Darcus Howe admits he's a Jacko fan

Michael Jackson had to change his face to fit in as a global celebrity

I am a Michael Jackson fan. There was a time in my youth when I danced nights away to the Jackson Five and black artists on the Motown label.

Jacko did not fall from the sky. He comes from a long tradition in black American music and also in song-and-dance routines. From his childhood, as soloist in the Jackson Five, Michael Jackson combined the two disciplines and extended the art way beyond his predecessors, introducing robotic movements to black dance. Until Jackson arrived on the stage, the market for black music performed by black people was almost exclusively black. Jackson leapt out of these confines like a rocket, drawing audiences of all races and cultures throughout the world.

He is the creation of this extended market place. This was what eluded Martin Bashir, who carried out the controversial ITV interview with Jackson last Monday night, in which the star admitted that he sometimes shared his bed with small boys.

Jackson became the prisoner of the global corporations. He was a black American in every way. But the afro hairstyle, the black face and the Negroid nose did not fit his upsurge into global celebrity. He had to change his face and his skin colour. Cosmetic surgery had made a leap into new technology. The old black face of the Jacksons was mutilated into a white face with white skin. This was not, as Bashir seemed to think, a mere personal quirk. I say, thank heavens the surgeons did not get to his arms, his hands, his hips and his feet. Because they didn't, Jackson remained firmly in the black American artistic tradition.

But because he was compelled to migrate socially from his roots, and rewarded so handsomely for so doing, Jackson lives with his head in space, trapped in a capsule of childhood. This is a case of forced alienation and stunted emotional growth. He has instincts for love and caring, but they are asexual and therefore turned on children.

Michael Jackson has cut a huge path where other black Americans may follow. But I hope they can do so without having to change their faces or other outward signs of their race. Jackson's own fate is a reminder that American racism can be debilitating and brutal.

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