Thursday 2 July 2009

It Don’t Matter If You’re Black or White

I was prepared to overlook the distaste, poor reasoning, and trite humour from the Hong Kong Standard’s columnist (below) but I could not ignore the blundering attempt at grouping south Asians with Black African-Americans.

In case anyone missed it, just read the first paragraph of the article (below):
Distaste (e.g. “open a white guy's body and find a black guy inside”)
Poor reasoning (ditto)
Trite humour (ditto)

I don’t know anyone (except for this columnist) who has referenced Michael Jackson as a “brown” man. South Asians, or people with a trace of South Asian blood, sometimes regard themselves as brown, but to say Wacko Jacko is brown? How silly.

Here's what Michael Jackson said in his Black or White song:
See, it’s not about races
Just places
Where your blood
Comes from
Is where your space is
I’ve seen the bright
Get duller
I’m not going to spend
My life being a color

But, if
You’re thinkin about my baby
It don’t matter if you’re black or white

I said if
You’re thinkin of
Being my baby
It don’t matter if you’re black or white

I said if
You’re thinkin of
Being my brother
It don’t matter if you’re black or white

Reference: The Standard

Michael Jackson: moonwalker who strayed from his brothers

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The autopsy of Michael Jackson will produce shock results for sure. Forensic pathologists will open a white guy's body and find a black guy inside.

One wonders which Michael Jackson will be immortalized in statues. The nice young man with the Afro? Or His Royal Weirdness with the wig-like flowing locks and detachable nose? Which nose will sculptors recreate? The one that collapsed, the one made out of ear cartilage, or a random one from the biscuit tin under his bed?

Commentators keep talking about Jackson's contribution to race relations, but, with all due respect (ie, none) they are talking garbage.

When the Jackson Five made their breakthrough in the 1970s, many people (including me) celebrated. For the first time, people with brown skin, black hair and big noses were entertainment superstars so big that there was a shockingly bad cartoon series made about them. In the 1970s, this was the ultimate sign of success. If brown people could appear in execrable cartoons, we could do anything. I realized that I no longer had to content myself with aspiring to be a waiter in a small cafe where no one goes. I could be a MAITRE D' in a small cafe where no one goes. At last, something to aim for.

In gratitude, I bought several copies of Off the Wall, Michael's first big hit album. Later, I got a job in a cafe in Hampstead, London. The manager assigned me to permanent washing-up duty. This was even more menial than waiter. "Brown people are capable of greatness," I complained, giving him a cassette of Off the Wall. "Have you heard this?"

The manager, whose heart and brain were twin lumps of coal, replied: "Jacko ain't brown anymore. Check it out." During my lunch break, I bought a copy of Melody Maker. It was true. Jackson had dyed his skin white. I was so shocked I threw my sandwich into the waste disposal and kept the wrapper. How could Jackson, supposedly blazing a trail for brown people, abandon us? But the following day, Jackson told his fans that he'd contracted a weird skin disease which had turned him white. I believed him.

Then some time later, the manager showed me a picture of Jackson with white skin, Kirk Douglas' chin, an upturned Caucasian nose, and long, flowing hair like Elizabeth Taylor. For a day or so, I postulated the existence of a rare disease which whitened your skin, did cosmetic surgery on your nose, gave you a Kirk Douglas chin, and made your hair long and wavy. Hero- worshippers like me put years of practice into fooling ourselves. But this time, I failed.

Jackson had left his brothers. Not just Jermaine and gang, but his brothers all over the world. This once- brown boy devoted the rest of his life to reshaping himself in various ways with teams of surgeons. He probably tried having eight legs or two heads. But the easiest thing to fix - his skin tone - stayed lily white. He let us down. If he hadn't, I could have made it. I could have been a waiter.

Comment on this article


  1. After reading the first paragraph in the Substandard, I skipped the rest of Nury Vittachi's "humor" piece. If that was his boffo opening, I didn't think he'd have anything else to write worth taking the time to read.

  2. Yes, quite correct Spike. I took a deep breath and then quickly scanned the rest of that garbage from Nury Vittachi. At least it gave me something to blog.