reenacted, and the voice has been mocked to the point of annoyance…. a subtle sober moment of clarity arises: damn yall, a little Black Boy was born into the worst Black community in America- and grew to be a world renown icon…
Michael Jackson passed on Thursday June 25th, 2009, at the age of 50. And the world mourned. Literally the world. People used social networking sites and mass text messages to spread the rumor turn truth. People relied on the technology of yesteryear as they turned to television and radio broadcast for confirmation of the fallen pop icon. And some people used the primitive method of walking through the street informing passing citizens. The world mourned.
I watched as people argued via facebook.com statuses: “what happened to MJ”… “he’s dead”… “he’s not dead, he’s in a comma- CNN said it.”… “TMZ says he died”… “don’t believe the media”
Some cracked jokes: ” this is bad, real bad-Mike Jackson!”, as a play off a popular Kanyae West lyric…
Some thought it was a joke:
person 1:”a, you heard Michael Jackson died?”
person 2 (sarcastically): “ha-ha, i heard that one before.”
…and some looked past the jokes…. His long list unquestionable works of art is forever unified with his long list of questionable extra curricular activities, but the duality of his benevolent artistry and scandalous actuality are nullified when looking at what Michael Jackson meant to America.
The list of world renown African-American icons is short. The entertainers on that list is even more brief…
They said at the height of Muhammed Ali’s carreer, you could drop anywhere in the world, and people would recognize him. Through all of the alterations to his appearance, MJ was the same way. As the King of Pop music, his popularity could be quantified: over 125 million records sold worldwide (before death, I know the number has skyrocketed since then)…but still MJ, arguably the most known man in the world… admitted to being a lonely man…. this is nothing new, everyone knows its lonely at the top, and just that’s the way society works…
Man, if he was around now to see the worldwide video feeds of candle light vigils, or even able to look out the hospital window back in Los Angeles, where mass gatherings of supporters stayed even after the body had been moved to the coroners office- maybe the little Black boy who once portrayed a scarecrow “getting on down” the yellow brick road, in search of a heart, would have been less lonely before his heart stopped beating…. But you know how society works: you’re not paid your proper respects, until you’re paid your final respects…
Many of us chose to look at him, bypassing the artistry, and casting our media slanted judgments. In death, the jokes still linger, but more disrespectful than the jokes will be society’s appreciation manifesting in the most capitalistic form: t-shirts will be sold at swap meets, his autographed paraphernalia will be an E-bay hot item, and every entertainer who’s career has taken a turn for the worse will be making a comeback… (somebody que Chris Brown…).Unreleased tracks will manifest, and the people that bought Mo-town from Barry Gordy will eat as if they were King’s… of Pop. And finally, Rev. Jessie Jackson and Rev. Al Shartpon will speak. We almost wait for them to chime in, by now, we’ve grown to know: that’s the way society works.
In his greatest moments- that’s what Mike wanted us to do…. look at ourselves in relation to the greater society… and after a full life of childhood stardom, dancing like no other human being, performing and recording sounds that influenced the world over- he still managed to set societal precedents in death: its expected that his death would overshadow headline trades in the National Basketball Association. It’s acceptable that the news would lend more airtime to his passing, than domestic and international political scandals. But I looked at society in amazement: this little Black Boy from the worst Black neighborhood in America grew to a level where his death is bigger news than the death of a pretty white girl’s… damn, that’s not how society usually works….