By Dev Kanchen
I’m writing this as an answer because there is a bunch of material on Michael Jackson – in the documentaries that released post his-death, statements from his surgeons, doctors and family during several interviews – that explains the origins of his issues, and leaves some mysteries unanswered. I will try to address each point raised that makes it seem like he “obviously” had race issues.
First, Vitiligo. It’s not an easy disease to have and doesn’t leave you with many options once it strikes. I’ve seen tons of people that suffered from it in India (where I live and where it is quite common in certain pockets) and had most of their skin basically go pinkish, and those are the lucky ones. Michael Jackson just turned out to have enough money to “tweak” it to white instead of staying a stand-out pink. As advanced as plastic surgery is, I don’t think it’s possible to inject someone with melanin (which is what “gives” people their colour) and have it spread uniformly, so going white – by bleaching – was to my knowledge, the only option he had. P.S: So I don’t think the comment “just as easily have chosen to darken the white spots” in Frank Kai Pettaway’s answer is fair. It’s not exactly like selecting the paint for your living room walls.
Second, restructuring his face. He hated his nose in particular, and looks in general because he resembled his father (at least that’s what he saw in the mirror). He had repeated nose jobs to narrow his nose, so that it won’t resemble his father’s broad one, and then some more because the repeated surgery made the structures supporting his nose weaker and weaker, necessitating MORE surgery.
Third, and this points to even deeper image issues, is that when he went to his doctor for the surgeries he reportedly used a statue of Nefertiti or Cleopatra (I don’t remember which) as the model. I don’t know what this does for the race angle, but to me this shows that he cared more to look like a beautiful woman than a handsome Caucasian! I mean – the cover of Bad – look at it!
Fourth, continuing with the image issues, he faked his voice ALL the time he was in public, for 30-something years. His natural voice was gruff and manly (he spoke that way in private with his brothers), but outside he would always talk with that nasal whine. I don’t know whether he wanted to sound like the child-star he once was, or like the beautiful woman he wanted to be, but neither of these speak “race identity” to me.
This is a sad story to recount, but Michael Jackson sounds like a man who grew to stardom way too young, and got attached to that stardom the wrong way. I think he believed that the stardom was attached to his voice, and tried to keep his voice at the same child-like tenor that first brought him success, even an impossible 30 years after his last childhood album. He saw the flood of billboards, magazine covers and photos, his own face constantly reminding him of his father, making him hate himself, feel ugly, and he had to eliminate that. Cue the infatuation with Nefertiti and the like.
The point is, Michael Jackson’s life is a case study of several issues interacting with his unfortunate, broken psyche to create the string of pretenses and falsehoods that his life had become. Dismissing all the issues with a single “race” explanation is only too easy, but like most things that are that easy, it’s not necessarily true.